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Track(s) taken from CDA67528

Mélodies passagères, Op 27

author of text

Gerald Finley (baritone), Julius Drake (piano)
Recording details: December 2005
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: November 2007
Total duration: 9 minutes 17 seconds

Cover artwork: Sunset, Montclair (detail) (1892) by George Inness (1825-1894)
Private Collection, David Findlay Jnr Fine Art, NYC, USA / Bridgeman Images


‘Performances of this calibre emphasise Barber's stature in the mainstream of 20th-century song composers … Finley and Drake are impeccable (as are the Aronowitz Quartet in Dover Beach) … this is another outstanding Hyperion release that does credit to Barber in what will soon be a run-up to his centenary’ (Gramophone)

‘Gerald Finley is golden in tone, persuasive in phrasing, and unfailingly responsive to the sound and sense of the words. Julius Drake once more proves a strong and imaginative partner, and a quartet from the Aronowitz Ensemble makes a promising recording debut … a very satisfying recital’ (BBC Music Magazine)

‘The indefatigable Gerald Finley, who makes even the most straight-laced song shine … Julius Drake is his ever percipient partner, while the strings of the Aronowitz Ensemble provide an atmospheric backing for the most famous of these songs, Dover Beach’ (The Daily Telegraph)

‘The performances are outstanding. Canadian baritone Finley is in top form, showing total command of his voice with stunning hushed singing and ringing top notes. Drake is his reliable accompanist … everything about this recording is terrific’ (American Record Guide)

‘Baritone Gerald Finley and pianist Julius Drake follow their outstanding disc of songs by Charles Ives with a collection devoted to a very different American composer. Samuel Barber's particularly personal brand of romanticism seems so natural and unforced, it's unnecessary to attach the prefix 'neo-' to it. Barber's gifts for elegant, melodic writing and his own early experiences as a singer (he once contemplated a career as a baritone) made him a natural songwriter, and two of the works here—the 10 settings of medieval Irish texts that make up his Hermit Songs Op 29, and the magically rapt version of Matthew Arnold's Dover Beach—are among his finest achievements in any genre. The Mélodies Passagères, composed in the early 1950s for Pierre Bernac and Francis Poulenc, are a homage to French song; three other settings of James Joyce and some of Barber's songs to American texts are also included. Finley is a wonderfully persuasive advocate for all these songs, and shows that the best of them rank among the greatest of the 20th century’ (The Guardian)

‘Finley captures the 'eternal note of sadness' that the poet Matthew Arnold hears on the wave-dragged shingle on Dover Beach … Finley and Drake make an excellent partnership throughout’ (The Times)

‘In my book, Samuel Barber is one of the finest of all songwriters of the 20th century … every human emotion … is astutely conveyed. Gerald Finley knows this well, and here sings some of Barber's finest … ably assisted by the pianist Julius Drake, Finley communicates with finesse every poetic nuance, his golden baritone allied to rare poetic intelligence’ (The Sunday Times)

‘Having served the songs of Charles Ives with enormous distinction, the partnership of baritone Gerald Finley and pianist Julius Drake shift artistic gear to explore works by one of America's greatest tunesmiths. Samuel Barber's lyrical writing and subtle feeling for expressive shading were matched in his songs by a Britten-like aptness for word-setting, which ideally suits Finley's compelling blend of emotional conviction and vocal sensibility. On the strength of his interpretation of the Hermit Songs alone, regardless of his majestic readings of Barber's Rilke settings and Dover Beach, Finley enables this album to command its price as one of the year's finest vocal releases. Unmissable’ (Classic FM Magazine)

‘Finley’s best work … this disc has an admirable program … Finley makes a firm and pleasing sound and he can command the nuances when necessary … Julius Drake’s accompaniments strike me as right and are a pleasure to hear’ (Fanfare, USA)

‘A CD of Barber's songs may, on the surface, seem like too much of a good thing, until you listen to Finley's magisterial survey … using his handsome baritone to explore the Britten-esque lyricism of the Hermit songs and the Francophone poetry of his Mélodies passagères’ (Financial Times)

