This enchantingly mournful serenade of a persistent, if unsuccessful lover, is Fauré distilled to the essentials. In this ‘madrigal’ we might imagine the gentle plucking of a lute, although the strength of the bass line, almost a counter-melody in itself, depends on the legato tone of a piano to make its effect. The harmonic plan suggests time-travel; G flat and D natural in the key of F minor add a Gregorian flavour to the cadences. The song’s mood defies easy description: Jankélévitch likens its effect to ‘the smell of the rain on iron balconies on certain October nights’. Despite a textual reference to ‘la saison nouvelle’ autumn does indeed predominate in musical terms; the contemporary Dans la forêt de septembre
(Mendès) shows that Fauré was facing his sixtieth birthday with a mixture of graceful acceptance and sadness. Here even the composer’s choice of Silvestre shows a nostalgia for the past; the poem goes back to the poet’s early published collection, La chanson des heures
(1878). We feel that the gallant Don Ottavio who treads this pathway will always pay court to feminine beauty while dreaming of more youthful days. The poem’s last syllable is dovetailed with a six-bar postlude, a fragmented version of the opening melody that is repeated like a lover’s despondent sigh in a lower register of the keyboard.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2005