Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Berlioz, Nuits d'été. Janet Baker.n°4. Absence.

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


Come back, come back, my dearest love!
Like a flower far from the sun,
The flower of my life has drooped,
removed from the charm of your smile.

Between our hearts how long a distance!
What a wide space our kisses divide!
O bitter fate! O cruel absence!
O longing vain, unsatisfied!

To that far land where dwells my love,
Alas! if I could only go!
If wings were tied to my body,
As to my soul, then I would fly!

Far away, above the green hill tops,
The lofty mountains with peaks of blue,
The meadows gay, the babbling rivers,
With quick, sure wing I'd take my flight!

The body can't keep up with thought!
With me the spirit goes ahead,
Just like a poor dove that is wounded
And lights on the roof of his cot.


  1. I'm just guessing, but I would say that the reason no one has commented on this one yet is that Berlioz is writing this piece in an older style. This song, I would think, would be the hardest to pull off in the whole cycle. Because it does not really have the crazy form twists that are present in so much of the music from this time, one must really be able to accurately portray every line of the text and not make the repeated musical sections appear to be repeats. This strophic form of music is particularly suited to a text that exhorts the love to return, return. In the same way, the form returns each time.

  2. Derek! I agree. This song not only requires so much control, the harmonies can be harder to fit into than the other piece. This text is so wonderfully French and colorful. Thanks for posting these!!!

  3. I love the opening measures of the work which happen quite a few times because of the strophic form. It is as if she is actually interacting with the orchestra. Calling "Reviens.....reviens". Spatial perception is very interesting in music and this opening seems very spatial, which I believe makes it instantly recognizable when it returns. It does not sound like musical imitation but a literal calling after something in the distance. I love the comparison of the sun and the smile. I believe the translation distorts the French a little bit. I would translate it as:
    Like a flower far from the sun,
    The flower of my life has closed
    Far from your rosy smile.

  4. Derek, thanks for bringing up the obvious about Berlioz style of writing in this song cycle as I wasn't thinking of it in terms of history, being so caught up in the beauty of the piece. Berlioz seems to be one of those composers that may not be as dedicated to one type of writing, which is cool and exciting as a listener, but can be deceiving. Now I've got more to think about in terms of his compositional style. Thank you!

  5. Again, the dynamic and dramatic contrast that she achieves is superb and her performance has me on the edge of my seat!

  6. Again, the dynamic and dramatic contrast that she achieves is superb and her performance has me on the edge of my seat!

  7. Baker's voice is so beautiful, especially in the quiet passages! Not sure if it's the recording's quality, somehow the orchestra doesn't sound very good in terms of ensemble between instruments......

  8. This song is so difficult to perform well, because the refrains are so intimate. She is fearless. I love that she revels in this performance.

  9. I like how Berlioz writes pauses between phrases in the music that create a sense of distance within the piece.

  10. This piece is so emotionally exposed and Baker goes for it. She tugs at the heart and keeps her clear diction and emotional force behind the stop/start nature of this piece.

  11. I think what is so wonderful about this set of pieces is that each movement is so different from the other in its energy and character. They are each also very dynamic. This slow movement really makes effective use of space in its rests and moments of unaccompanied singing that gives the vocal melody a certain emotional vulnerability.

  12. I'm so struck by baker's absolute control over her instrument. I'm also curious whether faure was intentionally quoting in apres in rêve with his "reviens" --I don't think it's the same harmony but their gestures are very similar.

  13. I agree with Emma, everything she does is completely intentional, nothing just happens by accident, and the ease and beauty of her voice is just breathtaking.

  14. What struck me most about this piece and specifically this performance was the repetitions of the first stanza of text/music. Each time they were repeated, they were technically (notes & rhythms) exactly the same, but the intent behind each one was vastly different, and the characteristic and artistic differences that Baker brought to each repetition was stunning.