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Vous souvenez-vous ?

Jean-François Novelli, tenor
Maude Gratton, piano


There is an aria for which I would give
All Rossini, all Mozart and all Weber,
A very old, languid and funereal air,
Which for me alone has secret charms.

But every time I come to hear it,
My soul feels two hundred years younger:
It is the reign of Louis thirteen; and I think I see far off
A green hillside, which the sunset turns yellow,

Then a brick castle with stone corners,
With stained glass windows of reddish hues,
Surrounded by great parks, with a river
Bathing its feet, flowing between flowers;

Then a lady, at her high window,
Blonde and black-eyed, in her old clothes,
That, in another existence perhaps,
I have already seen... - and remember!


These verses by Gérard de Nerval, written in 1855, are the ideal preamble to this musical proposal. Like him, many composers at the end of the 19th century turned their attention to early music. And just like the poet, they looked at the past with emotion, love and tenderness; they chose to remember. This disc pays tribute to them.

Beyond the musical journey you are about to embark on, I offer to accompany you in following the course of this musical adventure that represented for me "Do you remember?"

It all began in the warmth of lockdown, when, like many French people, I read a lot; an essential occupation in those unusual times.

Among these readings, 'Musique Ancienne' captivated my attention. Its author, Wanda Landowska, was a renowned concert pianist. She was also responsable for the re-discovery of the harpsichord in the early 20th century. Determined to make Bach and Couperin sound better than on the piano, she asked Pleyel, the great piano maker, to make her a less fragile harpsichord for her tours. Admittedly, the instrument sounds very different from the one we play today, but it exists and we can hear it!

Wanda Landowska was thus an active participant in a trend that aims to promote the culture of the past. A "current" yes, because she was not the only one. The testimonies of great composers who closely preceded her or who were contemporaries of her are proof of this: Maurice Ravel's homage to François Couperin's keyboard work in Le tombeau de Couperin, Camille Saint-Saëns' "revisiting" of Jean-Philippe Rameau's work and the editions of early music he undertook with Claude Debussy, the creation of the Schola Cantorum giving honour to Palestrina's music by Vincent d'Indy, etc.

What a fascinating subject!

The idea then took root to dedicate a recording to them. A way for me to say thank you to these first pioneers who generated the marvellous renaissance of early music that we have been experiencing for the last 50 years and in which I have participated modestly but fully. It's my turn to remember!

All the more so since, whilst digging out repertoire, I discovered at the Bibliothèque Nationale, on their Gallica site and on the immense free access digital library (or almost) that is the IMSLP site, many musicians whom history has not retained, but whose appetite for past centuries was very real. Their formidable enthusiasm has, in one way or another, fed this same cause, and the musical corpus is very rich. It therefore became evident to me that it would be a shame to put all these forgotten melodists I had just met, and with whom I was already enamoured, back into a drawer. The big names would have to make room for them. They would stand side by side in equal measure on the album.

The representation of three ancient epochs is apparent in the musicians' proposals. They allow us to organise three major chapters: Ancient poetics / Attachment to the antique /  The classical, in the manner of...
Three epochs rediscovered.

Conscious of presenting a commemorative disc and wishing to anchor this homage in my own time, I have asked musical friends to cast their eyes too on these ancient times. So there will be a fourth chapter by Juliette, Léonor de Récondo, Edouard Ferlet and Xavier Béraud. They all have one thing in common with the composers who preceded them: the same affection for early music.

There are 3 songs because I wanted to perpetuate this beautiful French tradition which is far from being born yesterday. From the chanson de geste in the Middle Ages to that which is written today, I have been able to cultivate a love for this literary and musical genre all the way along my musical path: from the air de cours to the romance, from the revolutionary song to the song of today.


Reviews on... -> - Olyrix - Diapason - - Générations France Musique, le live - Forum Opéra - (2) - Opéra Magazine - ResMusica


1.    Eugène Sauzay, Clément Marot    Huitain
2.    Eugène Sauzay, Charles d'Orléans    Le printemps
3.    Raoul Laparra, Charles d'Orléans    Quand je fus pris au pavillon  
4.    Vincent d'Indy, Robert de Bonnières    Madrigal à la mode ancienne 
5.    Francis Poulenc, Charles d'Orléans    Priez pour paix
6.    Arthur Metzner, Clément Marot    Chanson ancienne
7.    Raoul Laparra, Charles d'Orléans    Bannissons soucy
8.    Raoul Laparra, Joachim du Bellay    Ces cheveux d'or
9.    Charles Gounod, Jean-Antoine de Baïf    Ô ma belle rebelle
10.    Louis Pitte, Pierre de Ronsard    Comme on voit sur la branche
11.    Maurice Ravel, Clément Marot    D'Anne jouant de l'espinette
12.    Maurice Ravel, Clément Marot    D'Anne me jectant de la neige
13.    Reynaldo Hahn, Charles Leconte de Lisle    Salinum
14.    Reynaldo Hahn, Charles Leconte de Lisle    Néère 
15.    Reynaldo Hahn, Charles Leconte de Lisle    Tyndaris
16.    Reynaldo Hahn, Charles Leconte de Lisle    Pholoé
17.    NN, Gabriel Fauré    Hymne à Apollon
18.    Gabriel Fauré, Paul Verlaine    Mandoline
19.    Raoul Laparra, Jean de La Fontaine    J'ai quelquefois aimé
20.    Raoul Laparra, Jean de La Fontaine    La Mort et le Malheureux
21.    Camille Saint-Saëns, François Coppée    Menuet
22.    Xavier Béraud    Le tango des ornements
23.    Juliette    Sérénade environ
24.    Edouard Ferlet, Léonor de Récondo    Eurydice


Jean-François Novelli    ténor
Maude Gratton    piano
Edouard Ferlet (24)    piano


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