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L'Invitation au voyage

John Mark Ainsley and Graham Johnson


The Hyperion French Song Edition

Hyperion CDA67523 [Recorded 2004 – 78 minutes]


Jules Cressonois – L'Invitation au voyage

Leo Delibes – Depart; Bobjour, Suzon! Regrets!

Charles Lecocq – La cigale et la fourmi; La chauve-souris et les deux belettes

Emile Pessard – La spectre de la rose; Oh! Quand je dors

Benjamin Godard – Chanson du berger; Guitare; L'Invitation au voyage; Viens!

Paul Puget – Madrid ; Comment, disaient-ils

Paul and Lucien Hillemacher
– Soupir; Si mes vers avaient des ailes; L'Invitation au voyage; Ici-bas; Serenade

Emile Paladilhe – Psyche; Les papillons; La chanson des blondes; Danse indienne

Henri Duparc – L'Invitation au voyage



“Melodies from La belle epoch” is the subtitle for the programme which Graham Johnson equates to the span of the Third Republic from 1871 to 1914. In musical terms I would think of it as the years between the death of Berlioz (1869) and that of Faure (1924), a period in which Paris was well on the way to being regarded as the musical capital of western Europe.


Apart from the changes that the introduction of motor cars and electric lighting brought with them, it was a time of extraordinary enterprise. The Eiffel Tower was constructed, and Paris was host to a series of Great International Expositions displaying the finest goods the world had to offer, and sparking off crazes such as Orientalisme and Japonisme. In short the city was a veritable melting pot of ideas and cultural diversity and like a magnet, drawing in cognoscenti from around the globe.


Musicians were in the forefront of all this activity – not only composing in the latest styles but also overlapping with art by commissioning fashionable painters to illustrate their sheet music and with literature by setting the poems of admired writers. So great was the output that of necessity much has proved to be ephemeral, and this collection explores the work of mainly less-known composers, chosen by Graham Johnson and introduced with erudite charm in his extensive notes.


John Mark Ainsley and Graham Johnson give a lovingly polished performance as they take us on a journey which both pleases the senses and stimulates the mind. We are presented with no less than four different settings of Baudelaire's L'invitation au voyage – Duparc's artistry of course reigns supreme, but the much earlier version by Jules Cressonnois has real charm. Rather curiously the others composers (Benjamin Godard and Paul & Lucien Hillemacher) ignore the “Luxe, calme et volupte” refrain and not one of them sets the middle verse *


Emile Pessard's essay at Gautier's Le spectre de la rose stands com paris on with Berlioz and the four pieces by Emile Paladilhe are particular rich and complex.


Whilst these songs are serious miniature works of art they were clearly written to be enjoyed, and a number of them would have found their way into the world of the café concert. The humorous La Fontaine fables from Charles Lecocq's would have worked well in that environment, and it's not difficult to imagine a song such as Delibes' Bonjour Suzon being the aristocratic forerunner of the Music Hall ballads popularised by Mistinguett and Chevalier.


Every song has its own appeal and as a collection it has the appeal of a musical kaleidoscope, enticing and seductive – more please !



Serena Fenwick


© Peter Grahame Woolf