The whole piece is an itch translated into musical terms, a marvellous depiction of an annoyance which gets on the nerves (the ‘petit démon’ plagues the singer and makes him jumpy) but which contains a hidden allure. The erotic implications are also clear – this ‘demon’ seems determined to invade the singer’s ‘vine’ at all costs and we gather by the end of the piece that this incursion would not be entirely unwelcome. Although the piece is hardly distinguished in itself (and it probably outstays its welcome like many such strophic songs) it is a signpost to those sides of Chabrier which were profoundly to influence later generations, musical wit taken beyond Offenbach towards the shores of Erik Satie and the distant horizons of Francis Poulenc. It is thanks to Chabrier’s unbuttoning of French music that both of these later composers felt able to indulge their interest in cabaret-type material as part and parcel of their mainstream creative achievement. Perhaps it was just as well that Chabrier did not fancy himself as a ‘serious’ composer of the mélodie like his colleagues Fauré and Duparc. If he had, he would probably not have been able to create a song such as this with such unselfconscious zest.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2002
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