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Track(s) taken from CDH55040


First line:
Voici des fruits, des fleurs
author of text

Martyn Hill (tenor), Graham Johnson (piano)
Recording details: December 1981
Art Workers Guild, Queen Square, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Antony Howell
Release date: May 1988
Total duration: 2 minutes 53 seconds

Other recordings available for download

Susan Bickley (mezzo-soprano), Graham Johnson (piano)


'Martyn Hill’s tenor is perfectly suited to Hahn’s deliciously sentimental idiom…Most of the settings on the disc are to texts by his favourite Verlaine, including the seven Chansons grises. Hahn gages the level of sensuality perfectly, allowing the words to make their point rather than making the point on their behalf, and Hill and his accompanist Johnson relax wonderfully into this rather enticing world' (BBC Music Magazine)
Offrande is one of Hahn’s great mélodies; it stands as a proud alternative to the settings of Debussy (1888) and Fauré (1891), both of which use Verlaine’s original title Green. It is unlikely that Hahn knew either of those songs when he wrote his setting. A footnote to the edition states that the song is published with the permission of MM—who was the poet’s wife, Mathilde Mauté. This might have suggested that this song dates from 1896, the year of the Verlaine’s death (after which Mathilde would have exercised the droit moral over her late husband’s work) when the composer was twenty-two. In fact this authorisation refers only to the year of the song’s publication. The manuscript itself is dated ‘1891 in spring’, and the composer was only sixteen. The song is mysteriously dedicated ‘to ***’. However great the Fauré and Debussy songs are as pieces of music (more complex than Offrande by far), Hahn, despite his tender years, has profoundly understood the poem’s background: the melancholy and masochism inherent in Verlaine’s homosexual passion for Arthur Rimbaud. Debussy and Fauré, with the confidence of men destined to win fair ladies with ease, composed fast songs which offer baskets of fruit and bouquets of flowers with breathless delight. In Hahn’s empty accompaniment of listless minims, and a vocal line that is all but a monotone, we hear the helplessness of a man who knows that he will be treated unkindly by the object of his passion, who knows his offering will be scornfully rejected, and that nowhere will he find sympathy for his plight. Here is the state of depression which descends when love dares not speak its name. It is little wonder perhaps that, with the composer’s empathy for his words, Verlaine was said to have wept on hearing Hahn’s earlier settings of his poems, the Chansons grises.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1996

Other albums featuring this work

Hahn: Songs
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