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Track(s) taken from CDA67141/2

Le plus beau présent

First line:
Tu m'as donné un coussin de soie
author of text

Stephen Varcoe (baritone), 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 10 seconds

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


'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)
Le plus beau présent dates from 1917. It has the same air of masochistic melancholy that we find in the Verlaine Offrande updated by thirty years of amatory experience and disappointment. The poem by Maurice Magre is magazine verse, but Reynaldo seems to empathise with this story of the man who has everything from his amourette except an acknowledgement of love. The adjectival endings show us that the object of the poet’s adoration is a girl with plenty of money, but it is not hard to imagine Reynaldo longing for a sign of emotional depth or commitment from a spoiled and rich young man of his acquaintance. The accompaniment is an incessant quaver movement shared between the hands which is reminiscent Infidélité. This and the limited range of the vocal line emphasise both the obsessional nature of the attachment and its secrecy. There is something decadent about this music, as if the relationship is somehow unhealthy and doomed. The postlude ends in a distant key as if what is to happen in the future remains an unanswered question.

from notes by Maurice Magre ©

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