Vincent d’Indy: Lied maritime (Maritime song)

27 01 2010

"ghosts" by Naama, used under Creative Commons

It’s the beginning of a new semester, which means I’ve been busy assigning repertoire to my students. I have come across this piece in several anthologies and online, and I have been tempted to assign it, but for lack of familiarity, I’ve avoided it. Additionally, I am so fond of Vincent d’Indy’s orchestral music that I didn’t believe a song this simple could stand up to those works I so enjoyed programming when I worked in classical radio. I was wrong to have doubted d’Indy, as this song is lovely!

The song is in two halves. The first half is calm and rocking, just like the calm sea; the lover looks at the closed eyes of the beloved and feels calm, like the sea. The second half is much more frantic, with rising and falling arpeggios in the piano, and with unexpected pitches and chords in both the voice and piano. The stormy seas are echoed in the troubled heart after looking at the “traitorous eyes” of the beloved.

Any time I get to feature Counter-tenor extraordinaire Philippe Jaroussky, I’m happy. This performance lacks some of the warmth and vocal agility that I tend to associate with him, but it’s still quite striking.

No translation on recmusic.org (though one is provided in the front of the commonly available “40 French Songs, Vol. II” by International). No videos on YouTube. I think this needs to be remedied, tout de suite!

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Jean Sibelius: Flickan kom från sin älsklings möte (The Tryst, “The girl came from meeting her lover”)

21 03 2009

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"What has made your cheeks so pale?"

So often, songs are about young love and the loss of innocence. Sibelius’ takes the story of a girl who comes home with telltale signs of her adventures — red fingers and red lips — which Sibelius depicts both heroically and nervously in music. But when she comes home pale and her mother asks why, the music turns dramatic and the girl announces her grave should read that it was her lover’s infidelity that made her pale.

This is a perfect opportuntiy to address the problem of singing works in translation. Though the English version in the score (which, unfortunately, lacks the Swedish) is fairly close to the Swedish, the French singing translation keeps calling the girl “Gretchen,” a clear reference to Goethe’s Faust. There is nothing in the poet’s words to suggest this; Gretchen was certainly not the only girl to be betrayed by a lover!