Some twenty years before his life-changing visit to Venice with Winnaretta Singer (later the Princesse de Polignac) Fauré evokes the haunting bitter-sweet mood of ‘Serenissima’, with its gondolier calls resounding across the lagoons. The vocal bel canto, inspired by Chopin’s great Barcarolle
, Op 60, and ornamented with Italianate acciaccature, is launched high in the stave and topples down in conjunct harmonic steps, a procedure which is a distinguishing feature in Fauré’s songs of the early period. The accompaniment is merely an echo of this quasi-improvised vocal flowering; the piano here temporarily withdraws as the driving force behind the composer’s ideas, reculer pour mieux sauter
. Once again this song is dedicated to Madame Viardot. Its inclusion in the Second Collection of songs, rather than the first where it truly belongs, results from a complicated piece of publishing history concerning Hamelle’s desire to equalize the number of songs in each of the collections to a round figure of twenty. The heading of the lyric in the 1872 edition of poems by Marc-Monnier (whose name is thus hyphenated by the publisher Lemerre) contains the words ‘Musique de F Gratz’ (Franz Gratz, 1803–1874, a Swiss composer resident in Paris, once well known).
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2005