This is a song where word and tone were not married by the composer himself. It is the last of the songs in the second recueil, sixteen posthumously published so-called mélodies – a confusing selection of works rehashed from unknown and incomplete Bizet operas. In order not to waste the master’s good tunes, bleeding chunks were excised from various works for which new words were sometimes commissioned. Here the famous hack Mendès takes a hand at inventing a text to the touching melody, and it is quite skilfully done in its way. Winton Dean avers that it is almost certain that this music originally came from the opera La coupe du roi de Thulé
of which only a fragment survives. The mutilation of the composer’s scores (for the preparation of these Seize mélodies
among other things) and the carelessness with which his manuscripts were treated, form one of the saddest stories in French music – it seems that even after his death Bizet’s bad luck continued. He was also unlucky in that Geneviève Bizet did not belong to that admirable band of composer’s widows who have taken it upon themselves to promote and protect the interests of their husbands’ music. Even Constanze Mozart, not unimpeachable in this respect, was a more careful guardian.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1998