The poem is No XX of Hugo’s Chants du crépuscule
. Fauré’s song is a simple ABA construction which allows the composer to set only the first three of the poet’s seventeen strophes. This is a late discovery for the public; it appeared in print sixty or so years after most of the other Hugo settings. The remaining two (Tristesse d’Olympio
and Puisque j’ai mis ma lèvre
) remain unpublished. Of these three Hugo orphans, L’aurore
is the most memorable in melodic terms – indeed the tune, an unfurling of conjoined sequences, has an adorable simplicity; this is music as fresh and fragrant as the dawn it describes. In the ‘A’ section of the song the vocal line is steadfastly doubled by the piano – indeed the accompaniment could be played as a piano piece without sacrificing a note. There is a welcome divergence between voice and piano in the middle section where the accompaniment in throbbing mezzo staccato quavers remains in the treble clef for both hands. At the return of the main melody there is a hint of canonic imitation that is not followed through. If this is not the most sophisticated of songs (the composer himself, in not publishing it, was clearly less than satisfied) it has a classical poise that seems to prepare the way for Lydia
and the other Leconte de Lisle settings.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2005