This is another poem from Albert Samain’s Au jardin de l’Infante
. The song is Fauré’s final farewell to the courtly world of Verlaine’s Fêtes galantes
– the park that is mentioned here with its ‘nymphs’ suggest an eighteenth-century landscape au clair de lune. Samain’s poem itself is part of a fantasy sequence (an extended Embarquement pour Cythère
) which begins with a parody of Gautier’s Où voulez-vous aller?
, the poem before Arpège
, describes a ‘Fête à Bergame’ (the ‘bergamasque’, a dance that originated in Bergamo, appears in the Fauré/Verlaine Clair de lune
) where ‘Lulli’ conducts an orchestra of strings and flutes. Lully wrote the original music for Le bourgeois gentilhomme
(1670) and Arpège
has a strong similarity to the Sérénade
from Fauré’s music for the same Molière play (1893) – a 9/8 rhythm with skipping dotted rhythms, and similar trills and ornaments. Are these allusions meant to amuse Emma Bardac, fan of Samain’s poetry? The music for the first strophe in the minor key is elegant and deft, somewhat malign (for a ‘nuit de mensonge’); the second strophe recalls the barcarolle of the Venetian À Clymène
(gondolas are a feature of this Samain fantasy sequence); the final verse in the major key is perhaps the most original with its sighing descents of triplets in octaves, music for a swoon, if not a Liebestod, compressed sequences of harmony in continual metamorphosis. The postlude, now in the major key, traverses the keyboard lightheartedly, bottom to top, as if to admit that the whole of this song has been nothing more than a jeu d’esprit at a fancy-dress ball.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2005