(1876) is said to have been written for the composer’s wife as a rather belated apology in song (the words are Gounod’s own) for his English escapade with Mrs Weldon. The story about this was so well known and discussed in the drawing rooms of both Paris and London at the time that an open recantation of this sort must have seemed appropriate. It might not have been lost on Gounod that such a public statement of mea culpa was also a strong selling point for the music. The piece is probably one of the composer’s most famous mélodies, and with justification. The rippling accompaniment flows seraphically beneath an exceptionally beautiful (and extremely difficult) long-breathed vocal line. César Franck might easily have written this perfumed and beatific music. It is to Gounod’s credit that he somehow avoids the sugary sentimentality which would make the listener question the composer’s sincerity. In a good performance the music radiates a noble sense of regret and loss, with just the slightest whiff of attitudinizing. It helps to have the words sung by a soprano; men and women have a different way of spinning a line.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1993