In the event this Sérénade seems inspired by two Duparc songs—both in slow triple time—Extase and Soupir. In all three cases there is a debt to the mood and piano writing of Träume from Wagner’s Wesendonk Lieder. In counterpoint to the vocal line, the little finger of the pianist’s right hand sustains a never-ending swooning melody; this unfolds over smooth undulations of quavers which turn this way and that in never-to-be-satisfied chromatic exploration. The vocal line is wide-ranging and not without its carefully judged surprises: the phrase ‘caressant l’air’ in the last strophe calls for a jump of a seventh into the head voice, and at the end of the song, exquisite excursion heavenwards (a jump of a ninth) on the phrase ‘frissonant et clair’. This song illustrates Chausson’s attraction to the décadence; despite its muted mood it displays a type of vocal and emotional extravagance rare in this composer.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2001