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First line:
Ô silence des nuits dont la voix seule est douce
author of text

L’absent (1876) is said to have been written for the composer’s wife as a rather belated apology in song (the words are Gounod’s own) for his English escapade with Mrs Weldon. The story about this was so well known and discussed in the drawing rooms of both Paris and London at the time that an open recantation of this sort must have seemed appropriate. It might not have been lost on Gounod that such a public statement of mea culpa was also a strong selling point for the music. The piece is probably one of the composer’s most famous mélodies, and with justification. The rippling accompaniment flows seraphically beneath an exceptionally beautiful (and extremely difficult) long-breathed vocal line. César Franck might easily have written this perfumed and beatific music. It is to Gounod’s credit that he somehow avoids the sugary sentimentality which would make the listener question the composer’s sincerity. In a good performance the music radiates a noble sense of regret and loss, with just the slightest whiff of attitudinizing. It helps to have the words sung by a soprano; men and women have a different way of spinning a line.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1993


Gounod: Songs


Track 18 on CDA66801/2 CD1 [4'05] 2CDs

Track-specific metadata for CDA66801/2 disc 1 track 18

Recording date
5 May 1993
Recording venue
St Paul's Church, New Southgate, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Arthur Johnson
Recording engineer
Keith Warren
Hyperion usage
  1. Gounod: Songs (CDA66801/2)
    Disc 1 Track 18
    Release date: October 1993
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