This song gives the satisfying impression of a perfectly planned scherzo movement from a piece of chamber music. This and the ballad Le pas d’armes du Roi Jean
are quintessential Hugo songs. They display to the best advantage the broad sweep and energy of the poet, and Saint-Saëns rises magnificently to the occasion with a moto perpetuo that suggests that he might have known the music of Mendelssohn (the Octet, for instance) or even some of the songs like Hexenlied
or Neue Liebe
. Wagner set this poem as early as 1842 and there is a possibility that in 1855 the twenty-year-old composer modelled his song on the master’s (titled Attente
). Wagner, a composer whom Saint-Saëns venerated as a young man, also writes a stirring moto perpetuo with throbbing right-hand chords suggestive of the horse-ride which brings together two lovers after an unbearable absence.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1997