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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: 1 minutes 28 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 plus doux chemin, Op 87 No 1
First line:
À mes pas le plus doux chemin
composer
1904, published as Op 87 No 1, E minor (original key F minor) 4/4 alla breve, Moderato
author of text

Introduction  EnglishFrançais
This enchantingly mournful serenade of a persistent, if unsuccessful lover, is Fauré distilled to the essentials. In this ‘madrigal’ we might imagine the gentle plucking of a lute, although the strength of the bass line, almost a counter-melody in itself, depends on the legato tone of a piano to make its effect. The harmonic plan suggests time-travel; G flat and D natural in the key of F minor add a Gregorian flavour to the cadences. The song’s mood defies easy description: Jankélévitch likens its effect to ‘the smell of the rain on iron balconies on certain October nights’. Despite a textual reference to ‘la saison nouvelle’ autumn does indeed predominate in musical terms; the contemporary Dans la forêt de septembre (Mendès) shows that Fauré was facing his sixtieth birthday with a mixture of graceful acceptance and sadness. Here even the composer’s choice of Silvestre shows a nostalgia for the past; the poem goes back to the poet’s early published collection, La chanson des heures (1878). We feel that the gallant Don Ottavio who treads this pathway will always pay court to feminine beauty while dreaming of more youthful days. The poem’s last syllable is dovetailed with a six-bar postlude, a fragmented version of the opening melody that is repeated like a lover’s despondent sigh in a lower register of the keyboard.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2005

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