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The Hyperion French Song Edition

Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)

The Complete Songs, Vol. 4 - Dans un parfum de roses

Graham Johnson (piano)
Download only
Label: Hyperion
Recording details: August 2004
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: November 2005
Total duration: 64 minutes 47 seconds

Cover artwork: 'Les Roses d'Ispahan' after Gabriel Fauré (c1907) by Lucien Levy-Dhurmer (1865-1953)
Sotheby’s Picture Library

This fourth—and final—instalment in our series encompassing all Fauré’s songs takes as its title a line from La chanson d’Ève, the matchless cycle which confirmed its composer’s status as the master of French song and which concludes the Hyperion intégrale.

As with preceding volumes, Graham Johnson has employed a range of artists—the very finest interpreters of French song that could be found. Generous commentaries are provided for each song along with the original poems and English translations.

An alphabetical index to this four-disc cycle is printed in the booklet.




‘There are songs of a fragrance, ambiguity and vision unique to Fauré and all the singers involved in this glorious project, while not always in their first radiance and purity of voice, never lose their sense of poetic engagement and commitment. Graham Johnson, whether writing or playing, is magically attuned to every nuance of Fauré's universe; and Hyperion's sound and presentation are impeccable’ (Gramophone)

‘This completes Hyperion's recording of all Fauré's songs master-minded by Graham Johnson with a quintet of specialist singers: Jennifer Smith, Felicity Lott, Geraldine McGreevy, Jean-Paul Fouchécourt and Stephen Varcoe, all in top form here … suffice it to say that this superb enterprise is a jewel in Hyperion's crown’ (The Sunday Telegraph)

‘The sound is warm and initimate and Johnson's comprehensive notes are packed with information on each song and its cultural surround. In all this series has proved an impressive achievement, demonstrating that even the least known of Fauré's songs is well worth hearing’ (BBC Music Magazine)

‘These four CDs deserve an honoured place in the collection of anyone who cares about one of the finest of all mélodistes’ (International Record Review)

‘There's an ineffable, nostalgia-filled sadness about Jennifer Smith's rapt delivery of the final two songs of La chanson d'Ève, the mood intensified as so often in this series by Graham Johnson's accompaniments. An outstanding disc’ (Classic FM Magazine)

‘Graham Johnson, whose sterling pianism distinguishes every track … his accompanimens are models of Fauréan discretion and care … Gabriel Fauré: The Complete Songs offers a vital contribution to the ongoing re-imagination of Fauré, as well as a splendid opportunity to become acquainted with his allusive art’ (Nineteenth-Century Music Review)

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The Hyperion French Song Edition has already issued single-disc selections of mélodies by Georges Bizet and Camille Saint-Saëns as well as double albums of selected songs by Charles Gounod and Reynaldo Hahn. The first composer to have an intégrale in this edition was Henri Duparc; this was followed by Déodat de Séverac and Louis Durey (both on single discs). Double-album sets of the complete songs of Ernest Chausson and Emmanuel Chabrier then appeared.

The complete Fauré songs require four CDs, and the question arises as how best to programme them. Neither the Hyperion Schubert Edition nor the Schumann (nearly 50 CDs between them) attempted a chronological approach (at least, not until the recent appearance of a re-mastered edition of the Schubert songs, Hyperion CDS44201/40). Each of those lieder programmes has been issued one at a time. The Ameling–Souzay–Baldwin complete Fauré songs on French EMI – a set now thirty years old – was issued in a new chronological order established by the great Fauré scholar Jean-Michel Nectoux. This box contained ten sumptuous LP sides; there were thus nine opportunities for musical and mental punctuation in listening to the composer’s complete mélodie output at home. It does not help that Fauré’s creative life subdivides into three, rather than four, periods. In a recording presented in chronological terms the first one and a quarter CDs would have to be given over to the composer’s early works. These songs are charming, always interesting, indeed they are often much more than that; but the Fauré connoisseur might consider them too lightweight to be heard all at once as they do not represent this composer at his apogee. On the other hand the masterly cycles of the composer’s later years (another one and a quarter CDs perhaps) can intimidate the music-lover who prefers Fauré at his more conventionally lyrical and accessible. For the works that most frequently appear in song recitals one must explore the mélodies of the middle period. It would not even be possible to extrapolate the ‘popular’ Fauré on to a single chronological disc: the towering presence of La bonne chanson would confound any such asset stripping.

