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Fêtes galantes

First line:
Les donneurs de sérénades
composer
author of text

 
Fêtes galantes is another Verlaine poem which many a French composer has felt obliged to set. There is the Watteau-like elegance—somewhat laid back—of Fauré’s song, entitled Mandoline. Debussy’s early setting of the same title is breathless and piquant, a whirl of activity in a froth of swirling skirts. Hahn’s combines attributes of each without quite being as successful as either. In his hands there is something (deliberately?) banal about these exchanges of courtly pleasantries. Fauré suggests the artifice of studied self-control, but here we have the small-talk of Louis XV’s Versailles exchanged by the mindless courtiers and hangers-on. The left hand in the treble clef sounds the twanged note of the mandoline, the right is preoccupied with a the circular repetition of a high and tinkling phrase in double thirds which is cheekily repeated until the entry of the voice. ‘L’éternel Clitandre’ gets a raised eyebrow of impatience and boredom with a sudden plunge in the bass. At ‘Leurs courtes vestes de soie’ Hahn introduces an individual touch, unusual in his writing: descending semitones in the vocal line are followed by upward jumps of an octave; these are abetted by deft piano arpeggios in the same direction. Accompanying the final word ‘brise’ two chromatic scales in contrary motion usher in a final ritornello. There is a real impression of emptiness at the end of it all, and this gay superficiality may well have been exactly what the composer intended.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1996

Recordings

Hahn: Chansons grises & other songs
CDH55040
Hahn: Songs
CDA67141/22CDs

Details

Track 22 on CDH55040 [2'05]
Track 14 on CDA67141/2 CD1 [1'47] 2CDs

Track-specific metadata for CDA66045 track 22

Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-81-04522
Duration
2'05
Recording date
28 December 1981
Recording venue
Art Workers Guild, Queen Square, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Antony Howell
Hyperion usage
  1. Hahn: Songs (CDA66045)
    Disc 1 Track 22
    Release date: May 1988
    Deletion date: March 2000
    Superseded by CDH55040
  2. Hahn: Chansons grises & other songs (CDH55040)
    Disc 1 Track 22
    Release date: March 2000
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