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À quoi bon entendre les oiseaux des bois?

author of text
Ruy Blas (act 2, scene 1)

This delightful little serenade from 1868 is a good example of what makes Saint-Saëns such a sympathetic composer of songs. As a great virtuoso and pianist he could so easily have swamped this gentle little lyric with trills and frills and other excrescences. Instead he matched the words with exquisite probity, running the semiquavers between the hands as if he envisaged the tender outdoor warblings of a flute. It was Saint-Saëns in this mood which engraved itself on the imagination of the young Fauré when he began to write in his so-called ‘madrigal’ style (e.g. Chanson d’amour). Like his pupil, and like his grand-pupil Ravel, Saint-Saëns is part of that noble French tradition which realises that what is not said is as potent as the greatest oration. Although not important in itself, this song from the time when Duparc was beginning to compose mélodies in quite another manner, raises the banner of classicism.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1997


Saint-Saëns: Songs


Track 8 on CDA66856 [1'36]

Track-specific metadata for CDA66856 track 8

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 8
    Release date: January 1997
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