Faure: Cinq mélodies de Venise; L’horizon chimérique; mélodies

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COMPOSERS: Faure
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Faure: Cinq mélodies de Venise; L’horizon chimérique; mélodies
WORKS: Cinq mélodies de Venise; L’horizon chimérique; mélodies
PERFORMER: Felicity Lott, Jennifer Smith, Geraldine McGreevy, Stella Doufexis (soprano), John Mark Ainsley (tenor), Christopher Maltman, Stephen Varcoe (baritone), Graham Johnson (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67333

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With numerous vital collections of the French mélodie already to his credit, the erudite accompanist Graham Johnson here turns his attention to one of the greatest composers of the genre. Fauré’s output has been divided up into thematic groupings – his penchant for texts to do with water provides the subject for this particular CD, in settings ranging over 50 years (1870-1921). As well as regularly performed items such as the Cinq mélodies de Venise and ‘Les berceaux’ (which receives an outstanding interpretation from Christopher Maltman) lesser known pieces prove remarkable finds: the stormy ‘La fleur qui va sur l’eau’ scarcely anticipates the sparer style of the four settings that make up Mirages, rarefied music in some cases, but delivered here with refined imagination by Stephen Varcoe, whose blending of words with notes and delicate, almost conversational approach are masterly. The two baritones are exceptional exponents of this repertoire throughout, and tenor John Mark Ainsley, with less to do, does it with equal sensitivity. Neither Jennifer Smith nor Felicity Lott, however, is quite in the first flush of vocal youth, and some of Lott’s Venetian musings sound effortful. Johnson’s own fluent playing finds the right tempo for each song, and his booklet notes are invaluable. Those who already love a handful of the best known of Fauré’s songs will make many worthwhile discoveries here. The sound is a touch clipped and enclosed, but the overall quality of the performances matches the fascination of the repertoire.

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George Hall