Hugues Cuénod. French, Italian & Spanish Songs. 1950’s Westminster recordings

I thought I should pay a small tribute to Hugues Cuénod, who passed away 3 months ago at the age of 108.  It’s not really possible to sum up his unique qualities and accomplishments in a few words, so I’ll refer to this summation of his art that John Steane wrote for Gramophone back at the time of Cuénod’s 100th birthday.

It’s a shame that the opportunity wasn’t taken to issue an “Original Masters” boxed set containing all of the wonderful Westminster albums from the 1950’s, and now with the disappearance of some earlier cd issues by Dante/Lys, these recordings are a bit hard to come by currently.  There is an excellent Cuénod discography here, by the way. I remember a friend of mine who is a bit more versed in music history of this period looking at the French Troubadour program and remarking that it was not really an accurate title for the program.  In any case, it’s certainly a pleasing selection, and Cuénod’s simplicity triumphs over whatever may have changed in performance practice in the intervening decades.

Italian Songs (of the 16th and 17th Centuries) –
Spanish Songs (of 16th Century)

Italian Songs (16th and 17th Centuries)
1.  Marco da Gagliano: Valli profonde
2. Perino Fiorentino: Lute solo: Fantasia
3. Girolamo Frescobaldi: Se l’aura spira
Philippe Verdelot, arr. Willaert:
4. Fuggi, fuggi, cuor mio
5. Con lagrime e sospir
6. Anonymous: Lute solo: Veneziana
7. Giacomo Carissimi: Sventura, cuor mio
8. Antonio Scarlatti: Cara e dolce

Spanish Songs (16th Century)
Luis de Milan:
9. Perdida
10. Sospiro
11. Durandarte
12. Lute solo: 3 Pavanes
Alonso de Mudarra:
13. Si me llaman
14. Triste estaba
15. Lute solo: Pavana
16. Israel

Hugues Cuénod, tenor
Hermann Leeb, lute
Recorded c. 1950
Westminster WL 5059 or XWN 18654

French Troubadour Songs

1. Il me suffit
2. Quand ce beau printemps
3. Gilles Binchois: Rondeau: De plus en plus se renouvelle
4. Exultate iusti in Domine (Psalm XXXIII)
5. Quare fremuerunt (Psalm II)
6. Verba mea (Psalm V)
Guillaume de Machaut:
7. Ma chiere dame
8. Chanson Balladée
9. Hugo de Lantins: A madame playsante et belle
Clemens non Papa:
10. Misericorde au martyr
11. Puisque voulez
Thomas Créquillon:
12. L’ardent amour
13. A vous en est
14. Anonymous: Le lai des amants
Thomas Créquillon:
15. Je suis aimé de la plus belle
16. Puisque malheur
17. Cessez, mes yeulx
18.  Guillaume Dufay: Le jour s’endort
19. Adam de la Halle: Helas! il n’est mais nuns
20. Thibaut IV de Navarre: Pour ce se d’amer dueil

Hugues Cuénod, tenor
Hermann Leeb, lute
Recorded c. 1958
Westminster XWN 18683 or W 9610


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8 Responses to Hugues Cuénod. French, Italian & Spanish Songs. 1950’s Westminster recordings

  1. tatifan says:

    By the way, don’t miss the ongoing upload of the Wesminster Bach “Geistliche Lieder” at the wonderful “Vinyl Fatigue” blog!

  2. Neil: Thanks for these. I’ll be downloading right away! I haven’t forgotten the Geistliche Lieder (thanks, but the way to taifan for recommending them!); I’m working on volume three, which should be up soon.

    There is a unique sweetness to Cuenod’s voice that I find very appealing. Add to that his solid, unassuming musicianship, and what a winning combination!

  3. tatifan says:

    Oh, Tatifan is my WordPress “nom de plume”!

    Btw, you can listen to a wonderful interview with Cuenod here:

    Just scroll down to “Listen to the Great Songs program with an interview of M. Cuenod” and click on it for an mp3 of this program with a telephone interview from 2002, in English, when he was 99 years old!



  4. Thanks for the link to the interview!

    Are you a fan of Jacques Tati??

  5. EWan McCormick says:

    Great post! I used to own Cuenod’s old German Troubadour Songs record, that was another favourite. What a unique voice …

  6. Catherine GERMAIN says:

    Merci de me faire découvrir sur votre site vos trésors musicaux, grâce à vous je fais connaissance d’interprètes absolument merveilleux, en même temps que je découvre les oeuvres

  7. Mark Ainley says:

    I was fortunate to know Cuenod for a period of some 20 years, and he was a magnificent human being – as full of joie-de-vivre as the linked interview above and his singing would lead one to believe. When I asked him how he remembered stories with such detail – that such-and-such took place in 1946 as opposed to 1947 – he looked at me quizzically and said ‘I always had a good time, so why would I want to forget?’ Words to live by.

  8. fattoxxon says:

    re the French Troubadour songs: your friend was right about the title! Only the last two songs by Adam de la Halle & Thibault are troubadour songs of the 13th century, though to be strictly accurate both were trouvères (from the northern French-speaking lands) rather than troubadours (from the southern parts of France).

    The bulk of the programme is 16th century, which is as far distant from the troubadours as we are from Bach and Handel! (It would be bizarre to call a programme of modern songs “Music of the Baroque”…) Certon, Clermens and Créquillon are all from this era, as is the anonymous 2nd song (to a text by Ronsard, so probably around 1570 – it is very similar to, but melodically slightly different from, a ‘popular song’ published by Chardavoine in 1576). The first song sounds like it could also be 16th century.

    Dufay, Binchois and Lantins represent the early 15th century; and Machaut is the great composer of the 14th century. The ‘lai des amants’ sounds like it could be 14th century too.

    Having said all which, what a joy to hear Cuenod sing this repertoire!! To me he sounds a bit lost in Machaut’s idiom, but the rest of this is fascinating & wonderful! Thank you for the chance to hear it.


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