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Track(s) taken from CDA67357

Romance, L56

author of text

Christopher Maltman (baritone), Malcolm Martineau (piano)
Recording details: July 2001
Champs Hill, West Sussex, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: January 2003
Total duration: 2 minutes 52 seconds
Romance L56  [2'52]


'An admirable recital' (BBC Music Magazine)

'You could not wish for more than Maltman’s intelligent singing and Martineau’s customary sensitivity to every nuance' (Classic FM Magazine)

'The partnership of baritone Christopher Maltman and pianist Malcom Martineau has proved chemically sound in so many memorable live and recorded performances. This new release of Debussy songs for Hyperion is no exception' (The Scotsman)

'On the present disc, Maltman distinguishes himself beyond expectation in the realm of French Mélodie, singing throughout with elegance, conviction, communicativeness, specific attention to the text, and unblemished technical security, all utterly without mannerism, in a varied program spanning 30 years (1880 -1910) of Debussy song … You should go out and buy it right now' (Fanfare, USA)

'This young baritone invests all he touches with equal consideration and the 21 songs in his programme emerge fresh and compelling … a recording of strong focus' (Yorkshire Post)

'Christopher Maltman has already distinguished himself as a lieder singer, but now he reveals himself as a stunningly apt exponent of French mélodies' (Opera News)

'With a singer of Christopher Maltman's quality these songs are presented here about as beautifully as they could be' (Manchester Evening News)

'The young baritone brings magnificent sturdiness to the music and he is sensitively accompanied by an understanding Martineau. The recording is excellent … we have another Hyperion winner' (Classical.net)
There has never been any slur on Mme Deguingand’s virtue. If Fleur des blés was an attempt on this, it seems to have failed. But Marie Vasnier, a striking redhead with green eyes and a high, agile soprano voice, returned Debussy’s interest and they were lovers for some years, Debussy treating the Vasnier household as a second home and profiting at least to some extent from M. Vasnier’s advice on the advisability of working hard and obeying rules. Sometime after February 1884 Debussy made a manuscript collection of thirteen of the songs he had written for Marie, now known as the ‘Vasnier Songbook’ and housed in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Voici que le printemps, written in January 1884, and Mandoline, written on 25 November 1882 in Vienna, are the eleventh and third songs in the book. In the first of these Debussy is clearly freeing himself from the constraint of strophic setting. The second stanza begins in the same way as the first but continues differently, while the two final ones are through-composed, the start of the fourth one being heavily disguised. Harmonically there are no great revolutions here, but the line ‘Ouvrent leurs yeux où flotte une ombre vague et tendre’ is set to the sort of static harmony that was later to get Debussy into trouble with the professors. As for the general sentiment of Bourget’s poem, it is exactly what Chabrier was to complain about in a letter to his publishers of 29 June 1889—incidentally the only known reference by Chabrier to Debussy:

What I don’t want as texts are those blobs of mucus in which love exists as the buds are opening or during April and May; let’s give those two months of the year a rest—they’re exhausted, in my view, as are the little flowers in the garden … Lately, and as always set in April, May, flowers of the fields and all that tosh, young Bordes, Chausson, Marty, Bréville, Hüe, Debussy etc. have been writing music that is recondite, clever, but rather tormented, often melancholy, weepy and disillusioned. When a singer delivers that sort of thing in the salons, you get the impression they’re burying the devil or giving the audience the last rites.

from notes by Roger Nichols © 2003

Aucune question n’a jamais été soulevée quant à la vertu de Mme Deguingand. Si Fleur de blés tentait de l’éprouver, il semble avoir échoué. Mais Marie Vasnier, une superbe rousse aux yeux verts douée d’une voix agile et aiguë de soprano, rendit à Debussy l’intérêt qu’il lui portait. Pendant plusieurs années, ils furent amants, Debussy traitant les Vasnier comme un second foyer et profitant des bons conseils de M Vasnier sur le profit à tirer d’un dur labeur et de l’obéissance aux règles. Quelque temps après février 1884, Debussy réunit un recueil manuscrit de treize de ses mélodies qu’il avait écrites pour elle, actuellement connu comme le «recueil Vasnier» et disponible à la Bibliothèque nationale de France. Voici que le printemps, écrit en janvier 1884, et Mandoline, écrit le 25 novembre 1882 à Vienne, constituent respectivement les onzième et troisième mélodies du recueil. Dans Voici que le printemps, Debussy se libère clairement de la contrainte du schéma strophique. La seconde strophe débute bien de la même manière que la première mais continue différemment tandis que les deux dernières sont enchaînées, le début de la quatrième étant dissimulé avec soin. Du point de vue de l’harmonie, cette page ne comporte aucune révolution particulière, mais la ligne «Ouvre leurs yeux où flotte une ombre vague et tendre» est réalisée avec une sorte d’harmonie statique qui allait par la suite attirer sur Debussy les foudres des professeurs du Conservatoire. Quant au sentiment général du poème de Bourget, il s’applique exactement à ce dont Chabrier se plaignait à ses éditeurs dans sa lettre du 29 juin 1889—incidemment la seule référence connue de Chabrier à Debussy:

Ce que je ne veux pas, ce sont ces glaires où l’on s’aime au temps des petites fleurs ou pendant avril et mai; laissons reposer ces deux mois de l’année qui me paraissent exténués et les petites fleurs dans les jardins … Depuis, et toujours sur avril, mai, fleur des champs et autres bougreries, le petit Bordes, Chausson, Marty, Bréville, Hüe, Debussy, etc. ont composé des musiques recherchées, ingénieuses, mais un peu tourmentées, souvent tristes, éplorées, navrées, tant et si bien que dans les salons, quand on chante ça, on a l’air de porter le diable en terre ou de donner les derniers sacrements à l’auditoire.

extrait des notes rédigées par Roger Nichols © 2003
Français: Isabelle Battioni

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