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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 7 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)

Prison, Op 83 No 1
First line:
Le ciel est, par-dessus le toit
4 December 1894, Op 83 No 1, Hamelle: Third Collection p61, E flat minor (original key) 3/4 Quasi adagio
author of text

Introduction  EnglishFrançais
In the summer of 1873 the tension between those run-away lovers Rimbaud and Verlaine reached breaking point. The pair had travelled backwards and forwards between London and Brussels, and the arrival of that éminence grise, Verlaine’s mother, complicated matters further. On 10 July Verlaine shot Rimbaud twice with a revolver and wounded him, though not severely. He was tried in October, and sentenced to two years in prison. (It was fortunate that this incident took place in Belgium, rather than England.) The poet spent the whole of 1874 in custody in Mons; during that time he reconverted to Catholicism, receiving communion. He was released in January 1875; a few months later he took up a position as a teacher in Stickney, Lincolnshire. The text for Prison – Fauré’s pithy title allows the uninformed listener to place these words in context – appeared without heading in Sagesse, a collection of poetry published in 1881 under a Catholic imprint, evidence of Verlaine’s chastening, albeit only temporary. The song is among Fauré’s most powerful, and it is certainly his most concise. In that most melancholy of keys, E flat minor, the clarity of the light, the muted poignancy of the chiming clock (in octaves on the third beats of bars 4, 7, 10 and 13), the enviable simplicity of life on the outside, the birdsong ruefully appreciated in the distance – all these things are depicted with rigorous economy. In Fauré’s setting the anguished middle section, beginning ‘Mon Dieu, mon Dieu, la vie est là, / Simple et tranquille’, is no appeal to a higher power, but the self-castigating outburst of a battle-scarred ne’er-do-well (‘God, I’ve been so stupid’). The composer was a master of the religious miniature when he chose, but he ignores the devout penitent of Sagesse who emerges in Séverac’s music for this poem; this is no monastic cell, and the poet’s confession is for all to hear. The final lines are accompanied by inexorably rising harmonic progressions on an E flat pedal. This heartbreaking music signifies an evaporation of youthful hopes, a wasting of life’s vital substances, the disappearance of good fortune over the distant horizon. Debussy had the good sense not to attempt a rival setting. Reynaldo Hahn’s D’une prison has languid charm, but it suggests an idyllic incarceration on a desert island. In the ineluctable rhythmical impulse of Fauré’s music, quiet and gentle though the opening is, we can hear the bars of the poet’s cell, and the iron that has entered his soul.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2005

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