L’ Invitation au Voyage – Annette Celine & Christopher Gould – Vol. 5 – CB4944
£9.99 – £15.99
These recordings present a broad selection of songs from the 19th and 20th centuries by composers of four nationalities. It places works by little-known composers such as Jayme Ovalle beside those of household names, and juxtaposes songs by composers such as Bizet and Wagner who are primarily known for their operatic output with those of Duparc whose oeuvre consists almost entirely of works for solo voice and piano. A theme which runs through much of the poetry on this disc is the evocation of the past: Verlaine evokes a rococo 18th century world in Debussy’s Fêtes Galantes, and Periquet Limns a portrait of a bereaved 18th century Madrilène maja in Granados’ cycle La Maja Dolorosa.
Wagner’s L’ Attente, has words by Victor Hugo. It dates from Wagner’s sojourn in Paris. Written in 1839, it was published there the following year. L’ Attente is a rapturous, breathless setting of Hugo’s poem in which the narrator implores seemingly all the creatures of nature to tell him if they have seen his love.
The songs by the three French composers represented on this disc illustrate key stages in the development of the French mélodie from the early 19th century to its apogee in the hands of Claude Debussy at the turn of the 20th century. In early 19th century Paris opera reigned supreme, and as already noted, Georges Bizet is remembered primarily for his operatic output. Like those of his contemporary Gounod, Bizet’s essentially simple mélodies breathe the atmosphere of the salon. Although Bizet himself regarded his mélodies as little more than diversions from his weightier operatic projects, they are nevertheless a valuable record of the kind of music which was appreciated in refined Parisian circles. Charm and elegance, father than emotional depth, characterise these mélodies. Chant d’Amour, marked by a Mendelssohnian fleetness, is a song in praise of youthful love in which the poet blesses the hour when his love first crossed his path. Ouvre ton Coeur takes the form of a Spanish serenade. Over a bolero accompaniment the singer implores her lover to open his heart as a flower opens to the sun.
The mélodies of Henri Duparc represent a new departure in French song. A pupil of César Franck, Duparc showed a lively interest in contemporary musical developments across the Rhine, travelling to Munich in 1870 for the première of Wagner’s Die Walküre and again in 1880 for a performance of Tristan und Isolde.
He always harboured the greatest admiration for the two great proponents of the New German Music, Wagner and Liszt. His sensitivity to the atmosphere, frequently sombre, of the poems he set to music may be traced to his admiration for German music and, as in Lieder, the piano accompaniment plays a great rôle in establishing the mood of a song. Today his songs are considered undisputed masterpieces, and we are lucky that they have been preserved, largely through the efforts of Duparc’s friends and admirers, for the composer was pathologically self-critical. Romance de Mignon is Duparc’s 1869 setting of Goethe’s frequently set text in which Mignon pines for her southern home set among lemon groves. In the ballade-like Au pays où se fait la guerre Duparc creates a tragic, mediaeval atmosphere in which the narrator, alone in her tower, sings of her absent love. The oscillating accompaniment of L’Invitation au Voyage establishes a sad, autumnal mood. In the remarkable, almost static middle section the singer tells of a far-away land where ‘all is order, beauty, luxury, calm and voluptuousness’. The piano’s arpeggiated accompaniment closes the song with a Schumannesque postlude.
