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Track(s) taken from CDA66856

Danse macabre

First line:
Zig et zag et zig, la mort cri en cadence
author of text

François Le Roux (baritone), Graham Johnson (piano)
Recording details: January 1996
Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Arthur Johnson
Engineered by Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Release date: January 1997
Total duration: 2 minutes 34 seconds

Cover artwork: À l'ombres des bosquets chante un jeune poète by Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier (1815-1891)
Reproduced by permission of The Wallace Collection, London / Bridgeman Art Library, London


'This is the most resounding blow yet to be struck for the mélodies of Saint-Saëns … Le Roux is one of the most charismatic performers of our time … this is certainly one of the best things he has done so far. A double welcome for performers and rare repertory' (Gramophone)

'Musical jewels surface with delightful consistency in this 27-song recital. An absorbing and revelatory disc' (BBC Music Magazine)

'There's hardly a dud among these 30-or-so songs on this well filled, perfectly recorded disc, an ideal accompaniment to a hot summer evening' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Another immensely pleasant recital from Hyperion, both in content and performance. [François Le Roux] is establishing himself as the leading French baritone of the day' (Classic CD)

'François Le Roux est l'interprète prédestiné. Son intelligence des mots, son sens de la juste inflexion font ici merveille' (Diapason, France)

'Apoya magnificamente al baritono, firmando entre ambos un trabajo auténticamente digno de conocerse. Sonido exemplar' (CD Compact, Spain)
This is another Cazalis (or Jean Lahor) setting which dates from 1873. Although the song is not well known, the tune is familiar because it was the basis of Saint-Saëns’ tone poem of the same name written in 1874. And we also hear a quotation from it in the Fossils section of Le Carnaval des animaux/i>, a delightful instance of wry self-quotation. No one could claim that this was a great mélodie, but it is certainly amusing. Any song which contains the words ‘Zig et zig et zag’ and the conspiratorial ‘Mais psit!’ suggests a deliberate, indeed a flagrant, lapse of taste as the composer lets his hair down in a manner which our times could only describe as ‘camp’. From the very first strident tritones (the intervalus diabolus) twanging in the piano we are in for a Disneyland ride through the Haunted House (apart, that is, from the unacceptable-to-Disney descriptions of copulation, where the class barrier is forgotten between cartwright and marchioness—Lady Chatterley’s Lover encapsulated in a few bars of song). All this is great fun for the audience in a recital programme. For the performers there are problems: with diction because of the speed of the words (particularly for a non-French singer), and with the challenging octaves in the piano part (particularly for a pianist with less than Saint-Saëns’ own dazzling virtuosity).

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1997

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