Mirages concludes Mezzo-Soprano Bettina Smith’s project for LAWO Classics of recording all of Gabriel Fauré’s cycles for voice and piano.
The album takes us on a journey from Fauré’s first song cycle, Poème d’un jour (1878), to his last, L’Horizon chimérique (1921), via the exultant La Bonne Chanson (1892–4) and the intensely concentrated Mirages (1919). This recording has been made possible with support of the University of Stavanger.
“It is truly in his songs that Fauré reveals the flower of his genius“, wrote the composer’s former pupil Maurice Ravel. No other composer did so much to transform French melodies in the course of a career that encompassed six decades and over 100 songs.
Mirages is exclusively available in Stereo DSD 512, DSD 256, DSD 128, DSD 64 and DXD from NativeDSD Music.
Bettina Smith – Mezzo-Soprano
Jan Willem Nelleke – Pianist
Total time: 00:48:34
This recording has been made possible with support of the University of Stavanger
Thomas Wolden, Tom Caulfield (DXD to DSD Transfers)
|Original Recording Format|
Sofienberg Church in Oslo, Norway on August 15-19, 2016
|Release Date||February 18, 2022|
American Record Guide
Norwegian Mezzo-soprano Bettina Smith’s supple tone and liquescent phrasing make her an ideal interpreter of the songs of Fauré. The excellent Dutch pianist Jan Willem Nelleke brings an exquisite touch to this album as well.
Even connoisseurs of the great French composer will find surprises here. The superb interpretive powers of the two performers reveal new nuances in this music. Smith sings with remarkable control. Her vibrato is evenly spun, lending softness to her tone and never impeding her clarity of pitch. She brings to this repertoire a fine balance of fervor and restraint. Nelleke approaches these songs with a cool and precise touch, revealing Fauré the modernist rather than the romantic. The overall effect is one of stunning immediacy.
The mini song cycle Poeme d’un Jour is based on poems by Charles Grandmougin. This three-song set finds Fauré at his most direct. The central song, ‘Toujours’, is a fiery cri de coeur and contains one of Fauré’s rare outbursts of sheer passion. This is followed by the exquisite ‘Adieu’, a tender, introspective song, eloquently performed.
The most substantial set here is La Bonne Chanson, nine songs on poems by Paul Verlaine. It was composed in the summers of 1892 and 1893 while Fauré was staying with the soprano Emma Bardac and her banker husband in the suburbs of Paris. The cycle is dedicated to Emma, whom Fauré was apparently in love with, and who would later become Debussy’s second wife. Fauré’s infatuation with the soprano inspired some of the most daring harmonic inventions of his career, prompting his former teacher Saint-Saëns to declare, “Fauré has gone completely mad!” Some listeners may agree with Debussy’s assessment of this song cycle as “needlessly complicated”; still, it gives the performers an opportunity to display their technical prowess and is an effective contrast to the more conventional songs here.
Two late cycles round out the program: Mirages (1919), and L’Horizon Chimerique (1921), the last of Fauré’s vocal works. The 1919 cycle is notable for its spare texture and introspective mood—such a marked departure from the adventurous spirit of the composer’s middle period.
The final set, the title of which translates roughly to “The Imaginary Horizon”, employs imagery of the sea in poignant metaphors on memory, loss, and regret. Delicately sung by Smith, these final songs both communicate and inspire the intense yearning that is such a hallmark of Fauré’s music.
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