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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 13 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)

Le parfum impérissable, Op 76 No 1
First line:
Quand la fleur du soleil, la rose de Lahor
22 August 1897, published as Op 76 No 1, G flat major (original key E major) 3/4 Andante molto moderato
author of text

Introduction  EnglishFrançais
This is Fauré’s farewell to Leconte de Lisle, the song composed forty-five years after the poem was written. The setting is an intimation of things to come, the style of the late song cycles and the final period; the dedication of this other-worldly song to the urbane Paolo Tosti seems almost ironic. The opening bar is the mezzo staccato chord of a tenth shared between left hand and right, thrice repeated – nothing more. The articulation is a preparation for the way in which rare and recherché harmonies will be measured out ‘goutte à goutte’ (‘drop by drop’) by the composer–alchemist. As soon as the voice enters in the second bar we begin a musical journey that scarcely pauses for breath – the progress is unhurried but ineluctable, as if the singer were on a ‘high’, intoxicated by an exquisite substance with a drug-like effect. This morbidity, also known as unrequited love, is at the heart of the song’s mournful ecstasy. The constant returning to the home key at important cadences acknowledges the presence of the perfume’s bass-note, all the peripheral harmonies a variation on this obsessive, predominant aroma. The piano’s only function is to support the voice; any pianist who comes to this song for the first time is astonished at just how many side-steps, back-steps and half-steps are available to the fingers as they ceaselessly pivot from one astonishing harmony to the next. The large stretches in the left hand suggest the strumming of a guitar or perhaps an oriental harp. Is the exotic sweep of these chords part of the composer’s response to a poem that evokes the roses of Lahore?

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2005

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