This song’s beckonings correspond to Gounod’s Où voulez-vous aller?
or Duparc’s L’invitation au voyage
. In Silvestre’s collection, Les ailes d’or
, the second half of the poem is a Baudelaire-like sequel personifying the ominous dreams of the past. But there is nothing disturbing here, and the music rocks us gently, benignly, into the stratosphere. We wander high above the world’s gardens and the fragrance of jasmine. There are passages in this song where the musical discourse wanders into the indeterminate ether in a manner of which no other French composer of the time was capable. Fauré’s harmonic excursions are usually underpinned by strong bass lines, but here, as in another Silvestre setting, La fée aux chansons
, the composer abandons the F clef for much of the time in favour of higher, more etiolated regions. There are delicious ambiguities here, for example the pivotal role played by E flat (D sharp) in the keys of A flat major (dominant) and E minor (leading note). Jankélévitch hears similarities with Wolf’s An eine Äolsharfe
composed only four years later. The two songs share a berceuse rhythm and an other-worldly evanescence, but Silvestre is clearly no Mörike, and it is Fauré’s harmonic refinement that disguises his poet’s sentimental streak.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2005