This is one of the earliest songs on these discs, composed at a time when the composer had just made up his mind to attempt a musical career. It was natural that Chausson should have turned to one of the poets set by such established mélodie composers as Gounod (the famous song Venise), Bizet, Lalo and Franck. A few years later he would use a Musset play as the basis for his opéracomique Les caprices de Marianne composed between 1882 and 1884 (Op 4, unpublished).
The music for this harmless voyeur is quite charming—gently melodic with occasional signs that the composer was aiming at touches of originality in the piano writing. The unusual syncopated figure at the beginning of the vocal line is a sign of this, as well as the oscillating quaver accompaniment in the middle of the song which unintentionally prophesies the manner of the piano writing of the late Fauré (cf the opening of the cycle L’horizon chimérique). The echo in the accompaniment after the phrase ‘aimé un lourdaud’ has a genuine ache about it. It is significant that no sooner has he started writing mélodies than the composer opts to set a text that describes the plight of the excluded outsider, poetry of impotence and inaction rather than reward and fulfilment. The themes of renunciation and loss here make an early appearance in the Chausson canon.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2001