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Hymne, Op 7 No 2
First line:
À la très chère, à la très belle
1870?, Op 7 No 2, ‘À M Felix Lévy’, Hamelle: First Collection p71, E flat major (original key G major) 6/8 Allegretto vivo
author of text

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Hymne, Op 7 No 2
The work of Baudelaire was published in dribs and drabs: the first edition of the Fleurs du mal is dated 1857, and the second, augmented, edition 1861. But it was only after the death of the poet that a third ‘definitive’ edition was published that included the Nouvelles fleurs du mal and a collection entitled Les Épaves. It is in the latter, under the sub-section ‘Galanteries’, that Hymne (and La rançon, also set by Fauré) are to be found. It is the appearance of this volume in 1868 that must have excited Fauré into musical action, at more or less the same time as Duparc and Chabrier set L’invitation au voyage. Fauré’s discovery of the poet surely dates from this time, and Baudelaire must have seemed to him ‘hot off the press’. It is clear that in Hymne Fauré created a musical context that suggests the salon, and is too lightweight for the poet’s passionate sentiments. The gentle tremolos of the piano-writing are too soft-grained, and the composer’s natural charm is rendered leaden by a lyric that seems to embarrass him in its intensity. Jean-Michel Nectoux also notes a ‘lack of discretion or variety in the accentuation of the words’; the two evenly stressed dotted crotchets of bar 9 (‘À l’ange’) are a case in point. Fauré leaves out the poet’s third verse and opts simply to repeat the first verse at the end of the song instead of setting the poet’s fifth strophe which modifies the first. Jankélévitch sees in this music a trace of the melodic elan that we find in full measure in the A major Sonata for violin and piano, Op 13, but this may be wishful thinking.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2005

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