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Hyperion Records

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Lord Byron and the maid of Athens by Sir William Allen (1782-1850)
Roy Miles Gallery, 29 Bruton Steet, London W1
Track(s) taken from CDA66801/2
Recording details: May 1993
St Paul's Church, New Southgate, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Arthur Johnson
Engineered by Keith Warren
Release date: October 1993
Total duration: 3 minutes 41 seconds

Mignon
First line:
Connais-tu le pays oł dans l'immense plaine
composer
1871
author of text
translator of text

Introduction
Mignon finds Gounod in touching form as a serious mélodie composer. The poem of course is Louis Gallet’s paraphrase of the celebrated Kennst du das Land? from Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister. Gounod himself as the composer of Faust was deeply aware, whatever that opera’s many shortcomings in relation to its parent work, of Goethe’s importance; he knew very well the sad story of the waif Mignon who had been kidnapped from Italy and longed to return there. The song has the typical Gounod characteristics of a palpitating accompaniment over which the vocal line, given a singer of good breath span, is able to sail in rapturous flight. The composer achieves the right mood of yearning and aspiration with good strong climaxes in which the phrases on ‘C’est là’ are a match for Wolf’s anguished repeats of ‘Dahin!’ in his setting. Taken as a whole, however, Gounod fails to achieve the specific drama and pathos of the German composers. Part of this may be to blame on Gallet’s rather wishy-washy paraphrase of the original; it might have been interesting to see what Gounod would have made of Gautier’s La Chanson de Mignon, written in the metre of the Goethe original.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1993

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