Could there be anything more painful than witnessing a fading love? I doubt it. Having explored German poetry for many years – you will remember my enthusiasm for Rainer Maria Rilke and Heinrich Heine – I have recently turned my attention to French poets. Paul Verlaine is among those who interest me right now, and I found a beautiful and very sad poem with the title “Colloque Sentimental” (Sentimental Colloquium). Let me quote the first lines:
Dans le vieux parc solitaire et glacé,
Deux formes ont tout à l’heure passé.
Leurs yeux sont morts et leurs lèvres sont molles,
Et l’on entend à peine leurs paroles.1
So sad. Just as sad as Edouard Lalo’s Trio No. 1 in C minor (Op. 7). And so beautiful at the same time. Lalo was born some 20 years before Verlaine, yet both died in the same decade, in 1892 and 1896 respectively. Lalo composed and published this piece in 1850 at the age of 27. He was no longer a young man and he was beginning to leave his mark on French music.
Hugh MacDonald writes in a piece for Oxford Music Online: “The revival of interest in chamber music in France in the 1850s owed much to Lalo, for he was a founder-member of the Armingaud Quartet, formed in 1855 with the aim of making better known the quartets of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and also of Mendelssohn and Schumann; Lalo played the viola and later second violin.” By 1853 Lalo would have written two trios before turning his attention to the composition of operas, a decision that would lead to one of is biggest deception in life.
Lalo composed his Trio No. 1 in C minor in four movements: Allegro moderato, followed by a Romance Andante, a Scherzo Allegretto and a Finale Allegro. In terms of musical language it is aligned on the Romantic works for chamber music of Robert Schumann and even more of Felix Mendelssohn. Critics would say that for a French composer his music was too German, but the second half of the 19th century was marked by a growing rivalry between German and other European powers likes France, Great Britain and Russia, so this argument has little to do with art and a lot with politics. This said, there never was anything wrong with German Romantic music.
Spring might not be the appropriate time to listen to this trio and to think about a dying love, death or other rather unpleasant concepts. However, all things considered, I am beginning to take note of how quickly time is passing and that this spring too will be over when I have hardly realized it has begun. Tempus fugit.
© Charles Thibo
1In an old, deserted and frozen park,
Two forms just passed.
Their eyes are dead and their lips are soft,
And one barely hears what they say.