This is perhaps the best-known of Paladilhe’s songs, composed in 1887 and immortalized in the 1930s by a recording with Maggie Teyte and Gerald Moore. The British singer no doubt learned this music when it was very much still in vogue—the period, around 1908, in which she was living in Paris and working with Debussy. The text is taken from Psyché
(a comédie-ballet written by Molière in collaboration with the ageing Corneille, 1670). In Act II Scene 3 there is an extended dialogue (by Corneille) between the beautiful maiden and L’amour (Cupid) who has been sent by Venus to make Psyché fall in love with an unsightly monster, but who falls in love with her himself. The composer alters the text of the first line slightly: Psyché, the pure of heart, asks Cupid if one can be ‘jaloux’ of the ‘tendresses du sang’ and he replies ‘Je suis jaloux, Psyché, de toute la nature’. This song employs the Massenet style better than Massenet himself: a languid piano accompaniment appropriates the main melody while the vocal line is relegated to a parlando role. A careful listening to the freedom of this ‘spoken’ style reminds us that Debussy, and his future Pelléas
, owe a great deal to earlier composers; Debussy’s C’est l’extase langoureuse
(Verlaine) was written more or less at the same time as Psyché
. These two songs perfectly encapsulate the heady, perfumed atmosphere of a period, between 1880 and 1890, when Paris was in the grip of L’esprit décadent.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2006
English: Richard Stokes