The poem is from Hugo’s Les contemplations
(1856). The famous setting of these words is by Reynaldo Hahn (1888). The Hillemacher brothers set the poem before Hahn, and Reber set the poem before the Hillemachers. Hahn, at the age of thirteen, penned a coup de maître as his coup d’essai—music youthfully ardent yet languid with the perfume of the Décadence. The Hillemachers, a decade or so earlier, are more taken with the poem’s fleet imagery of wings and flight. The vocal line entwines canonically with the piano accompaniment in breathless rapture. The final ‘des ailes/Comme l’amour’ is murmured on a monotone as the piano traces the contour of the principal melody. Here, as elsewhere, the strength and independence of the Hillemachers bass line prophesies Ravel.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2006
English: Richard Stokes