The poem comes from Silvestre’s Les ailes d’or
(1880) in a sub-section entitled ‘Vers pour être chantés’. The song was composed before the poem’s appearance in book form. Fauré either found the poem in a newspaper or periodical, or was in touch with the poet himself. There are a large number or words (five wordy strophes) that trip off the tongue (if the singer is lucky enough to remember them), and all in a short space of time. Notre amour
is often heard as a breathless patter song – the whole performance geared to the singer’s final bars with the high note – like a musical firework ending with the blaze of a Catherine wheel. With this number of words to put across (most of them proclaiming thoughtful sincerity rather than dizzy excitement) performers should observe the composer’s Allegretto
, a marking that suggests a certain elan while avoiding a demented gabble. The tonal architecture has a subtle assymetry: the first and third strophes move from the tonic to G sharp minor and B major, the second from the tonic to F sharp minor and A major. For the fourth and fifth strophes the text suggests greater intimacy: the elegant sextuplets of the accompaniment are given deeper meaning by the affectionate counterpoint between the vocal line and an ascending five-finger scale in the pianist’s left hand (at bars 21 to 23, and 26 to 27). Between these two verses, at bar 25, there is a beautiful interlude, an arched rainbow of sound suspended in the right hand over the lapping of the tide in the left – a perfect illustration of the poem’s immediately preceding imagery. The brief detour into G major for the penultimate ‘chose éternelle’ adds strength to the clinching vocal cadence. The postlude betokens the colloquy of mutual affection: undulating triplets mesh with five-finger scales, an exchange between hands and staves that symbolizes the mingling of masculine and feminine.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2005