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Track(s) taken from CDA67141/2


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

Susan Bickley (mezzo-soprano), Graham Johnson (piano)
Recording details: December 1995
Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown & Arthur Johnson
Engineered by Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Release date: June 1996
Total duration: 2 minutes 46 seconds

Cover artwork: Two Angels (c1870) by Charles Sellier (1830-1882)

Other recordings available for download

Martyn Hill (tenor), Graham Johnson (piano)


'What treasures are here … the two discs provide an unmissable opportunity to explore a composer who is underrated and overlooked perhaps because he was too modest about himself. There are melodies here which Massenet, Debussy, Fauré and Ravel would have been proud to call their own. No one can fail to have their musical horizon broadened by these discs, which will assuredly come high among my Records of the Year, any year … these discs have given me as much pleasure as any I have heard this year … to hear Felicity Lott in Les étoiles, Susan Bickley in Offrande and Ian Bostridge in Tyndaris is to relish some of the most accomplished vocal artistry of the day' (The Sunday Telegraph)

'Some fascinating rarities' (Gramophone)

'To wonderful songs … [the artists] bring delicacy, grace, an emotion the more poignant for being understated … Not to be missed' (The Observer)

'This gorgeous set … Irresistible' (The Sunday Times)

'This is music for the intellect, interpreted with the utmost sensitivity' (Hi-Fi News)

'Ces chanteurs brittaniques interprètent ces petits bijoux avec soin touchant. Par la qualité du phrasé, ils lui restituent sa qualité essentielle, le sens du mot et de la ligne mélodique' (Répertoire, France)

'Graham Johnson choisir ses chanteurs qui possèdent une musicalité irréprochable et un français non seulement intelligible mais évocateur—et de les accompanger avec tant de poésie' (Diapason, France)
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: Chansons grises & other songs
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