Early in his career Delibes collaborated with the ballet composer Minkus on La source, ou Naila
; he uses one of the themes of that work as the basis of this song. It is written in the soulful manner of the old French romance—in the triplet-accompanied rondo theme one is reminded somehow of Martini’s Plaisir d’amour
. After a rather portentous introduction of which Liszt might have been proud, we are introduced to the song’s main theme in F sharp minor. The gently rocking tune (in D major) for ‘Ô printemps sans retour!’ has the lilt of ballet music which prophesies Tchaikovsky (who admired Delibes enormously). The song’s rippling middle section in G flat major (from ‘Bien loin tu t’es enfuie’) has the seraphic quality we hear at the end of Fauré’s almost contemporary Chant d’automne
. The F sharp minor theme returns and softens into a musing coda in the tonic major. This is a difficult song; its vocal challenges take the music almost into operatic territory.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2006
English: Richard Stokes