Hyperion Records

En prière
This is not a mélodie but rather a cantique. It was commissioned for a volume of Contes mystiques, poems by Stéphan Bordèse set to music by various composers, and published by Durand in 1890. Among those who contributed to the collection were Holmès, Lecocq, Massenet, Paladilhe, Saint-Saëns, Viardot and Widor. En prière was included in the Hamelle three-volume edition and countless singers and pianists have come to know, and perform, this song as if it were a bona-fide mélodie. One may think its seraphic mood may be problematic to those who do not whole-heartedly admire Fauré’s Requiem, more or less a contemporary work. On the other hand, like the religious songs of Schubert, this music never cloys; Gounod or César Franck identify with their texts in a more personal way which make a different impression. Fauré has learned much from Gounod, particularly in a setting like this; but as in Clair de lune he keeps his distance as if avoiding avowals made in the first person. This is a portrait of devotion, a picture of someone at prayer, rather than the composer at prayer himself. The creation of an atmosphere of heartfelt piety seems effortless, the progression of harmonies a miracle of fluidity. Only Fauré could have written this music. At ‘Révélez-Vous à moi’ the triplet accompaniment cedes to a motif of crotchets which wafts across the stave as if the Holy Spirit revealed; on the song’s last page this alternates in an almost liturgical manner with triplets, and is repeated no fewer than five times, as if in benediction.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2005

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