Claire Croiza: Champion of the Modern French Mélodie

The Complete Recordings


Claire Croiza is one of the best-known singers of the French art song. Her sense of style, and talent for expression, are legendary. What is less known about Croiza is that the first fifteen years of her career were dedicated to opera. This two-CD compilation contains Croiza's complete recordings. In addition to some of the finest renditions of French Mélodie are selections from Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande, Honegger's Judith, and Milhaud's L'orestie. Not only do Croiza's recordings provide very beautiful singing and exquisite artistry, they are exceedingly rare historic documents. Three records are probably among the most elusive recordings in the world and appear to exist in single copies now in private collections. There are also several cuts in which Croiza is accompanied by composers Honegger, Roussel, de Bréville and Poulenc on the piano.

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A Note From Ward Marston

This two disc set was inspired by Victor Girard and without his help, I would never have undertaken its preparation. First of all, no one else I know would have spent the immense amount of time necessary to prepare English translations of Claire Croiza’s four recitations. Additionally, his research on the various incarnations of Honegger’s Judith has finally explained which version it was that Croiza actually recorded.

On 28 November 1998, Vic passed away suddenly at the age of seventy-one. His death came as a shock to all of us who knew him, and I personally will miss him as a friend and mentor. Over the past three years he was enormously helpful in many ways, and I will always relish the memory of the long telephone conversations spent in considering future Marston releases.

Vic was one of the most brilliant and knowledgeable individuals I have ever known. He was one of those people who somehow seemed to know everything. He was a skilled and inveterate researcher with a prodigious memory, especially for details. Although his scholarly contributions in the field of Anthropological Linguistics are well known to his academic colleagues, he will be remembered most by record collectors for his many published discographies and his pioneering book on vertical-cut recordings, Vertical-Cut Cylinders and Discs, co-authored with Harold Barnes in 1964. Over the past forty-five years, he had compiled thousands of pages of discographical research on music and musicians, labels, and theatrical performers. At the time of his death, he was working on a book documenting historical recordings of the American theater. His co-author, William Shaman, will complete the project and hopes to see the work through publication. But Vic’s real love was music and its performers. He was intensely interested in opera with a special predilection for the French. His knowledge of French singers of the past was boundless, and when speaking of them, he gave the impression of having known them personally, as he actually did in the case of Mme. Bathori, Ninon Vallin, and many others.

I am proud to have known Vic Girard and dedicate this Claire Croiza album to his memory. He will be greatly missed and fondly remembered.

Ward Marston
16 February 1999

A Note on These Records

About fifteen years ago, I became passionately interested in Claire Croiza and began to collect her recordings. My collector friends wished me “good luck.” Most of Claire Croiza’s nineteen solo discs are seriously sought by collectors of French singers and it seems that no one collector has a complete set of her discs. The three rarest of these discs are undoubtedly D13082, D13083, and D13084 which can be heard on Disc One, Tracks 2–7. After scouring the world of record collectors, I located only one copy of each disc, in three different collections. Sadly, the copy of D13083 was in extremely poor condition and D13084, only slightly better. I have had to filter these transfers rather severely in order to reduce the distortion on these discs. I hope that the results will be acceptable considering the circumstances.

Mme. Croiza, in addition to her solo discs, participated in three ensemble recordings, all made for Columbia: Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, Honegger’s Judith and Milhaud’s L’Orestie. I have only included sides in which Croiza participates due to the time limitation of a two disc set.

©Ward Marston, 1999