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Jonathan Freeman-Attwood - Faure - MusicWeb International


13 October 2014
MusicWeb International
Stuart Sillitoe

This is an intriguing disc. It is not often that you hear world premières of newly discovered music by such a well known and major composer as Fauré. This is exactly what we have here.

These Vocalises date from between 1906 and 1916, when Fauré, as director of the Paris Conservatoire, sought to rethink the way singing was taught. In came the study of the Mélodie or French art-song supplanting second rate grand-opera which had been the mainstay of teaching there for decades. As part of this new emphasis, Fauré composed a series of Vocalises which would be used as part of the sight-reading exams. These short pieces eventually fell out of use some years after Fauré's death and the scores were then stored in the French National Archive. There they lay for over fifty years before being edited by Roy Howat and Emily Kilpatrick for Peters Critical Edition of the composers complete songs, which was published in 2013. So the question is raised: why should these essentially vocal works be performed, especially in their première recording? In his booklet notes, Roy Howat argues that these pieces "were deliberately designed to test vocal technique to the limit ...", and that they can be appreciated more comfortably on the trumpet. Whatever the argument they work quite well on the trumpet. Yes, it would have been nice to hear them in their original vocal edition, but in lieu of this, the present recording makes an interesting introduction to the music. This is, after all, only what normally happens to popular vocalises in the end.

The Vocalises are short and range from 0:24 to 2:23 in length but even in the shortest a degree of dexterity is displayed that would tax any performer, whether it be on the trumpet or the human voice. The music is by one of the finest of all French composers of the art-song, and Fauré brings to these short pieces all the skills that he employed in his songs. In this respect the performance of Jonathan Freeman-Attwood is excellent as he produces a subtle and pleasing tone. He is also well partnered by Roy Howat, who shows that he is a fine accompanist as well as editor and essayist.
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