With Claude Debussy we reach the high-water mark of the French mélodie. He was supremely sensitive both to the atmosphere of text and to the cadences of the French language. As a young composer of 18, Debussy was captivated by the singing of Mme Vasnier, the amateur singer to whose house he was a frequent visitor. Nuit d’ Etoiles is a product of those early years. Over a harmonically simple barcarolle-like accompaniment the singer tells of past loves. Originally written in 1881 the song was not published until some years after the composer’s death. The two sets of Fêtes Galantes (of which the first is recorded here) to texts of Paul Verlaine date from 1891 and 1904 respectively, and represent the pinnacle of Debussy’s achievements in the field the of mélodie, being supreme examples of the marriage of poetry and music. In En sourdine two lovers enjoy the languorous atmosphere as they sit under the trees. A phrase in the piano suggests a nightingale, which seems to the lovers the voice of their despair. Poem and music are masterpieces of evocation. Fantoches pictures a moonlit scene populated by Commedia dell’Arte characters à la Watteau. In Clair de Lune the poet compares his love’s soul to a choice landscape in which man and nature alike appear melancholy. Also to a text of Verlaine is the 1882 Mandoline, and over a suitably mandoline-like accompaniment the singer paints a picture of Commedia dell’ Arte characters serenading one another, ‘whirling in the ecstasy of a pink and grey moon’.
Fernando Obradors remains a relatively unknown figure outside his native Spain. In addition to composing music for solo voice and piano he wrote zarzuelas, a Spanish form of comic opera, and indeed he was active as a conductor at Barcelona’s famed Teatro del Liceu. In Del Cabello más sutil, taken from his Canciones Clásicas Españolas, the narrator flirtatiously tells us that he would like to take the thinnest of hairs to tie his (presumably not unwilling!) lover to his side, and how he would like to be the jug that she drinks from at home.
The Brazilian component of this disc pairs music by Jayme Ovalle with that of the world-renowned Heitor Villa-Lobos. Ovalle’s output includes orchestral works such as his symphonic poem Cabral, instrumental works and songs, but his fame today rests chiefly on his Azuläo to the great Brazilian poet Manoel Bandeira. Azuläo, is a simple, folklike song about a blue bird which acts as a go-between for separated lovers. Villa-Lobos’ Viola Quebrada and Cançâo Do Poeta Do Século XVIII take the form of the modinha, an 18th century ballade, frequently sentimental, cultivated in both Portugal and Brazil. The theme of the pains of love is continued in Nesta Rua.
Enrique Granados did much to reinvigorate the musical life of Spain. In many of his works, notably the piano cycle Goyescas and the opera of the same name, he sought to recreate the atmosphere of Goya’s Madrid. The cycle La Maja Dolorosa inhabits this same world. Here an inconsolable maja laments the death of her lover in passionate terms. The piano postludes provide skilful transitions between the songs. © 2000 Robert Markham.
The Brazilian soprano Annette Celine began her musical studies with her mother, Felicja Blumental. She studied voice in Milan with Mercedes Lloport and Elvira de Hidalgo. She made her début at the Teatro Reggio di Parma in a programme of Mozart concert arias. Her appearances have included the Barcelona, Taormina and Camden (London) Festivals, the Stanford University Mozart Festival and the international Festival de Música, Torroella de Montgri, Spain. Annette Celine has been soloist with Belgian Radio in Haydn’s Nelson Mass and Bruckner’s Te Deum.
In France she has sung in the Mozart and Fauré Requiems, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and the Verdi Requiem under conductor Pierre Dervaux. She recorded Verdi’s Luisa Miller for Decca with Luciano Pavarotti and Montserrat Caballé, and has also recorded various song recitals with her mother. Christopher Gould is one of the most talented young accompanists in Britain today, winner in May 1998 of the prestigious Gerald Moore Award, and in 1996 the first pianist to receive an award from The Geoffrey Parsons Trust.
He developed an interest in piano accompaniment and composition while studying music at Clare College, Cambridge, having previously studied for four years with the British pianist Martin Roscoe. In 1993 he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, where he studied accompaniment with, among others, John Streets and Malcolm Martineau, supported by an award from The Countess of Munster Musical Trust.
In London he has performed at St. John’s Smith Square (with the Young Songmakers’s Almanac directed by Graham Johnson) at the Purcell Room (with the Park Lane Group) and most recently at the Wigmore Hall with Sarah Walker and Ann Murray. He has also broadcast for BBC Radio 3 with soprano Geraldine McGreevy both in live recital and on Composer of the Week, playing world premieres of two songs by Charles Koechlin.