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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67333
Recording details: January 2004
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: January 2005
Total duration: 2 minutes 23 seconds

'Hyperion's sound is impeccable and in both his playing and accompanying essay, Graham Johnson penetrates to the heart of one of music's most subtle and enigmatic geniuses' (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)

'Johnson's own fluent playing finds the right tempo for each song, and his booklet notes are invaluable. Those who already love a handful of Fauré's songs will make many worthwhile discoveries here' (BBC Music Magazine)

'It sounds as if Hyperion is inviting us to embark on what will become a deeply satisfying voyage' (International Record Review)

'A dozen individual songs on aqueous themes are shared by a distinguished line-up of mostly British singers. As ever in Hyperion's song surveys, the piano accompaniments and the written documentation are immaculately presented by Graham Johnson' (The Guardian)

'Johnson's vignette-studded notes, encompassing the poems with idiomatic translations, make a consistently engaging cornucopia worth at least the price of admission and whose wide-ranging erudition will afford surprises even to close students of the period' (Fanfare, USA)

La fleur qui va sur l'eau, Op 85 No 2
First line:
Sur la mer voilée
19 September 1902, Op 85 No 2, ‘À Mademoiselle Pauline Segond’, Hamelle: Third Collection p77, B minor (original key) 3/2 Allegretto molto moderato
author of text

Introduction  EnglishFrançais
Catulle Mendès was more or less a contemporary of Fauré’s. By the time that the composer alighted on his work in 1902 the seventy-year-old poet was resting on old laurels – he had been, after all, Gautier’s son-in-law, Chabrier’s librettist, the lover of Augusta Holmès. This is a modern Fleur jetée written eighteen years after that famously tricky song from 1884 with its Erlkönig-like repeated octaves. There the flower is thrown to the winds, here it is tossed by stormy waves. The accompaniment for La fleur qui va sur l’eau trumps Fleur jetée in terms of difficulty. The amount of tension generated by these restless semiquavers oscillating between the hands is tremendous. This must be one of the most ingenious, as well as the most maddeningly tricky, accompanying patterns ever devised by a composer – the fingery detail that sets this cauldron a-bubble also manages to suggest something fragile bobbing on the surface of the sea. The singer receives no help at all from the pianist in maintaining his own rhythm; in the midst of a maelstrom of notes he must count or die (the terms ‘at sea’ or ‘cut adrift’ come to mind). The accompaniment becomes calmer as the song progresses; by the last page broad groups of quavers, and an elegiac vocal line, suggest a bitter requiem for lost struggles. Perhaps Mendès has in mind a floral metaphor for a beautiful woman drowned and afloat, a symbolist Ophelia. The imagery of the rose’s union with the sea, an aquatic deflowering, could also be seen as a symbol of a disgrace that has led to suicide. There is certainly a rage to this music (‘un air irrité’, at the very least) that suggests a dramatic subtext of this kind. The song has been compared to La vague et la cloche; it deserves at least as many performances as Duparc’s quasi-operatic blockbuster, but its difficulties (which do not sound as formidable as they prove to be under the fingers and in the voice) have discouraged generations of singers and pianists.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2005

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