Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Berlioz, Nuits d'été. Janet Baker.n°3. Sur les lagunes.


Text: Pierre-Jules-Théophile Gautier (1811-1872)

Sur les lagunes/
On the lagoons

My beautiful love is dead,
I shall weep always;
Into the tomb, she has taken
My soul and my love.
Without waiting for me,
She has returned to heaven.
The angel which took her there
Did not want to take me.
How bitter is my fate!
Ah! without love, to go to sea!

The white creature
Is lying in the coffin;
How all in Nature
Seems bereaved to me!
The forgotten dove
Weeps and dreams of the one who is absent;
My soul cries and feels
That it has been abandoned.
How bitter is my fate,
Ah! without love, to go to sea!

Above me the immense night
Spreads itself like a shroud;
I sing my romanza
That heaven alone hears.

Ah! how beautiful she was,
And how I loved her!
I will never love
Another woman as much as I loved her;
How bitter is my fate!
ah! without love, to go to sea!
To go to sea!

17 comments:

  1. I think my favorite part of this movement is the very end, after Janet sings her last "Ah! sans amour s'en aller sur la mer!/ S'en aller sur la mer!" She does this plaintive cry that ends on scale degree 5. There has been this huge outpouring of grief and anguish in the main body of the song, and now all she can do is let out a small cry. I wonder why Berlioz chose to end it on s.d. 5, because this makes the song sound open- ended; does the poet still have some small hope that his lover isn't dead, or that he will soon join her? That lack of finality makes the song all the more heart- breaking.

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  2. I agree, Emily, closing the song with a half cadence (I-V) gives it a lack of finality which makes the song seem even more tragic. Janet Baker has such a wonderful dark quality and tone color to her voice in this song. I thought the performance was truly moving. This song has a huge range, too! Did anyone else notice that low note? It is an F-flat below middle C; the highest note is a G-flat on top of the treble staff--over 2 octaves!

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  3. It is really incredible how sensitive Berlioz is to the text in this piece. When he gets to the lines about being alone without love, he really isolates the vocal line and the text becomes really clear and transparent. Of course, the vocalist needs to bring attention to those moments and really make each one special. The sense of isolation in this performance is really brilliant!

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  4. It was interesting to watch Dame Baker's vowels throughout this movement. She is able to keep such a clear, focused sound even with the most open [a]s and [E]s, and even relatively low in her range (ie her first entrance or "comme un linceul"). I must also comment on the excellent example she gives us of a graceful transition between movements in such an intense musical and dramatic setting. She collects herself and takes a moment to breath, but does not break that focused presence that keeps the audience engaged and the ensemble in line with one another.

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  5. Needless to say, I want to sing this song. I greatly admire Janet Baker's low range, especially considering the heights from which she occasionally descends to it. What really gets me about this song is not the melody, which is heartrending, but the way it relates to the orchestration beneath it. This stood out to me in particular relief during the lines "Ah! Sans amour s'en aller sur lar mer!" The frightening, unknown nature of the sea is masterfully amplified by this setting.

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  6. Berlioz was the king of orchestration and these songs show off his sensitivity and tastefulness in complementing the singer. I love Baker's timbre to her voice throughout the piece. It's raw and devastated but still round as can be.

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  7. The opening motive is aurally so noticeable that it keeps a tragic presence throughout the movement. It is a lamenting presence that, by the end, overtakes the singer as she cries "Ah". Janet Baker's tone color and emotional involvement really make this piece work for me because at moments I thought Berlioz could have been more experimental with the texture. I am not a huge fan of pulsing chords in an orchestra.

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  8. What a heartbreaking poem. Berlioz translates this sentiment effectively in his musical setting. Baker, of course, brings the whole thing to an entirely new level with her musical phrasing and expression which highlight the emotional content of the poem and music.

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  9. Michael, I'm glad you said something about that low note because that was a cool moment that I liked as well; and wow! that range really is large. I appreciate that she used a slightly darker tone for most of the piece as it really did add to the whole of the piece.

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  10. I was very moved by Baker's performance, it was so expressive and passionate! She is truly a great artist!

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  11. What an incredible performance. Her level of commitment to the text and the emotion behind the words is very inspiring. Because the strength of the emotions she is conveying are so intense, Ms. Baker used her body a lot more actively in this song in particular. I found it to be very appropriate and natural. I never once felt as if there were any extraneous movements. Instead, the movement felt natural, and never overly affected.

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  12. What an incredible performance. Her level of commitment to the text and the emotion behind the words is very inspiring. Because the strength of the emotions she is conveying are so intense, Ms. Baker used her body a lot more actively in this song in particular. I found it to be very appropriate and natural. I never once felt as if there were any extraneous movements. Instead, the movement felt natural, and never overly affected.

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  13. I am amazed at her visceral performance. She uses such exciting color in tone and diction to portray the despair and rage in the song, yet somehow the performance feels contained and precise as well.

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  14. Such a powerful and dramatic performance. If I didn't recognize the language as French, I might mistake this for a moment from a Wagner opera.

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  15. This is another piece where Baker's lower register is just thrilling. Her emotional transition into this piece was moving and her performance was so visceral and honest, but still maintains that French intellectuality that we discussed in class. She is incredibly precise. Her absolute commitment to the poetry is really inspiring and makes her love and respect for this music so evident.

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  16. This is a piece where I found myself totally captivated by the text setting. The text itself is packed with contrast: light imagery that refers to heaven and angels is placed next to macabre imagery of corpses and the grave. I think my favorite thing about Berlioz's setting is that he takes the contrasts in the text and proceeds juxtapose even further: the text that deals with angels, doves, and heaven is set to dirge-like minor tonalities, and the moment where the singer directly refers to the corpse of the beloved is characterized by a beautiful moment of major tonality. I think Berlioz's use of juxtaposition gives this piece a high level of multiplicity and complexity.

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  17. My initial reaction to this cycle is that its emotional outpourings remind me of German lieder. At least in comparison to the French art songs of Debussy and Faure, I find that this music by Berlioz is such a different world of music. It doesn't seem reserved at all but carries a kind of intensity that reminds me more of Mahler, possibly because of the string orchestration. It has a depth and warmth that leaves space for a certain kind of rawness in emotion.

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