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Hyperion Records

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Two Angels (c1870) by Charles Sellier (1830-1882)
Track(s) taken from CDA67141/2
Recording details: December 1995
Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown & Arthur Johnson
Engineered by Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Release date: June 1996
Total duration: 4 minutes 28 seconds

'What treasures are here … the two discs provide an unmissable opportunity to explore a composer who is underrated and overlooked perhaps because he was too modest about himself. There are melodies here which Massenet, Debussy, Fauré and Ravel would have been proud to call their own. No one can fail to have their musical horizon broadened by these discs, which will assuredly come high among my Records of the Year, any year … these discs have given me as much pleasure as any I have heard this year … to hear Felicity Lott in Les étoiles, Susan Bickley in Offrande and Ian Bostridge in Tyndaris is to relish some of the most accomplished vocal artistry of the day' (The Sunday Telegraph)

'Some fascinating rarities' (Gramophone)

'To wonderful songs … [the artists] bring delicacy, grace, an emotion the more poignant for being understated … Not to be missed' (The Observer)

'This gorgeous set … Irresistible' (The Sunday Times)

'This is music for the intellect, interpreted with the utmost sensitivity' (Hi-Fi News)

'Ces chanteurs brittaniques interprètent ces petits bijoux avec soin touchant. Par la qualité du phrasé, ils lui restituent sa qualité essentielle, le sens du mot et de la ligne mélodique' (Répertoire, France)

'Graham Johnson choisir ses chanteurs qui possèdent une musicalité irréprochable et un français non seulement intelligible mais évocateur—et de les accompanger avec tant de poésie' (Diapason, France)

Puisque j'ai mis ma lèvre
author of text

This setting of Hugo is the nearest Reynaldo ever came to writing a Lied. The influence of the whimsicality of Schumann can be heard relatively often in his work, but here for the first time we detect in the composer an ambition to write a really profound song in the German manner. The result seems to have something in common with the Hugo Wolf of such Mörike settings as Lebewohl and the Peregrina songs. In any case, Hahn’s scrupulous prosody and his preference for vocal lines which follow the contours of speech (both lifelong characteristics of his work) link him to the work of the Austrian master no matter how different the musical results. Hahn has paid unusual attention to the two-part writing between the vocal and bass lines; the function of the right hand is mainly to fill in the harmony. The Wolfian impression is strengthened by a chromaticism that is restless to the point of confusing the ear, as well as the appearance of an extended interlude between the verses and an even longer postlude. Another influence may be detected in the writing for piano in the passage beginning ‘Je puis maintentant dire aux rapides années’: we can hear at this point the harmonic world of late Fauré—Paradis from La Chanson d’Eve comes strongly to mind. Once again the choice of poem seems to reflect melancholy of a deep and nameless nature; a key phrase for this composer seems to be ‘J’ai dans l’âme une fleur que nul ne peut cueillir!’

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1996

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