Hyperion Records

Mélodies passagères, Op 27
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'Barber: Songs' (CDA67528)
Barber: Songs
No 1: Puisque tout passe
No 2: Un cygne
No 3: Tombeau dans un parc  Dors au fond de l'allée
No 4: Le clocher chante  Mieux qu'une tour profane
No 5: Départ  Mon amie, il faut que je parte

Mélodies passagères, Op 27
The Mélodies passagères Op 27, composed in 1950– 51 and published in 1952, were written for and dedicated to the voice and piano duo of Pierre Bernac and Francis Poulenc, and are a delicate compliment both to Poulenc the composer and to the traditions of French song. Barber chose poems by Rainer Maria Rilke, normally thought of as a German poet, but who wrote occasionally in French after he settled in the Valais Canton in Switzerland. Four of the five poems are drawn from Rilke’s Poèmes français, written in homage and imitation of Paul Valéry, and one from Les quatrains valaisans. The settings prove Barber to have been as subtle a setter of French prosody as of English. The lyrically thoughtful Puisque tout passe acts as an introduction to the evocative lake landscape of Un cygne, where the calmly echoing left-hand figuration and the softly plashing fourths in the right conjure up the deep waters on which the swan glides in the voice’s sustained melodic line. In Tombeau dans un parc, the piano’s grave fourths and fifths resound like distant bells, only momentarily changing to harped arpeggios at the vision of the white dove. A more forthright and extrovert bell-piece is Le clocher chante, ringing a joyous carillon in praise of the Valais. For the final song, Départ, the piano’s melancholic left-hand ostinato forms quietly bitter dissonance with the right hand’s repeated Gs as preamble to the aching climax of ‘ce sera un point rose’.

from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2007

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