A French Song Companion

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Oxford University Press, 2002 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 530 pages
A French Song Companion is an indispensable guide to the modern repertoire and the most comprehensive book of French mélodie in any language. Noted accompanist Graham Johnson provides repertoire guides to the work of over 150 composers--the majority of them from France but including British, American, German, Spanish, and Italian musicians who have written French vocal music. The book contains major articles on Fauré, Duparc, Debussy, Ravel, and Poulenc, as well as essays on Bizet, Chabrier, Gounod, Chausson, Hahn, and Satie, and important reassessments of such composers as Massenet, Koechlin, and Leguerney.

The book combines these articles with the complete texts in English of over 700 songs, all translated by Richard Stokes, making it also a treasury of French poetry from the fifteenth through the twentieth centuries. The translations alone will prove invaluable to music lovers and performers; combined with the biographical articles, they become the ideal map for exploring this exciting and diverse repertoire.

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One should think of this as Pierre Bernac's "Interpretation of French Song" written by and for new generations of scholars and performers.
This is the absolute definitive guide to the history
of French song with translations of almost all of the repertoire (some poems that are not in public domain may be omitted). This book is a must-have for performers of the repertoire, but is not specifically written with performance in mind. Rather, it provides valuable context for every song in the repertoire and complete composer biographies. Prospective buyers should read "How to use this book" (pg. xxxi) for more information about the rigorous cross-referencing and indexing that are among its most useful features.
With authorship by legendary collaborative pianist Graham Johnson, performers can be sure that the most relevant information is included. Song scholar Richard Stokes provides assurance that the information provided meets the highest academic standards, evidenced also by its publication by Oxford University Press.
The importance of this book to the interpretation of French song cannot be overstated.
What this book does NOT have, especially compared its scholastic predecessor by Pierre Bernac, is specific instructions regarding interpretation. While this is a shame for those hoping to learn some of Graham Johnson's secrets, it avoids the inevitable conflict that arises--as in the Bernac--when contemporary interpreters choose to go against the author's performance suggestions. Further, those who have heard Mr. Johnson speak on the subject know that performing without regard for previous interpretations IS one of his secrets.
All said, this is a valuable book that is worth owning rather than visiting a library for, and I do not regret a penny spent on it.

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About the author (2002)

Graham Johnson is an internationally famous accompanist Richard Stokes teaches languages at Westminster School. He coaches singers in the interpretation of Lieder and regularly writes programme notes for song recitals at the Wigmore Hall.

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