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Track(s) taken from CDA67141/2

Sur l'eau

First line:
Je n'entends que le bruit de la rive et de l'eau
author of text
author of text

Susan Bickley (mezzo-soprano), 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: 3 minutes 16 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)
Sur l’eau is a setting of Sully Prud’homme—a poet one associates more with Fauré (Les Berceaux) and Duparc (Soupir) than with Reynaldo Hahn in the years of the First World War. The poem actually is more reminiscent of an earlier Fauré song to a Prud’homme text, Au bord de l’eau, where water imagery is also a central theme. This song is one of the most experimental on the disc in terms of harmony. It shares with Poulenc’s song C the unusual distinction of being in A flat minor (seven flats) but it seems to float unanchored both in terms of quay and key, changing harmonic direction with almost every beat. This is the side of Hahn which was influenced by Fauré’s later songs. There is the familiar limpid atmosphere and exquisite deployment and husbanding of basically limited resources of invention, but the music is definitely more modern, and seems to come, for once, from the twentieth century. The song’s final pages abandon the rocking 6/8 piano figurations in favour of much more simple accompanying chords. Read in personal terms the text seems to be a reaffirmation of Reynaldo’s own emotional inscrutability and ambiguity in the eyes of the world. The harmonic ambivalence illustrates the watery indecision inherent in the text.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1996

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