Faure: The Songs and Their Poets

Faure: The Songs and Their Poets

By (author) Graham Johnson , Translated by Richard Stokes , Series edited by Professor George Odam


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The career of Gabriel Faure as a composer of songs for voice and piano traverses six decades (1862-1921); almost the whole history of French melodie is contained within these parameters. In the 1860s Faure, the lifelong protege of Camille Saint-Saens, was a suavely precocious student; he was part of Pauline Viardot's circle in the 1870s and he nearly married her daughter. Pointed in the direction of symbolist poetry by Robert de Montesquiou in 1886, Faure was the favoured composer from the early 1890s of Winnarretta Singer, later Princesse de Polignac, and his songs were revered by Marcel Proust. In 1905 he became director of the Paris Conservatoire, and he composed his most profound music in old age. His existence, steadily productive and outwardly imperturbable, was undermined by self-doubt, an unhappy marriage and a tragic loss of hearing. In this detailed study Graham Johnson places the vocal music within twin contexts: Faure's own life story, and the parallel lives of his many poets. We encounter such giants as Charles Baudelaire and Paul Verlaine, the patrician Leconte de Lisle, the forgotten Armand Silvestre and the Belgian symbolist Charles Van Lerberghe. The chronological range of the narrative encompasses Faure's first poet, Victor Hugo, who railed against Napoleon III in the 1850s, and the last, Jean de La Ville de Mirmont, killed in action in the First World War. In this comprehensive and richly illustrated study each of Faure's 109 songs receives a separate commentary. Additional chapters for the student singer and serious music lover discuss interpretation and performance in both aesthetical and practical terms. Richard Stokes provides parallel English translations of the original French texts. In the twenty-first century musical modernity is evaluated differently from the way it was assessed thirty years ago. Faure is no longer merely a 'Master of Charms' circumscribed by the belle epoque. His status as a great composer of timeless significance is now unassailable.

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  • Hardback | 625 pages
  • 192 x 248 x 42mm | 1,478.7g
  • 20 Oct 2009
  • Ashgate Publishing Group
  • Ashgate Publishing Limited
  • Aldershot
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • Includes 167 b&w illustrations and 9 music examples
  • 0754659607
  • 9780754659600
  • 348,333

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Author Information

Professor Graham Johnson with translations of the song texts by Richard Stokes

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Review quote

'There aren't enough superlatives in my vocabulary for the task at hand; we'd need a francophile Shakespeare to do this book justice. At last, Faure receives the kind of thoroughgoing advocacy he has long deserved - and it could only come both from a musician who knows this oeuvre inside out from years of playing and teaching it, and a scholar who has absorbed all of the literature on and autour de Faure. What Johnson uniquely does is to ground all that Faure-ness in a detailed, practical, feet-on-the-ground examination of the songs, contextualized and explained in exquisite detail. To cap it all off, I gulped down this book as if it were a particularly entrancing novel because it is written to the hilt. What I find most compelling is the very serious intensity of Johnson's mission: to inform music-lovers about everything - the historical context, the poets, the events of Faure's life, his composer's opinions on a wide variety of matters, his unique tonal language - pertaining to these very great, and little-understood, songs. This book is crammed to the gills with information, all of it valuable. All lovers of French music will wonder what they ever did before this book became available.' -Susan Youens, J.W. Van Gorkom Professor of Music, University of Notre Dame, USA 'No better guide ... could be found than Graham Johnson, one of our leading accompanists and someone whose knowledge of the entire song repertoire would be hard to match. As a performer who has spent a lifetime interpreting this music ... Johnson knows it inside out. But he also possesses a deep understanding of each song's position within Faure's own life, and indeed within the wider French cultural environment as a whol e... Richard Stokes's translations of the texts aligned with the originals are an added bonus ... an ideal guide to one of the most important figures in the song repertoire, valuable to performers and listeners alike.' BBC Music Magazine '... an excellent survey combining both musical and historical perspectives of an important repertoire. The book serves as both a catalog of the songs and a biography of the composer... engaging, readable, and informative ... Singers, musicians, historians, and those studying literature and art will benefit ... Recommended.' Choice 'Without question, Gabriel Faure: The Songs and Their Poets ought to be on the shelves of all music libraries, singers, voice instructors, and accompanists, as it will become a frequent reference for anyone interested in French music and will be read cover-to-cover by all Faureans.' Notes 'On aura compris que ce livre est d'ores et deja, et pour de longues annees, une Bible pour les interpretes, chanteurs et pianistes comme pour les admirateurs des melodies de Faure et l'on saluera pour conclure la ductilite du style dans lequel il est ecrit ou brillent, a meme hauteur, intelligence et sensibilite.' Jean-Michel Nectoux in Revue de musicologie '... Johnson writes such shapely chapters. All of them are engaging to read... a remarkably good book. It is richly informative. It paints a vivid, highly readable picture of Faure's life and milieu, and it takes each and every poet and poem seriously ... the translations by Richard Stokes alone are worth the price of admission. Singers have probably never encountered such uniformly excellent translations of poems in a book on French song. I can hardly praise the quality of Stokes's work enough.' Journal of the Royal Musical Association

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