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Venise

First line:
Dans Venise la rouge
composer
1842
author of text

 
Appropriately enough, Venise is a song from Gounod’s Italian period, and it is a barcarole. At more or less the same time Robert Schumann was composing the Thomas Moore Venetian songs for his Myrthen cycle. Despite the inevitable and constant limitations of strophic form, the composer triumphantly succeeds in holding up a musical mirror not only to the melodically curvaceous beauties of ‘La Serenissima’ but also to the dark city of intrigue and forbidden delights. Musset’s original paean to Venice was much longer, but Gounod pruned it mercilessly to find the right shape for his song. Musset re-wrote the poem after 1866; the earlier version used by Gounod refers, in the last strophe, to the occupation of Venice (Austria governed the city for nearly seventy years in the wake of the Napoleonic wars) and a Frenchmen’s outrage at the injustice of it, albeit caused by his former emperor. There was doubtless some talk of politics at the Villa Medici and the younger residents might well have been in sympathy with the Young Italy party and the aims of the Risorgimento for a new united nation. This song, however, highlights the atmosphere of the old Venice at the height of its powers—in the time of Monteverdi perhaps—the better to contrast the city’s former freedoms with its present plight. The extraordinary piano introduction (which also does service as an interlude) suggests whispering and bustling, the rustling of silk skirts and clandestine assignations as much as the dancing of light reflected on the waters of a moonlit lagoon. Once the voice enters, the vocal line is underpinned by a bass line, sensually rocking in arpeggios of tenths so as to suggest undercurrents both aquatic and personal. Fauré must have known this song which evokes so well the gentle bobbing of gondolas tied to the poles of noblemen’s palaces; we hear the same undertow in his celebrated song Les berceaux. Venise has always been considered one of Gounod’s most successful songs; in 1855 he arranged it for four-handed accompaniment.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1993

Recordings

Gounod: Songs
CDA66801/22CDs
Souvenirs de Venise
CDH55217

Details

Track 10 on CDH55217 [4'04]
Track 3 on CDA66801/2 CD1 [4'29] 2CDs

Track-specific metadata for CDH55217 track 10

Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-86-11210
Duration
4'04
Recording date
13 September 1983
Recording venue
St Barnabas's Church, North Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Martin Compton
Recording engineer
Antony Howell
Hyperion usage
  1. Souvenirs de Venise (CDA66112)
    Disc 1 Track 10
    Release date: September 1987
    Deletion date: July 2005
    Superseded by CDH55217
  2. Souvenirs de Venise (CDH55217)
    Disc 1 Track 10
    Release date: September 2005
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