The first recueil is full of interesting music, although certain mélodies stand out effortlessly. The delightfully fresh Chanson d’avril
opens the collection with its wonderful melody, and it is not hard to see why Bizet chose to place the song at the head of the collection; it seems a suitable motto for the lightness of his touch and the subtlety of his art. It looks back to Gounod’s ecstatic springtime evocation Chanson de printemps
, but it points to the future as well. How Fauré must have loved this music, open-hearted yet delicate; his own Nell was born of this lineage only twelve years later. The piano rustles with just the right amount of semiquaver frisson to suggest the stirrings of spring, and the voice rides these gentle undulations with excursions up and down the stave which are deliciously meandering, seemingly spontaneous, but cleverly planned. We seem to be following the will-o’-the-wisp of springtime fancy, but the composer is always in control. This piano writing could only have been conceived by someone deeply acquainted with the instrument. It charms the ear right up to the delicious postlude which evaporates into thin air as it floats up to the top of the stave. If the song has been equalled in charm by other mélodie composers in springtime mood, it has very seldom been bettered.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1998