Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Albert Fuller and Hugues Cuenod

The legendary Swiss tenor Hugues Cuenod died on Friday (Dec. 3rd). I've posted a reminiscence on my blog, but wanted to add some photos of Albert and Huguie here, as well as some words about Huguie by Albert. The photos are either from Huguie's archive, or pictures I took when Albert and I visited Huguie in Morges in 2002 - the Cuenod centenary. Words are from the Translator's Note of Hugues Cuenod with an Agile Voice: Conversations with Francois Hudry, which Albert translated from the French in 1999. 

But first these words about Albert by Huguie, in the fifth of the conversations with Hudry:

The harpsichordist Albert one of my best friends. He is the most French of Americans. He knows Rameau and Lully at the ends of his fingers and lives his life constantly in the culture and the spirit of France. He used to load his harpsichord in a large station wagon and we crossed the country giving numerous concerts in many little and some large American cities. He is a very funny friend with whom I've enjoyed many amusing hours.


(AF) I first heard the riveting voice of Hugues Cuenod in New York in 1945; it was borne to my ear by the 1938 Parisian recording of Francois Couperin's Troisieme Lecon de Tenebres of 1714; it was also my introduction to the vocal works of Couperin. That combination of voice and composer remains to this day one of the unique pinnacles of my experience as a musician. The enduring power of Jeremiah's ancient, finger-wagging words, combined with the communicative musical power of Grand Siecle French classicism, was shocking in the extreme, perhaps especially because the entire experience opened a new door of expression, one I never knew existed.

As a graduate student at Yale in the early 1950s, I purchased Cuenod's Westminster recording of all three of Couperin's magnificent Lecons. These performances...bowled me over once again by their uncanny intensity. And then, Cuenod's bio on the jacket contained a striking sentence of hitherto unconsidered thought, at least by me. It read "Mr. Cuenod explains his artistic goal in these words: 'Though I earn my living by music I am not a professional who thinks primarily of business. I prefer the Epicurean way, to choose what is most interesting and musically rewarding.'" [Italics AF]


Well--this particular, and very personal idea so touched me that I began to understand how it resonated with my own still-green, graduate-student heart. Yet, I hadn't the slightest notion of how to realize such an ambition, or of even quite comprehending what his words had meant. As each of our lives represents in its own way a straight line, beginning with hindsight, it seems clear that the lines of Cuenod's and my life should one day intersect, at least professionally. 

When that happened, it was also clear that we were to become friends, and later, when we toured together as a duo, it was even clearer that our spirits meshed when we were most vulnerable as artists, that is, when we performed together in public. Neither of us did anything the same way twice. Since my part of our performances was all improvised, I could mirror the smallest new ideas that his performance would suggest to me. On the other hand, he, hearing everything I did, was always receptive to the new hints of interpretation that my accompaniments might suggest. Performing thus with him before our various publics resulted in the greatest musical fun, and transports de joie I ever experienced; my memory of that is as strong today as ever.

Albert at Huguie's 100th birthday party, Theatre de Vevey, June 2002


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