Les Nuits d'Ete
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Berlioz' song cycle "Les Nuits d'Ete" - or "Summer Nights" in English - is one of his most popular collections of songs and can be heard all around the world on concert stages and in song recitals today. Each song has its own special character, from the vibrant "Villanelle", to the exquisitely beautiful "La spectre de la Rose" and the theatrical "Absence".
The singer is usually a mezzo-soprano or baritone voice, and Berlioz exploits the mellow and luscious sound of these middle-range voices. That's not to say there aren't exciting highs and lows, though - these songs require quite a vocal range! Although originally Berlioz composed the songs with only piano accompaniement, he later arranged the work for orchestra and this is the version most heard today.
This wonderful recording of Berlioz' "Les Nuits d'Ete" features the wonderfully creamy baritone voice of José van Dam. One of the stars of the opera stage, he is also renowned for his song recitals and is an expert on the french repertoire. On the same album can also hear him capturing the mood perfectly in Frank Martin's atmospheric song cycle "Trois poémes païens" (Three pagan poems).