FAUR…: The Complete Songs 4

This completes the remarkable set with a
recording that matches the other volumes of the set in quality and
attractiveness. Such laudable consistency may be fond at all levels,
including the high level of performances, the meticulous program notes, and
the careful planning that allowed for each recording to be arranged

Taking its title from one of the songs included in this volume,
“Dans un parfum de roses blanches” (“Amid the scent of
white roses”) the seventh piece in the cycle La chanson
, which is a late work of the composer. In La chanson
FaurÈ explores the primeval Garden of Eden by setting poetry
that offers some sensual delights of Paradise – a Gallic “Earthly
Paradise,” to evoke that image of the composer’s contemporary,
William Morris – which is especially prominent in the first song in the
cycle. As a late work, the music is sometimes more declamatory than
FaurÈ’s earlier songs, with accompaniments that are sometimes sparse.
Yet within those accompaniments are textures that suggest some evocative
timbres, and Graham Johnson is sensitive to those aspects of the music.
Jennifer Smith offers an exemplary reading of La chanson
, which contains some exquisite vocal pieces. This is
apparent is the wonderfully sustained “Paradis,” one of
FaurÈ’s longest songs, which benefits from the length he used to fine
effect, as he indulges in details to portray a well-thought scene. .

Some of pieces are notable for other reasons, such as
“CrÈpuscule,” the song with which FaurÈ began work on the cycle.
In this song, FaurÈ attempts to evoke the atmosphere in Eden at night and, in
doing so, hints at the fragile nature of primeval creation. This song is, in
a sense, FaurÈ’s “Urlicht,” the song which Mahler used to
establish in microcosm his vision of Resurrection in the final movement of
the Second Symphony. With FaurÈ, such a parallel does not look to such a
large-scale work as Mahler’s, but the less grandiose cycle is
nonetheless poignant, especially in the interpretation found on this
recording. Smith approaches this song with a fine sensibility to the nuances
of the text in shaping the musical line, which benefits from the subtleties
she brings to it and the rest of the cycle.

The elegiac aspect of the cycle should not be taken as something
pejorative, since FaurÈ created in this work a sequence of songs in which he
uses harmonic and rhythmic tension without resorting to the grand gestures.
In “Prima verba” FaurÈ gives expression to Eve as she attempts to
translate the majesty of the garden to mere words – albeit set to his
wonderfully charged music. Likewise, “Roses ardentes” focus on
the fiery roses that become a metaphor for various levels of interpretation.
In these and the other songs that FaurÈ assembled in the cycle La chanson
the images of gardens to be portray a world that is at once
lost to human existence and at the same time inescapable in the hopeful
imagination of those who can apprehend the blending of poetry and sound .

While the cycle is, in toto, the greater part of the CD, the
other songs included are also worthy of attention. In fact, some of pieces
from early part of FaurÈ’s career are quite memorable. With its
extroverted accompaniment, “Aubade,” (Opus 6, no. 1) shows a
different approach to the textures of the chanson in FaurÈ’s hands. At
the same time, the “Nocturne” (Op.s 43, no. 2) is memorable for
its modal inflections that connote an exotic aspect. Beyond the color
contributed by modality, the accompaniment contains some flourishes that add
to the charm of this piece, which Stephen Varcoe delivers convincingly. His
contributions to this CD are as consistently fine as his others in this set.
Likewise, Dame Felicity Lott’s performances in this collection are
equally fine. With “Les roses d’Ispahan” (Op. 30, no. 4)
Lott offers a model of execution, with her clear diction contributing to the
shape of the musical line. Here Graham Johnson supports the performance in
giving the accompaniment a contour on which Lott can build her own phrases.
“Le parfum impÈrissable” (Op. 76, no. 1) is similarly nuanced in
delivering the images expressed in the poetry that attracted the composer.

In fact, all the performances resemble those of Lott in their mature and
satisfyingly competent execution. With FaurÈ’s unique English-language
song, “MÈlisande’s Song” that sets a translation of
Maeterlinck, for example, Geraldine McGreevy exhibits a clear expression of
the text and also phrasing in a tongue not always celebrated for being
singable. In fact, McGreevy does not need language to express emotion, since
her performance of FaurÈ’s “Vocalise-Ètude” is quite
effective in its purely musical expression that stands apart from the
otherwise texted pieces in this collection. Elsewhere, the male singers, like
Varcoe and Jean-Paul FourÈcourt deliver similarly effective renderings of the
repertoire recorded under the title of this CD, “Dans un parfum de

As the final installment of the four volumes that make up the Complete
Songs of Gabriel FaurÈ, this CD has much to offer. Like each of the other
recordings, it can stand alone through the guiding theme with which it was
compiled. With the music divided among the various performers, the works
benefits from the strengths each brings to the effort which is unified by the
fine efforts of Graham Johnson’s exquisite pianism. The entire approach
to FaurÈ’s songs taken in this release by Hyperion is well-thought and
sensible, thus, making this multi-volume set a touchstone for future
interpretations of this important repertoire. In addition to comprehensive
listing of all of FaurÈ’s melodies found in the Hyperion set,
the liner notes for this volume contain much information about the songs that
will be of assist in rehearings of the fine performances on this CD. Those
who are not yet familiar with the other volumes of the Complete Songs of
Gabriel FaurÈ could start with this recording, since it not only completes
this excellent set, but stands on its own as a fine compilation of the
composer’s memorable chansons.

James L. Zychowicz
Madison, Wisconsin

image_description=Gabriel FaurÈ: The Complete Songs 4—Dans un parfum de roses
product_title=Gabriel FaurÈ: The Complete Songs 4—Dans un parfum de roses
product_by=Felicity Lott (Soprano), Jennifer Smith (Soprano), Geraldine McGreevy (Soprano), Jean-Paul FouchÈcourt (Tenor), Stephen Varcoe (Baritone), Graham Johnson (Piano).
product_id=Hyperion A67336 [CD]