Hyperion Records

Les chansons des roses
composer
1993
author of text

Recordings
'Lauridsen: Nocturnes & other choral works' (CDA67580)
Lauridsen: Nocturnes & other choral works
Details
No 1: En une seule fleur  C'est pourtant nous qui t'avons proposé
No 2: Contre qui, rose
No 3: De ton rêve trop plein
No 4: La rose complète  J'ai une telle conscience de ton
No 5: Dirait-on  Abandon entouré d'abandon

Les chansons des roses
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If the creation of the Mid-Winter Songs was the result of the composer’s close reading of the works of a British poet, the origin of Les chansons des roses (1993) stems from Lauridsen’s abiding love of the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke. Aside from poems written in his native tongue of German, Rilke created a substantial body of French verse. The first of Rilke’s French poems to be set by Lauridsen, a lovely and mysterious poem concerning a rose, was Dirait-on, which is scored for chorus and piano. In Dirait-on Lauridsen magically evokes the wistfulness of the chansons populaires immortalized by Edith Piaf. The artistic success of Dirait-on encouraged the composer to select four more of Rilke’s French poems celebrating roses; the result was the glowing choral cycle on this disc.

Just as with the Mid-Winter Songs, Les chansons des roses are cast as an arch form. Lauridsen devised an ingenious and subtly interconnected formal design by further developing the musical materials of the opening movement, En une seule fleur, in the third, De ton rêve trop plein, while bringing the materials of the second movement, Contre qui, rose, to full consummation in the fourth section, La rose complète. Thus Dirait-on, written first but placed last, becomes the voluptuous summation of the entire work. Lauridsen brilliantly emphasizes the cumulative quality of Dirait-on—which is filled with elaborate polyphony that flows by as naturally as a stream—by reserving the entry of the piano for this luminous finale. (While Lauridsen’s expertise at writing for choral forces is often commented on, his elegantly judged writing for piano is equally assured; as is evident on this recording, the composer himself is an expert pianist who coaxes particularly alluring sonorities from the keyboard.)

Unlike the extroverted intensity that characterizes the Mid-Winter Songs, Les chansons des roses are so intimate as to suggest an introspective self-communing. Lauridsen has remarked how certain lines in Rilke’s verse attracted him immediately and how in Contre qui, rose he was particularly touched by this poet’s expression of ‘the state of giving love and not receiving it back’. Like the German poet, the American composer has tapped a profound source of inspiration by contemplating the evanescent beauty of a rose. In his perceptive volume Reading Rilke: Reflections on the Problems of Translation William H Gass aptly describes how images of this flower pervade this sensitive poet’s œuvre: ‘Roses climb his life as if he were their trellis.’ So, too, in his Les chansons des roses, Lauridsen translates the poet’s love for roses into rapturous music that entwines its way throughout the trellis of the listener’s memory.

from notes by Byron Adams © 2007

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