The celebratory poem of Georgette Debladis, C'est la paix
, could not mask the horror of the war for Fauré or his acute awareness that far too many did not return from the fray. One of these, a cross-channel brother-in-art to Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen (though far less famous) was Jean de la Ville de Mirmont (1886–1914). As a frontispiece to the second edition of Jean de la Ville’s poems (1947) François Mauriac draws a touching pen-portrait of a talented fellow-student from Bordeaux – a tall, good-looking young man of the greatest sensibility. Born in a busy port, his poetry is full of dreams and fantasies concerning travel: Baudelaire-like journeys never undertaken, visits to continents as yet undiscovered and from which no vessel has ever returned. The poet died bravely in the first year of the war, leaving only a few works – Lettres de guerre
sent to his parents from the front, and a slim recueil
of poems. This was published in 1920 with engravings by Léon Dusouchet (one of which is reproduced here). The title of the first group of fourteen poems (from a total of forty-one) gave its name to the entire collection – L’horizon chimérique
– and to Fauré’s cycle. The poems the composer chose for setting are numbered 13, 14, 11 and 5 in the poet’s sequence. Fauré might have refused to write a work celebrating the allied victory, but one feels that he wished to honour a talent from the ranks of the fallen. Very untypically he did not alter a word of the poet’s texts (although he did excise one strophe). The work was given its first performance by its dedicatee, the talented young baritone Charles Panzéra (destined to become one of the most famous of French singers) in May 1922, accompanied by his wife, Magdeleine Panzéra-Baillot.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2005