> DUREY songs [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Louis DUREY (1888-1979)

Hommage à Erik Satie (1918) [3.04]
Chansons basques (1919) [3.58]
Le Bestiaire (1919) [25.03]
Deux Lieder Romantiques (1919) [4.08]
Epigrammes de Théocrite (1918) [5.06]
Trois Poèmes de Pétrone (1918) [5.50]
Inscriptions sur un Oranger (1918) [1.50]
Images à Crusoé (1918) [29.05]
François Le Roux (bar)
Graham Johnson (piano)
rec 11-13 Nov 2000, Champs Hill, West Sussex, DDD
HYPERION CDA67257 [78.58]


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What to expect from Durey as represented here? These songs were written in the twenty-four months straddling the end of the Great War. They are a little like Poulenc in companionable but sometimes morose and enigmatic moods.

Durey was one of the least known of Les Six (the title coined by Henri Collet in January 1920), the group of French composers drawn together around Jean Cocteau. Parisian-born, Durey distanced himself from the smart-chic, de haut en bas side of the artistic life of the capital. He was much associated with the Fédération Musicale Populaire which Graham Johnson, in his typically depth-detailed notes, compares with Alan Bush's immersion in the Workers' Music Association. Durey was a Communist and this too did not help his cause. Similarly debilitating was the rift caused when Durey refused to collaborate with the remaining five (and others) in the balletic Les Mariées de la Tour Eiffel in 1921. Cocteau who was the 'mover and shaker' here took strongly against Durey.

Hommage a Erik Satie differs strongly from the style of the other seven cycles or sets on this tightly packed disc. The Hommage sets in gawkily Satiesque music, words by Blaise Cendrars - words which are as ridicule as those set by Walton in his Façade. I knew the Basque Songs from Le Roux's mixed recital with string quartet on Gallo (also reviewed here) where they seemed even more carefree. These folk-styled songs were written during a Summer stay with Cocteau at his home in the Pyrenean foothills. They are not without Finzian echoes. The jewelled thirty songs of Apollinaire's Le Bestiaire sequence (written without knowledge of his friend Poulenc's settings from the same sequence) are all extremely brief, limpid, melodious settings. Memorable in this companionable collection are Le Chat whose words in translation are worth quoting:-

I want to have in my house
A sensible woman
A cat moving among the books
Friends in every season
Without which I can't live

This contentment plays like sun rays through this cycle. Orphée is spoken in both versions (tracks 22 and 28). Images was considered by the composer to be a true cycle and one in which he achieved the most juste equipoise between words and music. This he does in both lyricism and stern figuration. There is a poignant ache in the plight of Crusoe and Friday rescued and brought into an urban life which represents a brutalising fate. I was put in mind of the tragic closing scenes of the film 'Walkabout' where the Jenny Agutter character is restored to civilisation and yet yearns irremediably for her fearful idyll in the wilds.

This is the fourteenth CD in Hyperion's French Song Edition. I have listed the others at the foot of this review.

There are fifty-two songs on this CD; many extremely short. There are two lengthy cycles/sets each lasting twenty five minutes give or take a few minutes: La Bestiaire and Images à Crusoé. They inhabit a world of insouciance, innocent contentment, elysian pagan sunlight, playful delight and nostalgia.

Graham Johnson's notes and the translations of Durey's 'Catalogue Commenté' (1962) have been shamelessly poached in preparing this review. The next issue of Grove or MGG need look no further than Mr Johnson for authoritative entries.

Rob Barnett

HYPERION FRENCH SONG EDITION (the story so far .... - September 2002)
La Procession - Eighty Years of French Song CDA66248
Bizet CDA66976
Lili Boulanger CDA66726
Complete Songs - Chabrier CDA67331/2
Complete Songs - Chausson CDA67321/2
Complete Songs - Duparc CDA66323
Fauré CDA66320
Gounod CDA66801/2
Hahn CDA67141/2
Koechlin CDA66243
Poulenc CDA66856
Déodat de Séverac CDA66983

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