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Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Complete Songs - Volume 3
rec. 2013-2015, All Saints’ Church, East Finchley, London
Sung texts with English translations enclosed

Now that Malcolm Martineau and his team of singers have reached volume 3 in the complete cycle of Gabriel Fauré’s songs, we begin to know what to expect. Several of the singers from the previous volumes (review ~ review) are here as well, but some new names have been added. Isobel Buchanan, who has been around since the 1970s and still sounds great, baritone William Dazeley, who also is an experienced singer, while soprano Louise Kemény is still in the beginning of what promises to become a fine career. She is here allotted the beautiful Ave Maria from 1895, which she sings with silvery tone and virginal innocence. As before the songs are presented in no logical order, apart from a wish to be an agreeable programme to listen to in one sitting. But there is a certain progression from early compositions to late and crowned by the four songs constituting the cycle Mirages from 1919. As before there are also some vocalises that Fauré wrote during his time as director of the Paris Conservatoire for pedagogical purposes. Playing the disc from beginning to end one can admire his melodious gift in the earlier songs, which gradually gives way for a more restrained and sparser style but no less sensitive to the verbal nuances of the poems.

Fauré was very discriminating in his choice of poems and here we find the greats from the French Parnassus: Hugo, Baudelaire, Verlaine, Hugo, Prudhomme – the latter being the first winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1901. The first two songs, Ici-bas and Au bord de l’eau, are together with the somewhat later Les berceaux (available in volume 1) Fauré’s only settings of Prudhomme. These two are really beautiful songs, very beautifully sung by Iestyn Davies and Ann Murray. Like all the other singers on this disc, they are very careful with nuances. Well-known songs like Clair de lune (Verlaine) and Les roses d’Ispahan (de Lisle) are exquisitely sung, but it is even more enticing to discover songs one has missed or forgotten, like Tristesse d’Olympio (Hugo), sensitively sung by John Chest or Lorna Anderson’s delicious reading of Le parfum impérissable (de Lisle). Chanson de Mélisande (Maeterlinck – another Nobel Prize Winner) is also delicious in Lorna Anderson’s interpretation.

The concluding work, the cycle Mirages, is on the face of it, very simple and prosaic, as Roger Nichols says in his as usual insightful notes: “Fauré foregoes even the basic attractions of tempo variations: the pulses of the four songs lie merely between crotchet = 60 and crotchet = 66. As for intervals in the vocal line, there is one octave, one sixth, and all the rest are fifth or less …” But far from being monotonous they are filled with life – and William Dazeley’s sensitive readings make them come even more alive.

Malcolm Martineau is of course a pillar of strength and all lovers of French melodies will find lots and lots to admire. There is a small hang-up: the track-list mixes up who sings what in a couple of places. For instance, Ann Murray is attributed Spleen, when in fact John Chest is singing. But this is a minor quibble, and it shouldn’t disturb your appreciation of this delightful disc.

Göran Forsling

1. Ici-bas! Op. 8 No. 3 (ID) [1:36]
2. Au bord de l’eau, Op. 8 No. 1 (AM) [2:48]
3. Chant d’automne, Op. 5 No. 1 (IB) [3:37]
4. Vocalise 13 (LA) [1:10]
5. Tristesse d’Olympio (JC) [4:19]
6. Automne, Op. 18 No. 3 (IB) [2:36]
7. Clair de lune, Op. 46 No. 2 (AM) [2:15]
8. Spleen, Op. 51 No. 3 (AM) [2:11]
9. Les roses d’Ispahan, Op. 39 No. 4 (JK) [3:15]
10. La rose (Ode anacreontique), Op. 51 No. 4 (TO) [2:33]
11. Le parfum impérissable, Op. 76 No. 1 (LA) [2:36]
12. Soir, Op. 83 No. 2 (LA) [2:04]
13. Chanson de Mélisande, Op. 80 (LA) [2:56]
14. Sérénade du Bourgeois gentilhomme (TO) [1:27]
15. Ave Maria, Op. 93 (LK) [1:58]
16. Vocalise-étude (SK) [3:21]
17. Le don silencieux, Op. 92 (TO) [2:09]
18. Chanson, Op. 94 (SC) [1:15]
19. Vocalise 24 (LA) [1:37]

Mirages, Op. 113 (WD):
20. I. Cygnes ur l’eau [3:06]
21. II. Reflets dans l’eau [3:57]
22. III. Jardin nocturne [2:48]
23. IV. Danseuse [2:20]

Lorna Anderson (soprano)(LA), Isobel Buchanan (soprano)(IB), John Chest (baritone)(JC), Sarah Connolly (mezzo-soprano)(SC), Iestyn Davies (counter-tenor) (ID), William Dazeley (baritone) (WD), Janis Kelly (mezzo-soprano) (JK), Louise Kemény (soprano) (LK), Ann Murray (mezzo-soprano) (AM), Thomas Oliemans (baritone)(TO), Malcolm Martineau (piano)

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