One has to weigh the undeniable intellectual satisfaction of chronology, hearing each song as it passes by in its correct sequence, with the more relaxed pleasure of listening to a well-chosen group of songs – with texts that are juxtaposed for a deeper reason than chronological happenstance. Our aim here is to provide repertoire diversity while retaining chronology within each individual disc issue. The fourth and final volume of the Hyperion intégrale is Dans un parfum de roses. The phrase is taken from the Van Lerberghe setting from La chanson d’Ève. Amidst the programme’s many roses (clearly the composer’s favourite) are other flowerings (jasmine, for example, is a recurring theme) in various gardens, or flourishing in the wild. The distance between the talking flowers of the first song and the Eden of the concluding cycle is a musical journey that takes the listener from the light-heartedly ridiculous to the sublime. Flowers are often to be found in other composers’ work (Schumann’s settings also extol roses and jasmine), but Fauré’s attraction to nature in an enclosed setting is deeply personal. His father had been headmaster of the École normale at Montgauzy, near Foix, and the young boy had spent many hours in the gardens surrounding the chapel where plainchant was sung accompanied by an old harmonium. This was his first experience of music. At the same time he experienced the sight and smells of flowers and greenery in his very own walled paradise, different strands of memory that were combined in a synthesis of visual and tonal enchantment. When Fauré thinks back to the beauties of that first ‘jardin clos’, the enclosed monastery garden at Montgauzy, he unearths harmonies that flower as luxuriously, ceaselessly, as nature itself – sometimes secretly, unobtrusively, and sometimes in a glorious blaze of colour. Time and again Fauré’s mélodies invite us into different corners of the same secluded retreat: shaded arbours en sourdine, oases of repose and a mysterious, secret sensuality. The song cycle Le jardin clos (heard in volume 2 of this series) contains some wonderful songs of arboreal seclusion (Dans la nymphée above all) and the Mirages cycle has the mesmerizing Jardin nocturne (another indication of how this theme permeates Fauré’s output), but it is La chanson d’Ève which is the musical gardener’s paradise – the primeval flowering of a profusion of roses, both flame-red and white, as part of the miracle of Creation.

The disc opens with the composer’s first song, Le papillon et la fleur. This little tableau of courtship in nature between butterfly and blossom establishes the importance of floral imagery in Fauré’s output from the very beginning. In Rêve d’amour Victor Hugo is even more specific – there is mention of jasmine, lily and woodbine. Jasmine reappears in Dans les ruines d’une abbaye, a song about the ongoing flowering of love between newly-weds; the scent of the blossom is also what pulls the dreamers back to earth in Le pays des rêves, and the same flower is all a-bloom on the pathway that leads to the beloved’s door in Le plus doux chemin. In L’aurore half-open roses greet the dawn – it is this flower’s first appearance on the disc. In the second strophe of La rançon Baudelaire gives some stern advice about the growing of roses, a metaphor for the creation of art where a garden of carefully cultivated flowers is likened to the approval of the seraphim. The dawn serenade of Aubade takes place in the background of a delicately flowering garden; the wilting lilacs of Ici-bas! remind us that love cannot last for ever. The beautiful Aurore is a dawn scene which opens with the first of two powerful appearances on this disc of the phrase ‘jardins de la nuit’; the other is in Soir, one of Fauré’s greatest songs with its imagery of a pale lily of purity and fidelity. This masterpiece begins with the lines ‘Now the gardens of Night begin to flower. / Lines, colours, and sounds begin to blur’. The composer might have penned these words himself, so perfectly do they suit his music. Les roses d’Ispahan begins with rose petal, jasmine and orange blossom before the poet goes on to praise the beauties of his beloved Leilah; but the music is so constructed that it is nature’s exotic scent, not the picture of the woman, that wafts back to us in Fauré’s sultry circular musical construction. In Le parfum impérissable the attar of Lahore roses is a metaphor for imperishable love. La rose (Leconte de Lisle) is as ardent and elevated a hymn to any variety of flower as exists in the entire song repertoire. The ‘melodious park’ in the moonlight of Arpège, this strange image of a ‘garden of vows’, might almost have been created by Mallarmé. These songs from the composer’s third recueil of mélodies lead us to Fauré’s greatest musical garden, the doorway to his final period. This is no less than the biblical Eden, a paradise aglow in the colours of symbolism, the musical apotheosis of that garden in which, like Eve herself, the young Gabriel absorbed the sights and sounds of a newly discovered world.

