This is another Cazalis (or Jean Lahor) setting which dates from 1873. Although the song is not well known, the tune is familiar because it was the basis of Saint-Saëns’ tone poem of the same name written in 1874. And we also hear a quotation from it in the Fossils section of Le Carnaval des animaux/i>, a delightful instance of wry self-quotation. No one could claim that this was a great mélodie, but it is certainly amusing. Any song which contains the words ‘Zig et zig et zag’ and the conspiratorial ‘Mais psit!’ suggests a deliberate, indeed a flagrant, lapse of taste as the composer lets his hair down in a manner which our times could only describe as ‘camp’. From the very first strident tritones (the intervalus diabolus) twanging in the piano we are in for a Disneyland ride through the Haunted House (apart, that is, from the unacceptable-to-Disney descriptions of copulation, where the class barrier is forgotten between cartwright and marchioness—Lady Chatterley’s Lover encapsulated in a few bars of song). All this is great fun for the audience in a recital programme. For the performers there are problems: with diction because of the speed of the words (particularly for a non-French singer), and with the challenging octaves in the piano part (particularly for a pianist with less than Saint-Saëns’ own dazzling virtuosity).
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1997