of 1870 (for the poem’s theme is prophetic of Ravel’s song) finds Saint-Saëns in salon mode, but astonishingly it prophesies the salon of the future. In 1870, five years before the birth of Reynaldo Hahn, most salon songs were much more melodic than this, determined to keep the attention of their audiences with vocal display, local colour, or at least winning charm. By these standards there is something minimalist about this song which could easily pass for one of Hahn’s, and it could have been sung by him with a cigarette between his lips at a party circa 1899 without anyone doubting that it was his. It has all the signs of the Reynaldo touch: an accompaniment made up of a hypnotic little ostinato, not distinguished in itself, but something which bit by bit impinges on our memory; and then a vocal line which languidly suggests speech, and tugs at the heartstrings by its self-effacing tact as it describes the sweet masochism of impossible, perhaps forbidden, love.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1997