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Track(s) taken from CDA67257

Chansons basques, Op 23

October 1919
author of text

François Le Roux (baritone), Graham Johnson (piano)
Recording details: November 2000
Champs Hill, West Sussex, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: May 2002
Total duration: 3 minutes 55 seconds


'A vital addition to Hyperion's French song series, beautifully sung and played' (Gramophone)

‘Johnson has done much to rehabilitate the reputations of obscure composers of French Songs’ (BBC Music Magazine)

'A worthy and wonderful treat … a scintillating disc' (The Observer)

'Wonderfully idiomatic performances from singer and pianist alike, ideally recorded and presented' (The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs)

'intrinsic artistic quality and fine performance … A tantalizing glimpse of a fine talent that deserves to be remembered as more than the sixth member of Les Six' (Fanfare, USA)
It was during a stay Jean Cocteau, my brother Pierre and I had that summer at Ahusquy, a small hamlet in the Basque country near the Spanish border, that these short pieces were conceived. The first couple were based on two popular motives after hearing the song of a young shepherd, to which Cocteau added the words of 'Prière' and 'Polka'; the third piece on one of the poems he brought back from our trip.
In the last, the meaning might seem obscure if it wasn't for the title 'Attelage'.
A scene of working oxen in their traditional harness, covered by a sort of rug, crowned by their yokes, their saliva flowing, foaming, from their mouths to the ground.
The first two pieces are tonal and sober. The accompaniment to the third, more elaborate, atonal, unwinds the wreath of two melodic parts in counterpoint above a constant and weighty bass evoking the slow and heavy tread of the two animals.
(Louis Durey, from his Catalogue Commenté, translation by Isabelle Battioni)

Apart from the piano score there is a version with accompaniment for oboe, clarinet, cor anglais and bassoon (or string quartet).

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2002

C’est au cours d’un séjour que nous fîmes cet été-là, Jean Cocteau, mon frère Pierre et moi à Ahusquy, petit hameau du pays basques à la frontière espagnole, que furent élaborées ces courtes pièces, les premières sur deux motifs populaires notés d’après le chant d’un jeune pâtre et sur lesquels Cocteau mit les paroles de « Prière » et de « Polka », la troisième sur l’un des poèmes qu’il rapporta de notre voyage.
De ce dernier, le sens pourrait paraître obscur, si ce n’était le titre: « Attelage ».
C’est un attelage de bœufs dans leur traditionnel équipage, couverts d’une sorte de tapis, couronnés par le joug, et dont la salive s’écoule, écumante, de leur bouche jusqu’au sol.
Les deux premières pièces, tonales et sobres; l’accompagnement de la troisième, plus fouillé, atonal, déroule les volutes de deux parties mélodiques en contrepoint sur une basse immuable et pesant évoquant le démarche lente et lourde des deux bêtes.
(Louis Durey: in Catalogue Commenté, 1962)

Hormis la partition pour piano, il existe une version avec accompagnement de hautbois, clarinette, cor anglais et basson (ou quatuor à cordes). (GJ)

extrait des notes rédigées par Graham Johnson © 2002
Français: Isabelle Battioni

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