‘Caplet, vous n’êtes qu’un vilain’, comme disait Charles d’Orléans en parlant de L’Yver’—thus Debussy wrote in a letter to his friend André Caplet in 1908, some evidence, perhaps, that France’s great fifteenth-century poet was in his thoughts. In the same year he wrote the second of the Trois chansons
, Nos 1 and 3 having been written earlier, in 1898. They were published as a set in 1909, Debussy himself conducting the première in Paris. A minor puzzle has always surrounded the solo in No 2: the published edition (presumably overseen by the composer) assigns it to a contralto, whereas the manuscript designates it for tenor, more appropriately since the speaker is clearly male. The three pieces make a varied and successful set; we can only regret that Debussy wrote no more for unaccompanied choir.
from notes by Collegium Records © 2002