Despite this song’s relatively late date of 1888, this is another example of a return to an earlier style. It is astonishing to realise that it dates from the same time as Debussy’s Ariettes oubliées
, not to mention Wolf’s Mörike Lieder
, for it cheerfully ignores the Zeitgeist in the interests of entertaining us. After forty years of song-writing the van of fashionable modernity has lost its allure for Saint-Saëns. The catalyst for this boyish romp is the poetry of Victor Hugo of course, and very teasingly charming the result is. There is a pastoral frame about this music as if the choice between Suzette and Suzon were to be made in Arcadia. In actual fact this song was destined for the salon, and the home. It was designed to sell well, and it has all the marks of a set-piece for a dapper amateur baritone. The accompaniment consists of alternating notes in the left and right hands, a perfect means of conveying the ‘either/or’ alternatives, and the prevaricating poet’s state of mind.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1997