Here is Fauré attempting to find a style that is suitably profound for this very serious poem of Baudelaire. The composer had high hopes for this setting as is shown by its dedication to Henri Duparc, the only French composer who has truly got to the heart of that elusive poet. The first two strophes are set in Fauré’s solemn style (the song it most resembles is Seule!
), the words engraved on stone like a classical pronouncement, with just a hint of contrapuntal commentary in the piano. After the word ‘arrose’ this parched music is watered and melts from static crotchets into quavers, from flats into the naturals of major key. This is only the first stage of resuscitation; after the word ‘Amour’ the tempo quickens (un poco più mosso); the accompaniment takes on a quasi philosophical, lieder-like quality, as if the song were by César Franck, or Schumann–Brahms at one remove. This pianistic style – rambling arpeggios and uncharacteristic acciacaturas – attempts to plumb new depths, but in vain. The music is not without interest or beauty (at the mention of angels at the end of the song we hear a distant prophecy of Une sainte en son auréole
from La bonne chanson
) but it never achieves unity with Baudelaire’s text.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2005