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Chanson 'Nouvelle chanson sur un vieil air'

First line:
S'il est un charmant gazon
early, unpublished
author of text
Les chants du crépuscule (No 22)

A charming bit of fun this, devilishly difficult to play with its leaping basses and chords which take unexpected harmonic directions. The song has not been published and is one of the undated pieces of the composer’s juvenilia in the Bibliothèque Nationale. (It is titled simply as Chanson on the manuscript.) Both César Franck and Liszt set this poem to music with a greater sense of tenderness and romance. A certain sanctimonious quality (some of Hugo’s lyrics brought this out in his composers) sets in with both these masters’ work, but it is mercifully lacking here. The idea of ‘soul uniting with soul’ has not touched Saint-Saëns to any great degree, but the music is fun, having the feeling of a galop, with more than a touch of Offenbach to it. If anything, one is reminded of the deliberately iconoclastic setting of Poulenc’s Air Vif where the lofty Parnassian poetry of Moréas is wickedly sent up to delicious effect. Saint-Saëns means nothing so disrespectful here, but the ‘charmant gazon’ is certainly transferred from the Elysian Fields of the spirit to the Champs Elysées.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1997


Saint-Saëns: Songs


Track 1 on CDA66856 [2'47]

Track-specific metadata for CDA66856 track 1

Recording date
6 January 1996
Recording venue
Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Arthur Johnson
Recording engineer
Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Hyperion usage
  1. Saint-Saëns: Songs (CDA66856)
    Disc 1 Track 1
    Release date: January 1997
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