Recorded on 04/07/2010, uploaded on 05/02/2010
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Known for his grandiose compositions—the Symphonie fantastique, Harold en Italie and Roméo et Juliette—that established him as the leading exponent of Romanticism in France, Hector Berlioz also contributed to the genre of art song, answering in part the call for vocal music of a French character that would be brought to fulfillment by a later generation of composers. Completed in 1841, the song cycle Les Nuits d’été (Summer Nights) is based on a collection of poems by the poet Théophile Gautier. Concerning itself with the theme of romantic love, the poems also invoke the setting indicated by the title. Berlioz originally composed the songs for low voice (mezzo-soprano, contralto or baritone) but later adapted the cycle for soprano while also rescoring the songs with orchestral accompaniment.
The penultimate song in the cycle, “Au cimetière,” is a lament sung by the grave of a dead lover. Solemn, but gentle, chords create a pensive atmosphere in the opening measures. The vocal melody, likewise, is reflective and at first is confined within a narrow melodic span, as if unwilling to break the solemn air. At the beginning of the third stanza, with the line “On dirait que l'âme éveillée,” the bass quickens depicting the “awakened soul” and the voice moves to a lower register. In the next stanza, the accompaniment becomes enlivened with the words “Sur les ailes de la musique” (“On the wings of music”) and the vocal melody soars once again into its upper compass. The song returns to its reflective demeanor. However, the last stanza becomes agitated as the poet states that he will never return to the grave of his lost love at night. Joseph DuBose
Courtesy of International Music Foundation.
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