An Ephemeral Flow of Beautiful Notes

A summer evening. © Charles Thibo

I had warned you. Here’s more from Gabriel Fauré and another laudation for the art song, as anachronistic as it may sound to some. In 1919, Fauré wrote a cycle of four songs for voice and piano, based on four of the poems from the collection of the same name by  a baroness of the name of Renée de Brimont: Mirages, op. 113. The composition saw its premiere at the Société Nationale de Musique on 27 December 1919, sung by the Soprano Madeleine Grey. Fauré was the pianist for the premiere. By this time he was almost deaf, and it was the last time he played at an event of the Société Nationale de Musique.

When I shot the picture illustrating the text I was on my way back from a picnic with family and friends on a lovely summer evening. I rode the bike along the Moselle and happened to see the reflection of that evening mood in the water. “Mirages” has a lot to do with water. Fauré wrote these songs during his summer holidays in Annecy-le-Vieux on the Lac d’Annecy in the south-east of France. The first two song have the titles “Cygne sur l’eau” (Swan on the Water) and “Reflets dans l’eau” (Reflections on the Water). The last two are at least connected to the flowing and ephemeral elements – light and movement: “Jardin nocturne” (Nocturnal Garden) and “Danseuse” (Dancer).

Flowing and ephemeral – two attributes of Fauré’s song cycle. Grace and elegance are two other ways to characterize this composition. Finally, they are decidedly modern – if you listen carefully to the last song, this becomes obvious. The piano plays notes that do not seem to be at the right place, they are obtrusive, they break the melodic flow of the voice. Truly interesting! The researcher Jean-Michel Nectoux notes in an article for Oxford Music Online that Fauré, at the end of his productive life, “pursued a solitary and confident course, ignoring the attractive innovations of younger composers and the beguiling elements of his 1880s style. The increasing economy of expression, boldness of harmony and enrichment of polyphony give his work of this period an authentic place in 20th-century composition […]”.

Like the previously presented work “Chanson d’Eve”, “Mirages” has been recorded by Yumi Nara (soprano) and Monique Bouvet (piano).

© Charles Thibo

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de Chareli

Writer, photographer, piano student, music enthusiast. And a lot more. You are welcome to follow my blog.

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