Fauré: The Complete Songs 1 (CD)

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Felicity Lott, Jennifer Smith, Geraldine McGreevy, Stella Doufexis, John Mark Ainsley, Christopher Maltman, Stephen Varcoe, Graham Johnson

“Few singers would give over a whole evening to Fauré's songs on the concert platform, and choosing a way of presenting them on disc obviously poses problems. Previous sets had all the songs in chronological order; others chose poets or moods: Graham Johnson and company have begun with songs about water. This means a lot of dreaming and melancholy, whether in Gautier's Chanson du pêcheur ('Ma belle amie est morte', also set by Berlioz), or Richepin's Aucimitière. The latter is given a most beautiful rendition by John Mark Ainsley, who otherwise only sings on two tracks, with Jennifer Smith in the sentimental Pleurs d'or, and the homage to Venice and its lovers in Marc Monnier's Barcarolle.
Three cycles are the main items here. Felicity Lott sings the Cinq Mélodies de Venise, which includes some of Fauré's best-known songs, 'Mandoline', 'En sourdine' and 'Green'. She brings to bear on them a lifetime's devotion to French song. Her other contribution is Au bordde l'eau, to a poem by Sully-Prudhomme. This is made to sound very sad; taken faster it can be quite merry; it's a celebration of love, as well as a meditation on the passing of time.
Stephen Varcoe sings Mirages, Fauré's penultimate cycle (1919). As Graham Johnson writes in his fascinating notes, these poems by Brimont permitted Fauré 'uneventful passion'. Christopher Maltman is the other featured singer, in five separate songs and L'horizon chimérique. All the performances are elegant and well-balanced, but one misses the extra slight note of acid that native French singers bring to Fauré's songs.
Hyperion's sound is impeccable and in both his playing and accompanying essay, Graham Johnson penetrates to the heart of one of music's most subtle and enigmatic geniuses.”