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Hyperion Records

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Angels of Peace (1948) by Jean Théodore Dupas (1882-1964)
Private Collection / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67688
Recording details: February 2008
Brangwyn Hall, Guildhall, Swansea, Wales
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: November 2008
Total duration: 12 minutes 46 seconds

'Fischer directs controlled but expressive accounts of all four works which would grace any collector's shelves' (Gramophone)

'Here is an excellent introduction to a still underrated composer … in the Concerto, Alban Gerhardt ranges from the seductive to the sensational: for the opening, Thierry Fischer conjures up a wonderful dream atmosphere, and at the other end of the scale Gerhardt gives a terrific account of Maurice Maréchal's authorised cadenza … [Prélude, Fugue et Postlude] is one of Honegger's great unknown masterpieces, and Fischer's orchestral balance captures perfectly the personal quality of the three majestic chords that open the Prélude—they could be by no-one else' (BBC Music Magazine)

'This beautfully judged account of Honegger's Christmas cantata, his last complete work, makes this collection an appropriately seasonal release. But the three other major works here are fascinating … Alban Gerhardt, who seems to make a speciality of less well known 20th-century cello concertos, is the outstanding soloist' (The Guardian)

'This gleaming new recording … the Cello Concerto is a debonair score with a bluesy turn-of-phrase that suggests Honegger was spinning Duke Ellington records on his turntable. Gerhardt plays with genuine soul' (Classic FM Magazine)

'If Santa can only bring you one present this Christmas, make it the Hyperion recording of Honegger's Une Cantate de Noël' (Birmingham Post)

'This superbly recorded release significantly adds to the Honegger discography. Despite giving top billing to Une Cantate de Noël, all four works here are of the highest level of craftsmanship' (ClassicalSource.com)

Prélude, Fugue et Postlude
composer
extracted in 1948 by Honegger from his 1929 ballet-melodrama Amphion; this version first performed in 1928 by the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande under Ernest Ansermet

Prélude  [5'05]
Fugue  [5'16]
Postlude  [2'25]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Honegger’s mastery of fugue is illustrated in his Prélude, Fugue et Postlude. This was first performed in 1948 by the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande conducted by Ernest Ansermet, but the music dates from much earlier, for Honegger extracted and arranged these three pieces from a major dramatic work for reciter, solo singers, chorus and orchestra, Amphion, which he had composed in 1929 to a text by Paul Valéry. Written for Ida Rubinstein, Amphion had been produced at the Paris Opéra in June 1931 but then forgotten after a few concert performances. The Prélude, Fugue et Postlude can be regarded as an independent (and abstract) triptych, but Honegger nonetheless prefaced the score with Valéry’s summary of his drama: ‘Amphion, a mortal man, receives the lyre from Apollo. Music is born from the touch of his fingers. At the emerging sounds, the rocks move, join together: architecture is created. Just as the Hero is about to enter the temple, the figure of a veiled woman approaches him and bars his way. She is Love, or Death: Amphion buries his face in her breast and allows her to lead him away.’

It seems, therefore, that should we wish it we could seek a programmatic element, or at least an emotional correlative, in this triptych. The solemn, discreetly bitonal harmonies of the Prélude and the burgeoning strands of melody that follow could certainly be described as Apollonian, but a mood of striving provokes a climactic passage which leads up to the start of the Fugue. Based on a gawky, angular theme that starts effortfully in the bass, this movement might indeed evoke the movement of rocks, building through suaver countersubjects and episodes to a majestic architectural contrapuntal structure. It passes into a climax with a fateful tolling rhythm that eventually subsides to leave a more meditative mood of acceptance. The final span is lyrically elegiac, and the work ebbs away into the shadows in a spirit of Attic sobriety.

from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2008

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