Fernand Faniard – Ténor héroïque; Mélodies, Airs d’opera
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Clair de Lune, Op. 46 No. 2 [3:20]
Fleur jetée, Op. 39 No. 2 [1:32]
Henri DUPARC (1848-1933)
Chanson triste [3:58]
Le Manoir de Rosemonde [3:00]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Mélodies persanes Op. 26, No. 4 Sabre en main [3:54]
Ernest CHAUSSON (1855-1899)
La Caravane [7:43]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Mandoline [1:52]
Beau Soir [3:00]
Alfred BACHELET (1864-1944)
Tendresse [2:28]
La chanson des trois roses [4:46]
with Heinrich Baumgartner (piano) recorded 6 January 1951, Stuttgart
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Der Schwanengesang; Der Doppelgänger D957 No. 13 [4:32]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Dichterliebe Nos 1-8; 10 Im wunderschönen Monat Mai [1:43]; Aus menine Tränen spriessen [1:08]; Die Rose [0:37]; Wenn ich in denine Augen she [1:51]; Im Rhein [2:52]; Ich grolle nicht [2:22]; Und wüssten’s die Blumen, die kleinen [1:26]; Hör’ich das Liedchen klingen [2:04]
With Pierre Capdevielle (piano), recorded October 1950, Paris
Hugo WOLF (1860-1903)
Le voyage nuptial du chevalier Conrad [5:22]
Prometheus: fragments [6:00]
Orchestre Radio-Symphonique de Strasbourg. Recorded 1950, Strasbourg
Christoph Willibald von GLUCK (1714-1787)
Alceste: Air d'Admete 'Bannis la crainte et les alarmes [4:50]
André-Modeste GRETRY (1741-1813)
Zémire et Azor: Air d'Azor 'Ah! Quels tourments' [4:42]
Orchestre de Radio Alger/Roger Ellis, recorded 18 August 1949
Fernand Faniard (tenor) with accompaniments as above
If you’ve been following this series you’ll have come across a fine selection of names, some famed, some of very much more local esteem. Jean Noté is here, naturally, and René Maison, as well as Louis Richard, Marcel Claudel and contemporaries. Now we have Fernand Faniard (1894-1955) whose career was more circumscribed than some on this list but who fortunately left behind rare examples of his art.
He was born Fernand Smeets in Brussels in 1894 and studied, as a baritone, in that city. By 1919 he was a second baritone at La Monnaie and appeared in notable local premieres and productions. All this ceased in the mid-1920s when he retrained as a tenor, took his mother’s maiden name, and re-appeared as a tenor in 1926 in Antwerp. Engagements in Monte Carlo soon followed – where he took part in the first French language productions of Salome (as Herod), as well as Samson et Delilah, Faust, Die Walküre and a place alongside the titanic Chaliapin in Boris. From Monte Carlo he went to Paris where his ‘firm timbre … and brilliance’ were remarked on. At the Paris Opera his roles expanded and he took in Pfitzner’s Palestrina, Tannhäuser, and much else. He was a guest artist throughout France and returned to his native soil regularly. His Italian career was a non-starter but he did sing Samson at the Liceo, in Barcelona. There were apparently plans for North and South American tours but the Second War intervened. His career seems to have wound down after it, though he continued to perform and to give broadcasts. He retired in 1953 and died in 1955.
It’s a good thing that he made a number of broadcasts because, somewhat inexplicably, no one clamoured to record him, with the exception of two brief Flemish songs, not included on this disc. His son however has scoured up hill and down dale to find examples of Faniard’s singing and fortunately German and French radio station performances have survived.
The first is a Stuttgart performance of French chanson given in 1951 with pianist Heinrich Baumgartner. This is certainly late in the day for Faniard, though he was still only fifty-seven, but the recital preserves warmth and a strength kept in reserve, something certainly true of his Fauré. There’s a declamatory, quasi-operatic, and not wholly appropriate vehemence to Fleur jetée however that signals that some of his chanson performances are inclined to be a little bullish. The registral breaks in the first Duparc song, Chanson triste, are unconvincing whilst the second song shows again his no-holds-barred approach to the repertoire. Here though we can also hear the somewhat veiled quality in the B section of Le Manoir de Rosemonde that hints at more expressive refinements. The Saint-Saëns song suits him well, in its brisk military dispatch. His Chausson is grave, his Debussy a touch uneven. The voice as preserved here is somewhat hard, and lacking in colour. Possibly this is a reflection of the acoustic but it seems also to be true of the state of his voice shortly before retirement.
There is a bit of distortion in the Paris radio broadcast of the previous year, unfortunately. Der Doppelgänger naturally enshrines some florid moments but he was by now an experienced lieder singer. He had certainly sung Schumann’s Dichterliebe well before the war, though the cycle is not complete in this broadcast. There’s a portamento-rich and heroic ring to his Ich grolle nicht. We hear the Wolf songs, in French, in Faniard’s own translation, and he brings his considerable theatrical reserves to bear. We lack any example of his Wagner, which is a real lacuna given that he was something of a specialist in this area; a proposed Frankfurt series of performances was cancelled by the Nazis in 1933. Gluck and Grétry are hardly replacements, operatically speaking, but it’s good to have this rare Algiers broadcast from 1949.
As preserved, Faniard’s voice, though powerful and heroic, was not ideally flexible and coloured. It could be too hard. But it’s surely an injustice that he wasn’t asked to record in more sympathetic circumstances earlier in his career. This issue has made some kind of amends. It’s in ‘book’ format – sturdy, multi-lingual, full of evocative photographs and an excellent biographical essay, to which I am indebted.
Jonathan Woolf
Powerful and heroic but could be too hard and not ideally flexible ... see Full Review