Fauré: La bonne chanson; Poème d’un jour, Op. 21; Shylock, Op. 57

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COMPOSERS: Faure
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Fauré – complete songs Vol. 3
WORKS: La bonne chanson; Poème d’un jour, Op. 21; Shylock, Op. 57
PERFORMER: Felicity Lott, Jennifer Smith (soprano), John Mark Ainsley, Jean-Paul Fouchécourt (tenor), Christopher Maltman, Stephen Varcoe (baritone), Ronan O’Hora, Graham Johnson (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67335

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The latest instalment of the complete Fauré songs arranged by theme celebrates love, giving accompanist Graham Johnson plenty to choose from. As before, this issue benefits from his detailed notes and fluent playing. Occasionally the intricate piano parts are slightly too prominent, but generally the sound is warm, immediate and nicely balanced. The songs certainly show Fauré to possess a far wider expressive range than an acquaintance with just a handful of his best-known examples would suggest. The singers, on the whole, have been well chosen, though Felicity Lott is now stretched by the couple of items she sings. More apt and apposite are Stephen Varcoe, John Mark Ainsley and Jean-Paul Fouchécourt. But the gem of the set has to be Christopher Maltman’s traversal of the substantial cycle La bonne chanson, the poems a gift from Verlaine to his fiancée, though he would leave her for fellow-poet Rimbaud early on in their marriage. Fauré’s luminous settings were in turn composed for his mistress, later Debussy’s second wife. The baritone’s rich, subtly shaded tone and alert sensitivity to text prove ideal in this perfectly judged performance. Valuable too are the songs from the incidental music to the play Shylock, heard in an unusual version with the instrumental numbers arranged for piano duet by Léon Boëllmann – an attractive alternative to the standard texts.

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George Hall