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Track(s) taken from CDA67336

La rançon, Op 8 No 2

First line:
L’homme a, pour payer sa rançon
1871 (?), published as Op 8 No 2 in 1954, C minor/C major (original key) 3/4 Andante non troppo
author of text

Stephen Varcoe (baritone), Graham Johnson (piano)
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: 2 minutes 19 seconds

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


'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)
Here is Fauré attempting to find a style that is suitably profound for this very serious poem of Baudelaire. The composer had high hopes for this setting as is shown by its dedication to Henri Duparc, the only French composer who has truly got to the heart of that elusive poet. The first two strophes are set in Fauré’s solemn style (the song it most resembles is Seule!), the words engraved on stone like a classical pronouncement, with just a hint of contrapuntal commentary in the piano. After the word ‘arrose’ this parched music is watered and melts from static crotchets into quavers, from flats into the naturals of major key. This is only the first stage of resuscitation; after the word ‘Amour’ the tempo quickens (un poco più mosso); the accompaniment takes on a quasi philosophical, lieder-like quality, as if the song were by César Franck, or Schumann–Brahms at one remove. This pianistic style – rambling arpeggios and uncharacteristic acciacaturas – attempts to plumb new depths, but in vain. The music is not without interest or beauty (at the mention of angels at the end of the song we hear a distant prophecy of Une sainte en son auréole from La bonne chanson) but it never achieves unity with Baudelaire’s text.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2005

Ici, Fauré tente de trouver un style d’une profondeur en phase avec ce très sérieux poème de Baudelaire. Si l’on en juge par la dédicace à Henri Duparc—le seul compositeur français à être allé vraiment au coeur de ce poète insaisissable—, il fondait de grands espoirs sur cette pièce. Les deux premières strophes sont mises en musique dans son style solennel (Seule! est la mélodie à laquelle cette pièce ressemble le plus) : les mots sont gravés dans la pierre, comme dans une déclamation classique avec juste une pointe de commentaire contrapuntique au piano. Après « arrose », cette musique desséchée est abreuvée et passe des noires statiques aux croches, des bémols aux bécarres de la tonalité majeure. Ce n’est là que la première phase de la résurrection ; passé le mot « amour », le tempo s’accélère (un poco più mosso) et l’accompagnement prend une tournure quasi philosophique, de type lied, comme si cette mélodie était de César Franck, voire de Schumann-Brahms. Ce style pianistique (arpèges futiles et acciacatures falotes) tente d’atteindre de nouvelles profondeurs, mais en vain. Cette musique n’est pas sans intérêt, pas sans beauté non plus (à la mention des anges, à la fin, on entend une lointaine préfiguration d’Une sainte en son auréole, extraite de La bonne chanson), mais jamais elle ne parvient à ne faire qu’un avec le texte de Baudelaire.

extrait des notes rédigées par Graham Johnson © 2005
Français: Hypérion

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