This beautiful song, one of two settings from Villiers de l’Isle-Adam’s mainly prose collection Contes cruels
(1883), deserves to be sung more often. It can boast neither an exceptional melody, nor a chance for a singer to make a dramatic impression. But it does conjure a mood of infinite peace and calm, the composer’s own ‘calme, luxe et volupté’. The poet’s title, Éblouissement
, implies a dazzling sight, exclamation marks (omitted by the composer) betokening a heady enthusiasm. Fauré is far more en sourdine; his heading, Nocturne
(he had already written his first five nocturnes for piano) prepares us better for the languid unfolding of this music in a muted tessitura. At the moments when the 3/4 rhythm gives way to a rocking 6/8 one might even think of a berceuse. The form is essentially AAB. In the first two strophes the home key of E flat is reached relatively easily after momentary excursions into E flat minor and G flat major. The third strophe is more exploratory and takes us on a more restless tonal journey; we reach E flat major at the end but only after an unexpected detour into G minor for the word ‘beauté!’. If the poet rejoices in the possession of his beloved, the composer mourns her unavailability with only a momentary loss of composure.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2005