‘Hearing the Hermit Songs in a man's voice, this man's voice, is little short of a revelation … there's a world of feeling in these 10 songs, and Finley, accompanied throughout by pianist Julius Drake in a way that would make Barber proud, burrows deeply into every niche … I held my breath before 'Sure on this shining night', my favorite Barber song of all, an ecstatic setting of a rapturous James Agee poem that's harder to bring off than its simple, swelling lines would suggest. Finley hit it out of the park’ (Bay Area Reporter, USA)

‘[Finley's] warm timbre, technical facility, fluid, natural phrasing, and conscientious expression brings an easy, unforced clarity to the texts, ideally characterizing each song without distracting mannerisms or undue dramatic inflections … it would be hard to imagine performances more purely beautiful, sensitive, and true to the music and poetry than Finley's’ (Classics Today)
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

Publiées en 1952 mais composées en 1950–51 pour le duo voix/piano de leurs dédicataires (Pierre Bernac et Francis Poulenc), les Mélodies passagères, op. 27 sont un délicat compliment adressé et au Poulenc compositeur, et aux traditions de la mélodie française. Barber choisit des vers de Rainer Maria Rilke, poète allemand qui écrivit parfois en français après s’être installé dans le Valais suisse. Quatre de ces cinq textes sont empruntés aux Poèmes français de Rilke (écrits en hommage à Paul Valéry, dans un esprit d’imitation); le dernier texte est issu de Les quatrains valaisans. Toutes ces pièces prouvent combien Barber sut être constamment subtil, que la prosodie fût anglaise ou française. Puisque tout passe, lyriquement méditatif, sert d’introduction à l’évocateur paysage lacustre d’Un cygne, où la figuration à la main gauche, dessinant un paisible écho, et le doux clapotis des quartes à la main droite font surgir les eaux profondes sur lesquelles le cygne glisse, à la ligne mélodique tenue de la voix. Dans Tombeau dans un parc, les graves quartes et quintes pianistiques résonnent comme de lointains carillons, que seule l’apparition de la blanche colombe change momentanément en arpèges harpés. Autre pièce dans le style des cloches, Le clocher chante, plus directe, plus extravertie, sonne un joyeux carillon à la louange du Valais. Pour la dernière mélodie, Départ, le mélancolique ostinato à la main gauche (piano) forme une dissonance douce-amère, avec les sol répétés de la main droite en préambule du douloureux climax de «ce sera un point rose».

extrait des notes rédigées par Calum MacDonald © 2007
Français: Hypérion

Die 1950–51 komponierten und 1952 veröffentlichten Mélodies passagères op. 27 wurden für das Gesang/ Klavier-Duo von Pierre Bernac und Francis Poulenc geschrieben, dem sie auch gewidmet sind. Sie sind ein zartes Kompliment an Poulenc als Komponisten sowie die Tradition des französischen Liedes. Barber wählte Gedichte von Rainer Maria Rilke, der zwar allgemein als deutscher Dichter betrachtet wird, aber gelegentlich auch auf Französisch schrieb, nachdem er sich im Schweizer Kanton Wallis niedergelassen hatte. Vier der fünf Gedichte stammen aus Rilkes Poèmes français, die als Hommage und in Imitation von Paul Valéry geschrieben wurden, das fünfte aus Les quatrains valaisans. Diese Vertonungen erweisen Barber als einen ebenso einfühlsamen Setzer französischer Prosodie wie englischer. Das lyrisch-nachdenkliche Puisque tout passé fungiert als Einleitung zur evokativen Seelandschaft von Un cygne, wo die leisen Echos der Figuration in der linken Hand und die sanft plätschernden Quarten in der rechten die tiefen Gewässer heraufbeschwören, auf denen der Schwan in der weit gespannten Gesangslinie gleitet. In Tombeau dans un parc tönen die soliden Quarten und Quinten des Klaviers wie ferne Glocken und wechseln nur für einen Augenblick zu harfenarten Arpeggien bei der Erscheinung einer weißen Taube. Le clocher chante ist ein offensichtlicheres, extrovertierteres Glockenstück, das zum Lobe des Wallis ein Glockenspiel läutet. Für das letzte Lied, Départ, bildet das melancholische Ostinato der linken Hand des Klaviers eine leise, bittere Dissonanz mit den repetierten Gs der rechten Hand als Präambel zum schmerzlichen Höhepunkt auf „ce sera un point rose“.

aus dem Begleittext von Calum MacDonald © 2007
Deutsch: Renate Wendel

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