This is one of the songs that Poulenc most hated hearing sung by female singers (Duparc’s Phidylé
was another) because of its unambiguously masculine text. Like Le secret
the poem is from Silvestre’s Le pays des roses
. Both the courtly words and the music bring to mind the Gounod setting Ô ma belle rebelle
, a sixteenth-century evocation with a poem by Jean-Antoine de Baïf. The pattern of Gounod’s accompaniment is a single left-hand note in the bass clef followed by three in the treble, an alternation between left and right hand that suggests the strumming of lute or guitar; Fauré follows suit. In Chanson d’amour
we thus have an exercise in the composer’s celebrated madrigal style, gracious time-travel that transcends pastiche by taking the refined musical manners of an earlier age and incorporating them into the pudeur of his own style (Reynaldo Hahn was to do exactly the same thing). In this music we detect the origins of Fauré’s ‘Venetian’ settings of Verlaine. As is often the case with this composer this is recherché music of the greatest subtlety that is only pretending to be simple. Hundreds of inadequate performances have rendered this fausse naïveté
merely banal by babbling through the song without registering the harmonic nuances, the flirtations with the harmony, and the series of enharmonic puns that Fauré incorporates into the music. The addition of a musical strophe by re-using Silvestre’s first verse is a rare instance of this composer expanding, rather than cutting, a poem. The enjambment, without a breath, between ‘rebelle’ at the end of verse 3 and ‘J’aime tes yeux’ beginning verse 4 is a charming salon touch in a song where every perfectly placed note betokens a smiling composer of the deepest seriousness.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2005