La Bonne Chanson on poems by Paul Verlaine, op.61
Une sainte en son auréole
Puisque l’aube grandit
La lune blanche luit dans les bois
J’allais par des chemins perfides
J’ai presque peur, en vérité
Avant que tu ne t’en ailles
Donc, ce sera par un clair jour d’été
L’hiver a cessé
Verlaine wrote Le Bonne Chanson, a set of twenty one poems in 1870. They were a gift to Mathilde Mauté de Fleurville whom he later married.
Fauré selected nine of the poems, not in Verlaine’s order, but retained the overall title. Many of the songs were written in the summers of 1892 and 1893 when Fauré was a guest of Sigismond Bardac and his wife, the singer, Emma Bardac who sang through much of the new material as Faure composed it. The set was published in 1894.
Une sainte en son auréole has a quiet, imitative opening reflecting the ecclesiastical nature of the poem. The music develops to become an almost ecstatic hymn of praise for the name of St Mathilde.
The opening of Puisque l’aube grandit, with its light, rolling arpeggios reveal the dawn and the rising sun. A subtle key change shows the lover being guided by soft eyes. The calmer mood of the final sections reflects the desire for no other paradise.
The simple piano accompaniment of La lune blanche luit dans les bois leads to the simple arched vocal phrase. Reflections on the water bring subtle changes in harmony, and a climax point in the piano allows the voice to present the exquisite moment with utmost delicacy.
The repeated harmonies introducing J’allais par des chemins perfidse set a mood of uncertainty. The harmonies shift but the return of the major tonalities underline the eventual happiness of being reunited.
In J’ai presque peur, en vérité, soft off-beat chords show the slight apprehension as the opening descending vocal line describes a fear of the feelings aroused. The soft throbbing pulse continues with the uncertainties of love but are resolved in the major tonalities of the final section with the declaration ‘Je t’aime’ (‘I love you’).
Avant que tu ne t’en ailles begins with slow, suspended treble chords with the soft parlando vocal line describing the slowly disappearing morning star. The sudden activity and key-change shows a thousand quails singing in the fields, and after a quiet reflection, the nightingales. An ecstatic love song culminates in the gold of the rising sun.
Fauré continues the sun connection with the rippling opening to Donc, ce sera par un clair jour d’été. The mood is optimistic and joyful, propelled by the descriptions of the sun and sky and the feelings of love. The final section is slower, depicting the fall of evening and the smiles of the stars.
In N’est–ce par?, the slow opening notes pick up rhythm to introduce the simple opening vocal phrase. A slower triplet figure accompanies the hearts isolated in love, but grows in passion as the nightingale sings. The opening figures return to show the desire for their love to be without complication.
L’hiver a cessé closes Fauré’s cycle with quiet imitated rhythmic fragments which develop into quite an elaborate introductory section. The voice emphatically announces that winter has ended, the sun dances in the clear sky, and the air is full of joy. Continuous triplets accompany the return of the summer and autumn, with the final, almost improvisory section, praising this fantasy and reason.