This music comes from the same period as Mai
. The melody is similarly ingratiating and anxious to please – a good match for the ardour of the poem which also inspired one of Reynaldo Hahn’s most successful early songs. If the packaging of this duet is much more refined and accomplished than Mai
it is because Fauré took the sketch of the solo song out of the cupboard and revised it a decade later for those duet-singing sisters, the daughters of Pauline Viardot. At the time Fauré was engaged to Marianne Viardot. This is a hybrid work where the spontaneity of the teenager’s original sketches is checked by the suave manners of the twenty-eight year-old. It is little wonder that this music comes across like an exquisitely delivered calling card, a veritable compliment galant
. The piano-writing is typical of the young master’s flawless weave – a silken carpet of sound. Semiquaver arpeggios waft up and down the keyboard. These seem effortless except to the person who has to play them; as always with this composer they contain countless tiny harmonic shifts to catch out the unwary. Fauré can always take us anywhere he likes, and on any degree of the scale; here he proceeds to do just that, like a dentist accomplishing the most difficult bridge-work while his patients (in this case the listeners) are scarcely aware of the drill. The mezzo soprano makes her entrance after a nine-bar solo for the soprano. When the two voices first come together it is in a falling line of seductive thirds (at ‘Puisque, lorsqu’elle arrive / S’y reposer’). Jean-Michel Nectoux has defined this phrase as an example of the ‘Viardot motif’ in Fauré’s music – ‘the formula of a rising sixth or octave followed by a descent through conjunct steps’. There is a masterly interplay between the voices – one can hear the fruits of assiduous study of fugue and counterpoint. But high learning is disguised by a sweetness of diction and gentleness of intent. Even when in love Fauré is a master of self-effacement.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2005