This CD is pure nostalgia for me, not only because of those long-ago studies immersed in the French School but because of the evocative nature of the music. Each composer is unique, and quite different from every other composer, and yet all of them magically conjure up a vivid picture of a Paris that has all but disappeared, and which I was fortunate enough to experience in my youth.
For when I first went to the City of Lights in the 50s and 60s, it had changed visually and culturally very little since the pre-war years. Poulenc and Tailleferre were still very much alive, and the souls of Ravel, Debussy, and Fauré were still omnipresent. Most of the older musicians with whom I came into contact actually knew these people: composers whose music paints audible pictures of glorious boulevards then still unsullied by global franchises; of corner bistros reeking of Gauloises and strong coffee; of charming Salons de thés where I could order a citron pressé and a religieuse smothered in chocolate; of playing with hoops in the Parc Monceau, and smelling the roses in the Bagatelle; of Jean Cocteau and Jean Gabin; of the little Madeleines and Marcel Proust; of Manet and Monet; of the old Métro cars which rattled along on their metal wheels; of the smells of cheap petrol, coal smoke, burning chestnuts, red wine, and old fashioned baguettes; and an overall sense of being in the centre of the artistic world.
So I do hope that you enjoy this nostalgic step back into the past and if you are wondering about Chabrier's Habanera and its place on this CD, I have always thought that along with their genius for writing French music, French composers also wrote the best Spanish music!
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