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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67334
Recording details: August 2004
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Release date: April 2005
Total duration: 2 minutes 40 seconds

Automne, Op 18 No 3
First line:
Automne au ciel brumeux, aux horizons navrants
1878, Op 18 No 3, ‘À Mlle Alice Boissonet’, Hamelle: Second Collection p12, B minor (original key) 12/8 Andante moderato
author of text

Introduction  EnglishFrançais
This is a justly famous song, one that would number in most people’s top-ten hit-parades of Fauré’s mélodies. It is little wonder, for the grandeur of these ‘horizons navrants’ has inspired a setting of genius. This is the second of three Silvestre settings (out of ten) which opt for drama rather than charm; the others are Le voyageur, and Fleur jetée. The key is B minor, a colour which is exactly right for October storms; in fact the song sounds unconvincing in any other tonality. An opening bar of empty, restless triplets churns in the pianist’s right hand; leaping on to the next available bar-line the left hand jumps a fifth in octaves – B to F sharp – before plunging a sixth down to A natural, and thence down to G sharp. The rhetoric of this writing is intensified by the kick of syncopation, something bitter and querulous. This process is repeated, once again in octaves: up to F sharp, and then down a seventh to a G natural which resounds again before settling on an F sharp in the bowels of the instrument. There is something circular about this billowing piano-writing, like the movement of a windmill, which punctuates the voice’s outbursts. (Seasons come round again and again with this inevitable pull – the turning of the world.) And then one realizes that this song is about memory, and the impossibility, even as one’s mind moves in circles, of having one’s time over again (see also Prison). At the time of its composition Fauré was thirty-five, just old enough to look back on his youth with regret. It is a miracle how, in the midst of this bluster, a pianistic interlude of the purest sweetness and calm is allowed to flower as an introduction to the middle verse of this ABA structure. This section leads to the ache of ‘Où jadis sourit ma jeunesse’, but this is capped by one of the most powerful vocal climaxes in the French mélodie – a high F sharp – at the end of the phrase ‘Mes vingts ans avaient oubliées!’ The postlude sits in judgement and finds the defendant guilty, first with vehemence, and then with a shudder of cold indifference. Once again the poem’s publication in 1880 (as ‘Chanson d’automne’ in Les ailes d’or) postdates the composition of the song.

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