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Gabriel Fauré Mélodies (Intégrale, volume 4)

* Felicity Lott, soprano
** Jennifer Smith, soprano
*** Geraldine McGreevy, soprano
**** Jean-Paul Fouchécourt, ténor
***** Stephen Varcoe, baryton
Graham Johnson, piano

Hyperion CDA67336


Le papillon et la fleur, op. 1 n° 1 (Victor Hugo) **
Rêve d'amour, op. 5 n° 2 (Victor Hugo) ***
Dans les ruines d'une abbaye, op. 2 n° 1 (Victor Hugo) ****
L'aurore (Victor Hugo) ***
La rançon, op. 8 n° 2 (Charles Baudelaire) *****
Aubade, op. 6 n° 1 (Louis Pomey) ****
Ici-bas ! op. 8 n° 3 (Sully Prudhomme) ***
Aurore, op. 39 n° 1 (Armand Silvestre) *****
Le pays des rêves, op. 39 n° 3 (Armand Silvestre) ***
Les roses d'Ispahan, op. 39 n° 4 (Charles Leconte de Lisle) *
Nocturne, op. 43 n° 2 (Villiers de l'Isle-Adam) *****
La rose, op. 51 n° 4 (Charles Leconte de Lisle) *
Soir, op. 83 n° 2 (Albert Samain) ****
Le parfum impérissable, op. 76 n° 1 (Charles Leconte de Lisle) *
Arpège, op. 76 n° 2 (Albert Samain) *
Mélisande's song, extrait de l'op. 80 (Maurice Maeterlinck, transcrit pour piano par Jack W. Mackail) ***
Le plus doux chemin, op. 87 n° 1 (Armand Silvestre) *****
Vocalise-étude ***
La Chanson d'Ève, cycle sur des poèmes de Charles van Lerberghe, op. 95 **

La Chanson d'Eve and other songs

Hyperion CDA66320

'This varied and generous selection of 28 songs is perhaps the best general introduction to this important side of Fauré's output and is also one of Geoffrey Parson's finest recordings: voice and piano seem always to be at one. A magical disc' (BBC Music Magazine)

Collectors of Graham Johnson's new Fauré Mélodies (Intégrale) will not hesitate before acquiring the latest volume, which as before has a roster of leading singers now before the British public (Jean-Paul Fouchécourt the only native Frenchman) and the high standard of the series is well maintained.

Fauré is a peculiarly addictive composer, and once you're hooked you relish each of his characteristic hallmark modulations. The persuasive plus for the new series is Johnson's detailed commentary on each song. For example: "L'aube blanche - - a rather undemonstrative vocal line that moves in small steps - - this is to reckon without Fauré's harmonic (and enharmonic genius - - moves from chord to chord in a way that is his alone - - traverses huge distances in incremental steps that defy ordinary analysis". Johnson's is writing that makes you listen anew and more intently.

The main singer in this volume is Jennifer Smith, who gives the delicious early Le papillon et la fleur and the more introverted late cycle La Chanson d'Ève. She does them well, but you would be most strongly advised not to overlook Dame Janet Baker's accounts in her 1988 recording with Geoffrey Parsons, happily still in the catalogue.

Janet Baker's voice is instantly recognisable (most are not). She has a rapt manner sings with a passionate ardour in songs which are ideal for her unique temperament. She was in excellent voice for these sessions, and her Fauré will remain treasurable classics in the discography for decades ahead.

So you need both to keep on course with the Intégrale - Janet Baker will prod you into looking too into the many marvellous historic Fauré interpretations, an unending trail.....


© Peter Grahame Woolf