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The acclaimed American baritone Thomas Hampson lovingly showcases the riches of French salon music for Pentatone in this irresistible survey of mélodies françaises, from the finesse of Gounod and Bizet to the iridescent harmonies of Chausson and Massenet.

Conceived for the intimate environment of the Parisian salon, these composers honed their skills to produce songs which are sophisticated, superbly crafted and laced with drama, irony and surprise. Always a delight, these songs palpably caress the listener with their beautifully contrived melodies and exquisitely refined harmonies, particularly evident in the plaintive, haunting songs of Ernest Chausson and Jules Massenet. Gallic wit and verbal dexterity is provided in the famous Danse Macabre of Camille Saint-Saëns, Emmanuel Chabrier’s Villanelle des petits canards, and the charming Sérénade and Ô ma belle rebelle by Charles Gounod. It’s a fascinating survey brought vividly to life in these compelling performances in pristine multi-channel sound.

Thomas Hampson is one of the today’s most respected and innovative musicians. With a repertoire of more than 80 operatic roles he has a discography comprising over 170 albums (including multiple nominations and winners of the Grammy Award, Edison Award and the Grand Prix du Disque). In this first release for Pentatone, he is joined by the Polish pianist Maciej Pikulski who combines a busy career as a soloist, chamber music player and accompanist.

Mr. Hampson’s acclaimed portrayals of iconic roles in French operatic works have spanned the duration of his singular international career. A longtime champion of French repertoire, he has starred in the title roles of Chausson’s Le roi Arthus at Opéra National de Paris; Massenet’s Werther (baritone version) at The Metropolitan Opera and Théâtre National du Châtelet; Massenet’s Thaïs (Athanaël) at Lyric Opera of Chicago and The Metropolitan Opera; Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann (Four Villains) at the Royal Opera House – Covent Garden; and Thomas’ Hamlet at the Théâtre National du Châtelet. He has also performed in Massenet’s Manon (Lescaut), Gounod’s Faust (Valentin), Berlioz’ Les Troyens (Chorèbe), and Poulenc’s Les mamelles de Tirésias (Gendarme). Additionally, Hampson has been featured on critically lauded recordings of Faust, Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Thaïs, and Werther. Mr. Hampson carries the title of Commandeur dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of the Republic of France.

With “Serenade,” his first album exclusively dedicated to French song, Mr. Hampson brings his passion for works by French opera composers to the Pentatone label. Curated with the French Literature scholar Sylvain Fort and in a first collaboration with the Polish pianist Maciej Pikulski, the track listing includes romantic and introspective as well as humorous selections by Bizet, Chabrier, Chausson, Gounod, Magnard, Massenet, and Saint-Saëns, featuring texts written by some of France’s most revered writers including Victor Hugo, Paul Verlaine, Rosemonde Gérard, and others.

This recording is available exclusively from Pentatone’s website.

Thomas Hampson, baritone
Maciej Pikulski, piano

Track listing:

Charles Gounod (1818 – 1893)

1: Sérénade (V. Hugo)
2: Ô ma belle rebelle (A. de Baïf)
3: La Chanson du pêcheur (T. Gautier)

Georges Bizet (1838 – 1875)
4: Pastorale (J.-F. Regnard)
5: La Coccinelle (V. Hugo)
6: La Chanson du fou (V. Hugo)

Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791 – 1864)
7: Sicilienne (F. Méry)

Emmanuel Chabrier (1841 – 1894)
8: La Villanelle des petits canards (R. Gérard)

Ernest Chausson (1855 – 1899)
9: Chevalier Malheur (P. Verlaine)
10: Cantique à l’épouse (A. Jounet)
11: Le Temps des lilas (M. Bouchor)

Jules Massenet (1842 – 1912)
12: Les Yeux clos (G. Buchillot)
13: Heure Vécue (M. Jacquet)

Camille Saint-Saëns (1835 – 1921)
14: Le pas d’armes du Roi Jean (V. Hugo)
15: Danse macabre (H. Cazalis)
16: Si vous n’avez rien à me dire (V. Hugo)

Albéric Magnard (1865 – 1914)
17: Les Roses de l’amour (A. Magnard)


“Este recital es como un postre exquisito, mejor dicho, un postre exquisitamente francés. Postre para el que lo escucha y postre para sus intérpretes porque el placer que emana del veterano Thomas Hampson y su espléndido pianista – Maciej Pikulski – en cada canción lo corrobora sin vuelta de hoja. Y ese placer se contagia al oyente. Como un escaparate de tentadora patisserie con delicadezas a cual mas deliciosa. La elección del programa es minuciosa, irreprochable así como el pianista que se ciñe a la imaginación de su cantante y cuando debe, logra volar por si solo. Ambos se sacan chispas; si, chispeantes, efervescentes, rebosantes del obligado pero elusivo charme francés.”

Sebastián Spreng – Miami Clásica

“Profond, tout autant que doux comme du velours dans toute son étendue, le baryton de Thomas Hampson brille de mille feux, également dans des mélodies plus légères, comme La Coccinelle de Georges Bizet ou La Villanelle des petits canards d’Emmanuel Chabrier, pour lesquelles l’artiste émerveille non seulement par le timbre de sa voix, mais aussi par sa prononciation, l’articulation, ainsi que les nuances ; celles-ci, bien que sans aucun doute bien travaillées, paraissent pourtant si naturelles.”

Maciej Chiżyński – ResMusica

“Thomas Hampson is a marvel for his breadth of repertoire and constant means of expanding his artistry. His latest album, accompanied by Maciej Pikulski, is a fascinating exploration of French music from some of the most recognized French composers, including Gounod, Bizet, Meyerbeer, among others. Chances are you are not familiar with most of the pieces on the album, making the exploration of these great characters all the more fascinating.”

David Salazar – Operawire

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