This is not a mélodie but rather a cantique
. It was commissioned for a volume of Contes mystiques
, poems by Stéphan Bordèse set to music by various composers, and published by Durand in 1890. Among those who contributed to the collection were Holmès, Lecocq, Massenet, Paladilhe, Saint-Saëns, Viardot and Widor. En prière
was included in the Hamelle three-volume edition and countless singers and pianists have come to know, and perform, this song as if it were a bona-fide mélodie. One may think its seraphic mood may be problematic to those who do not whole-heartedly admire Fauré’s Requiem
, more or less a contemporary work. On the other hand, like the religious songs of Schubert, this music never cloys; Gounod or César Franck identify with their texts in a more personal way which make a different impression. Fauré has learned much from Gounod, particularly in a setting like this; but as in Clair de lune
he keeps his distance as if avoiding avowals made in the first person. This is a portrait of devotion, a picture of someone at prayer, rather than the composer at prayer himself. The creation of an atmosphere of heartfelt piety seems effortless, the progression of harmonies a miracle of fluidity. Only Fauré could have written this music. At ‘Révélez-Vous à moi’ the triplet accompaniment cedes to a motif of crotchets which wafts across the stave as if the Holy Spirit revealed; on the song’s last page this alternates in an almost liturgical manner with triplets, and is repeated no fewer than five times, as if in benediction.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2005