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Hyperion French Song Edition - L'invitation Au Voyage

Release Date: 07/11/2006 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 67523   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Léo DelibesHenri Duparc
Performer:  Graham JohnsonJohn Mark Ainsley
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

How does Graham Johnson do it? Once again, he has explored territory that few today have even considered worthy of investigation, and once again, he has come up with an extraordinary CD. While preparing his “French Song Companion,” Johnson must have plowed through tons of material gleaned along the Parisian quays, while his enthusiastic notes make one wonder—as in his recent “Songs by Schubert’s Friends and Contemporaries” (that review may also be in this issue)—how much more music of quality languishes in corners until a curious individual comes along.

Four settings of Baudelaire’s Invitation au voyage, including Duparc’s masterpiece, show a wide range of options. Jules Cressonois uses a waltz rhythm, Benjamin Godard tends
Read more towards the monotonous, while the Hillemacher brothers create a light diversion, all miles away from Duparc. Composers of the time were not afraid of setting poetry that we now know only in what we consider to be “definitive” settings, such as Oh! Quand je dors in which Emile Pessard comes nowhere near Liszt, or the Hillemacher’s Si mer vers avaiaent des ailes, which earned early fame for Reynaldo Hahn. Nonetheless, the majority of songs on this CD are worthy of attention, for the scrupulous craftsmanship of the composers and the ability to get close to the core of the poem. Johnson’s estimable notes point out that some of this material was definitely in a popular vein, and that until World War II singers did not hesitate to program such items in their recitals, something frowned upon today. Among my favorites are the two Fontaine ballads set by Charles Lecocq, four selections by Emile Paladilhe that should never have been cast aside, and Paul Puget’s Madrid that is a killer for both singer and pianist.

John Mark Ainsley has been featured on numerous Hyperion recordings, almost always making us aware of his vocal mastery and interpretative skills. He is here put to the test, showing impressive breath control, exceptional mastery of French (despite an occasional lapse), and stylistic awareness. It is difficult to imagine better support than that provided by Graham Johnson, and we can only hope that other singers will allow us to hear some of these songs again.

FANFARE: Joel Kasow
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Works on This Recording

Bonjour, Suzon by Léo Delibes
Performer:  Graham Johnson (Piano), John Mark Ainsley (Tenor)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1861; France 
Départ by Léo Delibes
Performer:  Graham Johnson (Piano), John Mark Ainsley (Tenor)
Period: Romantic 
Written: France 
Regrets by Léo Delibes
Performer:  John Mark Ainsley (Tenor), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: France 
L'invitation au voyage by Henri Duparc
Performer:  John Mark Ainsley (Tenor), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1870; France 

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