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Track(s) taken from CDH55040

Fêtes galantes

First line:
Les donneurs de sérénades
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 5 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)
Fêtes galantes is another Verlaine poem which many a French composer has felt obliged to set. There is the Watteau-like elegance—somewhat laid back—of Fauré’s song, entitled Mandoline. Debussy’s early setting of the same title is breathless and piquant, a whirl of activity in a froth of swirling skirts. Hahn’s combines attributes of each without quite being as successful as either. In his hands there is something (deliberately?) banal about these exchanges of courtly pleasantries. Fauré suggests the artifice of studied self-control, but here we have the small-talk of Louis XV’s Versailles exchanged by the mindless courtiers and hangers-on. The left hand in the treble clef sounds the twanged note of the mandoline, the right is preoccupied with a the circular repetition of a high and tinkling phrase in double thirds which is cheekily repeated until the entry of the voice. ‘L’éternel Clitandre’ gets a raised eyebrow of impatience and boredom with a sudden plunge in the bass. At ‘Leurs courtes vestes de soie’ Hahn introduces an individual touch, unusual in his writing: descending semitones in the vocal line are followed by upward jumps of an octave; these are abetted by deft piano arpeggios in the same direction. Accompanying the final word ‘brise’ two chromatic scales in contrary motion usher in a final ritornello. There is a real impression of emptiness at the end of it all, and this gay superficiality may well have been exactly what the composer intended.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1996

Other albums featuring this work

Hahn: Songs
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