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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67257
Recording details: November 2000
Champs Hill, West Sussex, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: May 2002
Total duration: 3 minutes 55 seconds

'A vital addition to Hyperion's French song series, beautifully sung and played' (Gramophone)

‘Johnson has done much to rehabilitate the reputations of obscure composers of French Songs’ (BBC Music Magazine)

'A worthy and wonderful treat … a scintillating disc' (The Observer)

'Wonderfully idiomatic performances from singer and pianist alike, ideally recorded and presented' (The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs)

'intrinsic artistic quality and fine performance … A tantalizing glimpse of a fine talent that deserves to be remembered as more than the sixth member of Les Six' (Fanfare, USA)

Chansons basques, Op 23
October 1919
author of text

Introduction  EnglishFrançais
It was during a stay Jean Cocteau, my brother Pierre and I had that summer at Ahusquy, a small hamlet in the Basque country near the Spanish border, that these short pieces were conceived. The first couple were based on two popular motives after hearing the song of a young shepherd, to which Cocteau added the words of 'Prière' and 'Polka'; the third piece on one of the poems he brought back from our trip.
In the last, the meaning might seem obscure if it wasn't for the title 'Attelage'.
A scene of working oxen in their traditional harness, covered by a sort of rug, crowned by their yokes, their saliva flowing, foaming, from their mouths to the ground.
The first two pieces are tonal and sober. The accompaniment to the third, more elaborate, atonal, unwinds the wreath of two melodic parts in counterpoint above a constant and weighty bass evoking the slow and heavy tread of the two animals.
(Louis Durey, from his Catalogue Commenté, translation by Isabelle Battioni)

Apart from the piano score there is a version with accompaniment for oboe, clarinet, cor anglais and bassoon (or string quartet).

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2002

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