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Durey: Songs


Release Date: 06/11/2002 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 67257   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Louis Durey
Performer:  François Le RouxGraham Johnson
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length:  1 Hours 19 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

French composer Louis Durey (1888-1979) was one of who-knows-how-many artists to receive their first significant burst of creative inspiration after hearing Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande, and throughout the four dozen songs on this fascinating program we hear the quietly and pleasingly persistent influence of the older master's most unobtrusive, subtly colored dramatic style. Durey was a member of "Les Six" (a good trivia question, yes?) and a one-time colleague of Jean Cocteau who soon distanced himself from the writer/artist, offended by Cocteau's snobbish, self-absorbed mannerisms, dishonest criticisms, "incredibly light mind", and annoying "pretend baby-games". Durey remained a staunch Read more individualist (he chose to leave "Les Six" following Cocteau's "gratuitous" criticism of Ravel, abandoning the group's Les Mariés de la tour Eiffel project), not only in his music (he spent years writing an opera on a theme--two convent girls in love with a priest--that had no chance of being staged in France) but politically as well. He was an outspoken communist and even wrote music with anti-war themes during the 1960s.


As for the songs included here, they come from a short and particularly fruitful period--1918/19--just before the coming together of "Les Six" and during the transition between Durey's friendships with Satie and then Ravel. There are the "Hommage à Erik Satie" and three folksong-inspired pieces--the latter to texts by Cocteau--and two longer cycles, a setting of Apollinaire's complete Le Bestiaire (the same collection partially set by Durey's close friend Poulenc) and Saint-John Perse's Images à Crusoé. Most of the songs are less than two minutes long (less than one minute for the majority of the Bestiaire pieces) and there's little dramatic or coloristic change from song to song or even set to set. You can put this disc on and listen to all 79 minutes with a perfectly satisfying feeling of continuity--sort of like huge stretches of Debussy's Pelléas--and the only real breaks come with the insertion of four short readings of the poems from Le Bestiaire that were not set by Durey, included here for completeness.


Durey uses the piano effectively both for background washes and to accent or define a mood. But it's never obtrusive and rarely loud dynamically--and Graham Johnson never falters in his sometimes subtly changing role. The vocal lines follow the poetry beautifully, sensuously, almost never raising the volume beyond mezzo-forte--which is why the suddenly emphatic ending of the final song of Le Bestiaire sounds almost gratuitous. Baritone François Le Roux certainly knows the texts and themes and generally expresses everything with caring inflection and appropriate understatement. However, in his higher register his tone has a tendency to become hard and forced, losing its focus and warmth. The overall sound is a bit too distant and just slightly too resonant to satisfy my ideal--but it wears well over more than an hour of listening. Song enthusiasts--especially those who want to experience the work of a French composer who never gave up on the idea of romanticism--definitely should hear this.
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Inscriptions sur un oranger, Op. 16 by Louis Durey
Performer:  François Le Roux (Baritone), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Written: 1918 
Language: French 
2.
Hommage à Erik Satie by Louis Durey
Performer:  Graham Johnson (Piano), François Le Roux (Baritone)
Written: 1918 
Language: French 
3.
Epigrammes de Théocrite, Op. 13 by Louis Durey
Performer:  Graham Johnson (Piano), François Le Roux (Baritone)
Written: 1918 
Language: French 
4.
Chansons basques by Louis Durey
Performer:  Graham Johnson (Piano), François Le Roux (Baritone)
Written: 1919 
5.
(Le) Bestiaire by Louis Durey
Performer:  François Le Roux (Baritone), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Written: 1919 
6.
Deux Lieder Romantiques, Op. 20 by Louis Durey
Performer:  Graham Johnson (Piano), François Le Roux (Baritone)
Written: 1919 
7.
(3) Poèmes de Pétrone, Op. 15 by Louis Durey
Performer:  Graham Johnson (Piano), François Le Roux (Baritone)
Written: 1918 
8.
Images à Crusoé, Op. 20 by Louis Durey
Performer:  Graham Johnson (Piano), François Le Roux (Baritone)
Written: 1919 

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