Ma belle amie est morte
, composed in London in 1872, marks a return to Gautier and to the texts used by Berlioz in Nuits d’été
. It seems likely that Gounod knew the Berlioz setting (both composers use the rocking barcarolle rhythm of compound time for this Lamento
, the subtitle of which is Chanson du pêcheur
) but he has not been in the least influenced by the older composer’s scrupulous attitude to the text. Gounod simply plunders the poem for his needs: he takes the first four lines of the first strophe and the final six lines of the last. Because the composer runs these lines together to make a seamless musical structure this song is one of the very few by Gounod which is not strophic. In this regard as well as in the richness of the harmonic language it seems influenced by one of Gounod’s younger contemporaries—Duparc seems to be a candidate in this instance although most of that master’s songs were written after Ma belle amie est morte
. The undulating rhythm of Fauré’s Les berceaux
(1879) also comes to mind. These pre-echoes show that Gounod was as prescient as ever in being able to write, when he chose, in the new romantic style of the song composers who counted Wagner, rather than Schubert, as their inspiration.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1993