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Track(s) taken from CDA67334

Noël, Op 43 No 1

First line:
La nuit descend du haut des cieux
composer
1885, Op 43 No 1, ‘À mon ami A Talazac’, Hamelle: First Collection p89, A flat major (original key) 4/4 Andante quasi allegretto
author of text

Graham Johnson (piano), John Mark Ainsley (tenor)
Recording details: August 2004
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Release date: April 2005
Total duration: 2 minutes 53 seconds
 
1

Reviews

'All the singers involved in this ideally presented and recorded offering perform with a special ardour and commitment and Graham Johnson is, as always, a matchless partner and commentator. I can scarcely wait for Volume 3' (Gramophone)

'There can be nothing but praise for Johnson's pianism and his selection and arrangement of the songs. Volumes 3 and 4 are eagerly awaited' (The Sunday Telegraph)

'The chronological placement of songs within the programme highlights the composer's development and the quality and variety of Fauré's achievement shine through. As well as providing his usual comprehensive notes, Johnson is as ever a perceptive accompanist' (BBC Music Magazine)

'The discreet but authoritative Graham Johnson has masterminded a pleasing sequence of more than two dozen songs shared among eight singers. For my money, the soprano Geraldine McGreevy is the star of the enterprise. The way she adjusts her tone colour—indeed, her whole musical personality—between songs, is often remarkable … Johnson's annotations are both erudite and valuable as listening aids' (The Independent)

'As before, Johnson's notes are a model of what's required, whether you are an adept in Fauré's mélodies or a newcomer. They are stylish, informative and suffused with his passion for this music. Then there's his own artistry, authoritative but never overbearing' (International Record Review)
The position of this cantique (Fauré declined to designate it a mélodie) at the end of the first Hamelle collection defies the work’s real chronology. The publisher was very keen (for the sake of good order and symmetry) that sixty Fauré songs should be parcelled into three volumes of twenty each. One of the casualties of this arrangement was the song Barcarolle (an early song that found itself placed in the second volume); Noël is a later work that was swept into the first recueil for convenience’s sake. Noël was initially conceived as an occasional piece, a little Christmas song with harmonium accompaniment. The piano does not quite reproduce the colours of that instrument, but it is clear that Fauré had the festive sound of carillons in mind and the pianist must do his best as a bell-ringer. Fauré sometimes seems to lack the practical touch: here he writes music ‘for the people’ (simplified to a degree, and seemingly designed for a popular market) and yet the vocal-writing is far too demanding for any amateur, and the accompaniment would defeat most village organists. Great French composers seem traditionally permitted to write slightly awkward, and untypical, Christmas songs: thus Debussy’s Noël des enfants qui n’ont plus de maisons, Ravel’s Noël des jouets and Poulenc’s Nous voulons une petite sœur. The text embraces a traditional religiosity (one could say exultantly so at the end of the piece); it belongs perhaps with the composer’s smaller sacred works and pièces d’occasion (like Il est né, le divin enfant and En prière) rather than with his mélodies.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2005

La position de ce cantique (Fauré refusa de l’appeler «mélodie»), à la fin du premier recueil de Hamelle, contrarie sa véritable chronologie. Pour des raisons de bon ordre et de symétrie, l’éditeur tint absolument à regrouper soixante mélodies de Fauré en trois tomes égaux, faisant quelques victimes, telles Barcarolle (page de jeunesse qui se retrouva dans le deuxième volume) ou Noël (œuvre plus tardive qui, par commodité, fut intégrée au premier recueil). Cette pièce, initialement conçue comme une œuvre de circonstance, est un petit noël avec accompagnement d’harmonium. Le piano ne reproduit pas pleinement les couleurs de cet instrument, mais Fauré avait de toute évidence en tête les sonorités festives des carillons, obligeant le pianiste à être le meilleur carillonneur qui soit. Fauré semble parfois manquer de sens pratique: il compose de la musique «pour les gens» (simplifiée, mais jusqu’à un certain point, et apparemment destiné à un marché populaire), mais son écriture vocale est bien trop exigeante pour un amateur; quant à l’accompagnement, il mettrait au défi la plupart des organistes de village. Les grands compositeurs français semblent traditionnellement autorisès à écrire des noëls un rien délicats et atypiques – ainsi le Noël des enfants qui n’ont plus de maisons de Debussy, le Noël des jouets de Ravel et Nous voulons une petite sœur de Poulenc. Le texte embrasse la religiosité de mise (avec exultation, même, pourrait-on dire au vu de la conclusion); et, tout comme Il est né, le divin enfant et En prière, ce Noël ressortit peut-être davantage aux œuvrettes sacrées et pièces de circonstance qu’aux mélodies de Fauré.

extrait des notes rédigées par Graham Johnson © 2005
Français: Hypérion

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