In the 1860s Gounod continued successfully to write operas, and there were not a great many mélodies written in this period—the song explosion of the early 1870s was yet to come. With such works as Mireille
and Roméo et Juliette
Gounod consolidated his already enormous reputation as a stage composer. The song Ce que je suis sans toi
is typical of the mélodie of this period: it is lively and tuneful but it does not seek to recapture the profundity of the composer’s response to Lamartine. After all, the text is by a much lesser poet. The rueful use of sequences, syncopation and chromatic harmony is highly effective (it is as if the singer in the absence of her beloved is searching for a steady home tonality—the bobbing, syncopated accompaniment inspired no doubt by the lines ‘un frêle esquif parmi les flots’ in the last verse ) and as always there is ample chance for change of colour within the strophes. As always there is great charm in this music.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1993