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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 53 seconds

'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)

Noël, Op 43 No 1
First line:
La nuit descend du haut des cieux
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

Introduction  EnglishFrançais
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

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