courtesy of Sony Music
Sony Classical just released a fascinating album entitled The Secret Fauré. The adjective “secret” may be a bit of an exaggeration. There are certainly familiar selections, but some of them appear in unexpected ways. Thus, the four art songs on the album (Opus 39, Number 4, Opus 83, Number 2, Opus 46, Number 2, and Opus 7, Number 1) are all presented in orchestral versions, two by Gabriel Fauré himself and one each by Louis Aubert and Henri Busser (the latter also known for his orchestration of music by Claude Debussy). On the other hand the familiar Opus 80 suite of incidental music for Maurice Maeterlinck’s play Pelléas and Mélisande also includes a “Mélisande’s Song” movement with orchestration by Charles Koechlin.
Finally, those of us who continue to worship at the Altar of George Balanchine will probably be delighted to encounter the unfamiliar movement from his “Emeralds” ballet (the first of the three that constitute his full-evening Jewels) with the inclusion of the Opus 57 incidental music for the play Shylock by Edmond Haraucourt. The music on the album may not be “secret” as much as “hiding in plain sight.” Those aware of it know where to look for it!
This album is the result of a project planned by Ivor Bolton, who became Chief Conductor of the Sinfonieorchester Basel in 2016. This ensemble was founded in 1876; but, during the twentieth century, it established itself by giving world premiere performances of compositions by Béla Bartók, Arthur Honegger, and Bohuslav Martinů. Bolton seems to be carrying the torch in theory, while his practice, at least in this case, involves turning up innovative sources from the late nineteenth century.
The album features two vocal soloists, soprano Olga Peretyatko and Benjamin Bruns, both of whom are clearly comfortable with the underlying rhetorical foundations that support any text that Fauré chose to set. In addition three of the five movements in the Opus 52 collection of incidental music for Alexandre Dumas’ play Caligula require a female choir. These resources are provided by the woman of the Balthasar Neumann Chor, a historically informed performance ensemble founded in 1991 and based in Freiburg.
This may be purely a matter of taste; but, personally, I do not feel as if there is anything “secret” about the music itself. Those who know their Fauré are unlikely to find very many, if any, “alien” qualities among the individual movements and songs documented on this new recording. More likely, they may well enjoy the experience of following Fauré down expressive paths they had not previously associated with him. To invoke one of my favorite metaphors, this album amounts to offering up a delightful journey of discovery.