Each of the four instalments of the series charts Fauré’s progress from youth to old age from a different angle, and with different repertoire. The theme of the first volume was Au bord de l’eau, both the title of a famous mélodie, and a reminder how fascinated Fauré was with aquatic and nautical subjects; the second volume, Un paysage choisi, took the listener back (mostly) to dry land in all its astonishing diversity. Chanson d’amour assembled romantic songs of every kind, culminating in that paean to love, La bonne chanson. In each of the four recitals in this series the songs are arranged under broad themes where the composer’s songs are explored chronologically, each programme containing examples of the three styles that, very broadly speaking, characterize this great songwriter: the young salon charmer, the mature master with a tendency to ever-deepening musical experiments, and the inscrutable sage whose music remains as challenging as any written in the twentieth century. Taken together these four discs comprise an intégrale of the composer’s mélodies. It is the breadth of these journeys, and the variegated terrain through which they pass, that underlines the greatness of this particular composer and his genius for continual metamorphosis.

Graham Johnson © 2005

Le quatrième et dernier volume de l’intégrale Hyperion s’intitule Dans un parfum de roses, une phrase empruntée au poème de Van Lerberghe mis en musique dans La chanson d’Ève. Les nombreuses roses de ce programme (manifestement les préférées du compositeur) côtoient d’autres fleurs (le jasmin, par exemple, est un thème récurrent), qui s’épanouissent dans divers jardins ou dans la nature.

Des fleurs parlantes de la première mélodie à l’Éden du cycle conclusif, l’auditeur fait un voyage musical qui l’entraîne du ridicule bon enfant au sublime. D’autres compositeurs évoquent souvent les fleurs (les lieder de Schumann louent, eux aussi, les roses et le jasmin), mais l’attirance de Fauré pour la nature, dans une mise en musique confinée, est profondément personnelle. Son père avait dirigé l’École normale de Montgauzy, près de Foix, et, enfant, il avait passé des heures dans les jardins qui environnaient la chapelle, où le plainchant était accompagné d’un vieil harmonium. Ce fut sa première expérience de la musique. Dans le même temps, dans son paradis clos, il goûtait la vue et les senteurs des fleurs et de la verdure, fils de souvenirs tissés en une synthèse d’enchantement visuel et tonal. Lorsqu’il repense aux beautés de ce premier « jardin clos » (le jardin monastique, clos, de Montgauzy), il ressuscite des harmonies qui fleurissent avec la même luxuriance, le même flot continu que la nature elle-même—tantôt secrètement, tantôt discrètement, tantôt dans un glorieux flamboiement de couleurs. À maintes reprises, les mélodies de Fauré nous invitent en différents coins de la même thébaïde : charmilles ombragées en sourdine, oasis de repos et sensualité mystérieuse, secrète. Les cycles Le jardin clos (vol 2 de cette série) et Mirages renferment l’un de merveilleuses mélodies sur la réclusion arborée (notamment Dans la nymphée), l’autre l’envoûtant Jardin nocturne (qui atteste, lui aussi, combien ce thème imprègne la production fauréenne), mais c’est La chanson d’Ève qui incarne le paradis du jardinier—la floraison primordiale d'une profusion de roses, rouge feu et blanches, élément du miracle de la Création.

