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Hyperion Records

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'Les Roses d'Ispahan' after Gabriel Fauré (c1907) by Lucien Levy-Dhurmer (1865-1953)
Sotheby’s Picture Library
Track(s) taken from CDA67336
Recording details: August 2004
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: November 2005
Total duration: 2 minutes 16 seconds

'There are songs of a fragrance, ambiguity and vision unique to Fauré and all the singers involved in this glorious project, while not always in their first radiance and purity of voice, never lose their sense of poetic engagement and commitment. Graham Johnson, whether writing or playing, is magically attuned to every nuance of Fauré's universe; and Hyperion's sound and presentation are impeccable' (Gramophone)

'This completes Hyperion's recording of all Fauré's songs master-minded by Graham Johnson with a quintet of specialist singers: Jennifer Smith, Felicity Lott, Geraldine McGreevy, Jean-Paul Fouchécourt and Stephen Varcoe, all in top form here … suffice it to say that this superb enterprise is a jewel in Hyperion's crown' (The Sunday Telegraph)

'The sound is warm and initimate and Johnson's comprehensive notes are packed with information on each song and its cultural surround. In all this series has proved an impressive achievement, demonstrating that even the least known of Fauré's songs is well worth hearing' (BBC Music Magazine)

'These four CDs deserve an honoured place in the collection of anyone who cares about one of the finest of all mélodistes' (International Record Review)

'There's an ineffable, nostalgia-filled sadness about Jennifer Smith's rapt delivery of the final two songs of La chanson d'Ève, the mood intensified as so often in this series by Graham Johnson's accompaniments. An outstanding disc' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Graham Johnson, whose sterling pianism distinguishes every track … his accompanimens are models of Fauréan discretion and care … Gabriel Fauré: The Complete Songs offers a vital contribution to the ongoing re-imagination of Fauré, as well as a splendid opportunity to become acquainted with his allusive art' (Nineteenth-Century Music Review)

Soir, Op 83 No 2
First line:
Voici que les jardins de la Nuit vont fleurir
17 December 1894, published as Op 83 No 2, E flat major (original key D flat major), Andante molto moderato
author of text

Introduction  EnglishFrançais
Albert Samain’s collection Au jardin de l’Infante (1893) was given to the composer by his mistress Emma Bardac, the singer who had been the dedicatee of La bonne chanson earlier in 1894. Following on from the poem Larmes (which Fauré set as the duet Pleurs d’or), Élégie has nine strophes of which the composer selected the last three. The form is ABA broadly speaking, but like the great modified strophic songs at the end of Schubert’s life nothing is taken for granted – the music is continually rethought and newly invented. The accompaniment for this nocturne begins modestly in simple semiquavers (like Verlaine’s En sourdine), flowers into almost dizzying complexity in the second strophe, and deftly returns to a single stave at the beginning of the third (the ardent harmonic subtleties leading to this last transition are simply miraculous). In another Verlaine setting, C’est l’extase (1891), we have heard ‘le frêle et frais murmure’ of nature; musical imagery for almost inaudible sound returns in Soir, set off by the words ‘entends-tu pas quelque chose mourir?’. In both cases a delicate descant to the vocal line is traced in the little finger of the right hand; this is supported by off-beat mezzo staccato harmonies that change constantly, glinting and palpitating. This is a kind of musical pointillism, prickly in close-up, but blurring into a marvellously glowing picture from a distance. The final bars (‘si tristes et si doux’ followed by the postlude) encapsulate both the depth and economy of Fauréan expressiveness.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2005

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