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Le charme, Op 2 No 2

First line:
Quand ton sourire me surprit
October 1879
author of text

The poem appears in Chansons des heures, the most recent volume of verse by Armand Silvestre to have appeared when Chausson set about composing this song. The poet’s title is Pour une voix, and the sub-section of the book is entitled Vers pour être chanté; Fauré found the text for his Le plus doux chemin on the previous page. Silvestre was an important figure in the history of the mélodie, above all through his contributions to the œuvres of Fauré and Massenet; but a prolific poet and popular novelist, Silvestre was also set by Bizet, Castillon, Delibes, Duparc, Lalo, and even by as modern a composer as Albert Roussel. This span of influence is a wide one considering the poet’s first collection (1866) had been prefaced by George Sand.

If Silvestre was not a poet of the very first rank, most composers of the time found themselves in sympathy with his irrepressible enthusiasm for women and his ability to cloak erotic thoughts in an acceptably high-flown way (cf Chabrier’s Credo d’amour). The setting of this poem seems to coincide with the composer’s own loneliness and his frustration at being unable to find a suitable mate (the situation was resolved with Chausson’s marriage in 1883). It is highly unusual for this composer to double the vocal line with the accompaniment in this way (‘comme deux personages fondus en un seul’ as Isabelle Bretaudeau puts it), and there is nothing elsewhere in the songs quite like the sumptuous descent in to the abyss of the final cadence at ‘ta première larme!’. This is attractive music, with the prosody of the poem well reflected by the vocal line’s stopping and starting. In short, a perfect salon song which nevertheless bears genuine trademarks of the Chausson style.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2001


Chausson: Songs
CDA67321/22CDs Archive Service


Track 3 on CDA67321/2 CD1 [1'55] 2CDs Archive Service

Track-specific metadata for CDA67321/2 disc 1 track 3

Recording date
2 July 1999
Recording venue
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Mark Brown
Recording engineer
Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Hyperion usage
  1. Chausson: Songs (CDA67321/2)
    Disc 1 Track 3
    Release date: March 2001
    Deletion date: June 2015
    2CDs Archive Service
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