Le disque s’ouvre sur la première mélodie du compositeur, Le papillon et la fleur. Ce tableautin de la cour que se font, dans la nature, un papillon et une fleur, établit l’importance de l’imagerie florale dans l’oeuvre fauréen, et ce dès les tout débuts. Dans Rêve d’amour, Victor Hugo, plus précis encore, mentionne le jasmin, le lys et le chèvrefeuille. Le jasmin réapparaît dans Dans les ruines d’une abbaye, qui chante l’épanouissement de l’amour entre deux jeunes mariés ; le parfum du jasmin est aussi ce qui fait redescendre les rêveurs sur terre dans Le pays des rêves, et c’est cette même fleur que l’on retrouve toute éclose dans l’allée qui mène à la porte de la belle dans Le plus doux chemin. Dans L’aurore, des roses demi-closes saluent l’aube—c’est la première fois que cette fleur apparaît sur ce disque. Dans la deuxième strophe de La rançon, Baudelaire donne d’austères conseils sur la culture des roses, une métaphore de la création artistique, où un jardin de fleurs soigneusement cultivées gagne le « suffrage des anges ». Aubade se déroule dans un jardin délicatement en fleur ; quant aux lilas flétris d’Ici-bas, ils nous rappellent que l’amour ne peut durer toujours. La splendide Aurore s’ouvre sur la première des deux puissantes apparitions, sur ce disque, de l’expression « jardin de la nuit »—l’autre figure dans Soir, l’une des plus grandes mélodies fauréennes, avec son image d’un pâle lys de pureté et de fidélité. Ce chef-d’oeuvre débute ainsi : «Voici que les jardins de la Nuit vont fleurir / Les lignes, les couleurs, les sons deviennent vagues ». Ces mots, le compositeur aurait pu les écrire lui-même, tant ils conviennent idéalement à sa musique. Les roses d’Ispahan évoquent d’abord des pétales de rose, des fleurs de jasmin et d’organger, puis le poète loue les beautés de sa Leïlah ; mais la musique est bâtie de telle sorte que c’est la senteur exotique de la nature, et non l’image de la femme, qui nous revient dans la sensuelle et circulaire construction de Fauré. Dans Le parfum impérissable, l’essence de roses de Lahore est une métaphore de l’amour impérissable. La rose (Leconte de Lisle) est l’hymne le plus ardent et le plus élevé jamais adressé à une fleur dans tout le répertoire de la mélodie. Le « parc mélodieux » au clair de lune de l’Arpège, cette étrange image d’un « jardin des aveux », aurait presque pu être du Mallarmé. Ces mélodies (extraites du troisième recueil) nous mènent dans le plus grand jardin musical de Fauré, au seuil de sa dernière manière. Ce n’est rien de moins que l’Éden biblique, un paradis flamboyant dans les couleurs du symbolisme fin-de-siècle, l’apothéose musicale de ce jardin où, comme Ève, le jeune Gabriel s’abreuva aux images et aux sons d’un monde frais découvert.

Chacun des quatre volets de cette série retrace l’évolution de Fauré, de sa jeunesse à sa vieillesse, sous un angle différent, avec un répertoire différent. Le premier volume avait pour thème Au bord de l’eau, titre d’une fameuse mélodie rappelant la fascination de ce compositeur pour les sujets aquatiques et nautiques ; le deuxième volume, Un paysage choisi, ramenait (presque toujours) l’auditeur sur la terre ferme, dans toute sa diversité stupéfiante. Chanson d’amour rassemblait des mélodies romantiques de toutes sortes avec, pour apogée, cet hymne à l’amour qu’est La bonne chanson. Chacun des quatre récitals de cette série regroupe les mélodies par grands thèmes pour les explorer chronologiquement, avec des exemples des trois styles qui, lato sensu, caractérisent ce grand mélodiste que fut Fauré : le jeune charmeur de salon, le maître mature et sa tendance à pousser toujours plus avant les expérimentations musicales et, enfin, le sage impénétrable, dont la musique demeure le plus immense défi jamais écrit au XXe siècle. Pris ensemble, ces quatre disques forment une intégrale des mélodies fauréennes. L’ampleur de ces voyages, et la variété des terrains parcourus, soulignent la grandeur de ce compositeur à part, mais aussi son génie de la métamorphose perpétuelle.

Graham Johnson © 2005
Français: Hypérion

Other albums in this series

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