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Track(s) taken from CDA67133/4

Lied

First line:
Avec ses traits harmoniques, pareils
composer
1862
author of text

William Burden (tenor), Graham Johnson (piano)
Recording details: March 2001
Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: July 2002
Total duration: 3 minutes 14 seconds

Cover artwork: L'Intrigue Nocturne by Gaston de Latouche (1854-1913)
Sotheby’s Picture Library
 
1

Reviews

'[A] real treasure of a treasury' (BBC Music Magazine)

'I cannot begin to tell you what delights await you on these discs … irresistible gems of melody, wit and tenderness. The enterprise has clearly been a labour of love for all involved' (The Sunday Telegraph)

'Here is something so joyous and heart-warming that it's difficult to know where to start … anyone with a love of French music and poetry will find this a knock-out pleasure' (International Record Review)

'Adorable indeed … these songs steal into the heart. This is a set made for a lifetime's listening and enjoyment' (The Times)

'Both CDs are packed with gems, most of them rarities … a three-star issue for Chabrier's adorable music, Johnson's de luxe documentation and Lott's delightful singing' (The Sunday Times)

‘[Chabrier’s] 43 gorgeous songs find ideal interpreters on these two discs; the voices are beautifully limpid and the phrasing is exquisite’ (Classic FM Magazine)

‘there are major discoveries to be made here’ (Fanfare, USA)

'If you like French song this album is a treasure trove' (Financial Times)

‘Quite a serious treat for aficionados of the great French master especially as the performances by sopranos Lott and McGreevy are totally flawless and delivered with great charm and confidence throughout … Hugely enjoyable’ (AdLib)

‘the splendid group of artists here assembled get to the heart of every piece’ (Musical Opinion)

‘this superbly-produced set of his complete melodies should be welcomed by all’ (ClassicsToday.com)
This is one of two Chabrier songs with this title. Much better known is the piquantly humorous Lied to a poem of Catulle Mendès which can be heard on CD2. Once again Chabrier (as almost always) proves himself quite unlike the other composers of mélodie. The tempo marking is ‘Allegro appassionato’; halfway through each strophe the vocal line is marked ‘con passione’ – this is no gentle admonition to a salon singer but a command shouted from the wings of a theatre. This composer had little patience with what he saw as the pussyfooting refinements of the salon, and here we encounter an early example of his preference for big brush-strokes and large-scale tunes that expand across entire strophes of the poet’s text. The song is conceived in a large sweep and the accompaniment whirls impetuously by, the speed dictated by the almost unreasonable demands made on the singer’s breath by the long phrases and pedal points. The almost comically extended settings of the words ‘prunelle…’ and ‘ambroisie…’ , require the singer to hold on to four successive semibreves as the piano’s basses gradually fall back to the tonic.

The piano writing is, as always, a portrait of the composer’s own enthusiasm. In the eight-bar introduction single crotchets in the left hand are offset by three semiquavers in the right. The result of many repetitions of this pattern is a slew of glistening notes which trace the hidden contours of a long melody before the voice takes over with a new long-breathed melody of its own. If one has the refined rise and fall of the mélodies of Fauré, Debussy or Ravel in mind, this type of vocal enthusiasm may seem to be a bit rude (in the French sense of ‘rough’ or ‘harsh’). There is no trace of the cultivated whisper in this music which one hears in the differently adorable works of Reynaldo Hahn for example. Chabrier demands a manly presence from his tenors merely in order that they should counter, and climb above, the rumbustious piano writing. A heart-on-sleeve singer filling his lungs and giving his ‘all’ is something that both delights and amuses this composer who is a highly sophisticated boulevardier playing at being a naive country yokel – or vice versa.

Great-hearted and unselfconscious outpourings are Chabrier’s stock-in-trade and he is pleased to subvert what might be expected of him by ‘respectable folk’ in writing songs; indeed he is subversive in this way again and again throughout his career. The composer’s ideal in this voice type was his friend Ernest Van Dyck who was the first French Parsifal. The heroic edge to this song, even on such an unheroic subject, belongs unashamedly to the theatre and the world of pre-Pelléas French opera which make tough vocal demands on their tenors (the operas of Bizet are an example of this). There is much recital music in which the opera singer sounds inappropriately like a bull in a china shop, but here is music, poised between the two arenas, which actually requires a larger-than-life vocal commitment within the confines of writing which simultaneously calls for delicacy of feeling. The composer’s manuscript has three verses of Banville’s poem; the Delage edition prints a further three from the poet’s total ten (thus a strophic repetition of the whole song). The composer’s manuscript implies that this was his wish.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2002

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