english | nederlands

RC 40 Écoutez la chanson bien douce

text source

Paul Verlaine, Sagesse. Quatrième édition revue et corrigée (Paris: Vanier 1896), 42-43

first performance

1898-04-30 00:00:00.0 Amsterdam, Concertgebouw

dedicatees

recordings

  • Songs 2 NM Classics

publications

  • Complete Songs for Solo Voice and Piano Vol. 4 Donemus / Alphons Diepenbrock Fonds 32705994
  • Complete Songs for Solo Voice and Piano Vol. 7 Donemus / Alphons Diepenbrock Fonds 32705994
  • Deux mélodies pour Soprano avec accomp. de piano (nr. 2) Noske, A.A. 953735
  • Diepenbrock Album B/M Vol. I
  • Diepenbrock Album T/S Vol. II

  • Écoutez la chanson bien douce
  • Verlaine, Paul
  • mezzo soprano (or contralto) and piano // soprano and piano
  • 1898-01-05 00:00:00.0
  • duration 4:40

Écoutez la chanson bien douce (Hear the Sweetest Song) was the first French text Diepenbrock set to music. When he was working on it at the beginning of January 1898, he had problems ‘translating’ the French prosody into melody and rhythm. Therefore he asked his French-speaking friend, the Belgian composer Charles Smulders (1863-1934) for advice. Two months later he sent him manuscript A-93(2) with the revisions of 20 February. Based on Smulders’ advice, recorded in a letter of 28 March 1898 and most likely discussed further during Diepenbrock’s visit to Liege the following August,1 several corrections were made. Thus Diepenbrock soon made progress with setting French texts to music. …more >

Écoutez la chanson bien douce (incipit)


Écoutez la chanson bien douce (Hear the Sweetest Song) was the first French text Diepenbrock set to music. When he was working on it at the beginning of January 1898, he had problems ‘translating’ the French prosody into melody and rhythm. Therefore he asked his French-speaking friend, the Belgian composer Charles Smulders (1863-1934) for advice. Two months later he sent him manuscript A-93(2) with the revisions of 20 February. Based on Smulders’ advice, recorded in a letter of 28 March 1898 and most likely discussed further during Diepenbrock’s visit to Liege the following August,1 several corrections were made. Thus Diepenbrock soon made progress with setting French texts to music.

Meanwhile, the first performance by the soprano Aaltje Noordewier-Reddingius and the pianist Anton Tierie had taken place in the Recital Hall of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw on 30 April 1898. At this soirée actress Josephine Spoor recited poems by Willem Kloos, H.J. Boeken, Bredero and Vondel, and six more songs by Diepenbrock were premiered (see RC 20, 23, 29, 37, 41 and 42).

Stylistically Écoutez la chanson bien douce does not have any typically French characteristics. Its texture is in keeping with the German songs Diepenbrock wrote around 1900. In particular there are strong resemblances between Écoutez and Kann ich im Busen heisse Wünsche tragen (Can I Carry Hot Desires in My Heart, 1902, RC 55). However, all his later French songs clearly differ from the German ones.

Écoutez la chanson bien douce opens with a softly pulsating major chord in the treble of the piano. Under this a melody starts in the middle register, forming a counterpoint to the soprano, who as it were ponders over the text. This combination (repeated chords in the treble, songlike melody in the left hand of the piano, syllabicity with repeated notes in the voice) occurs, each time subtly varied, four more times, corresponding with the structure of the verse. The last time is when Verlaine concludes the poem with the words “Écoutez la chanson bien sage” (Listen to the very wise song) – a variation on the opening line. Diepenbrock emphasises the cyclic form by holding back the voice for a moment just before the final line with a fermata (the only one in the song) on the subdominant chord. The final measures of the piano can be seen as an example of the four-part approach that is so very often a characteristic of the ‘accompaniment’ of Diepenbrock’s songs.

Initially, Diepenbrock did not include the third strophe of Verlaine’s poem in his composition. In 1903 he wrote to a friend: “Do you not think that the strophe that I did not set to music interrupts the symmetry of the poem? For the music it is utterly barren and useless.” (BD IV:93) However, for the edition by Noske of 1905 Diepenbrock set this strophe to music after all. Unfortunately, there are no clues as to why he did this in Diepenbrock’s correspondence from that period. Did he come back on his decision after 1903, or did Noske object to publishing an incomplete setting? In Noske’s edition (in E major) the song is dedicated to the mezzo-soprano Cato Loman.

Ton Braas

1 See BD III:29-30. Diepenbrock wrote his reply the very same day (p. 33). On 26 October he brought up the issue again (pp. 73-74), Smulders answered on 3 November (p. 80).

 



Écoutez la chanson bien douce
Qui ne pleure que pour vous plaire,
Elle est discrète, elle est légère :
Un frisson d'eau sur de la mousse !

La voix vous fut connue (et chère ?)
Mais à présent elle est voilée
Comme une veuve désolée,
Pourtant comme elle encore fière,

Et dans les longs plis de son voile,
Qui palpite aux brises d'automne.
Cache et montre au coeur qui s'étonne
La vérité comme une étoile.

Elle dit, la voix reconnue,
Que la bonté c'est notre vie,
Que de la haine et de l'envie
Rien ne reste, la mort venue.

Elle parle aussi de la gloire
D'être simple sans plus attendre,
Et de noces d'or et du tendre
Bonheur d'une paix sans victoire.

Accueillez la voix qui persiste
Dans son naïf épithalame.
Allez, rien n'est meilleur à l'âme
Que de faire une âme moins triste !

Elle est en peine et de passage,
L'âme qui souffre sans colère,
Et comme sa morale est claire !...
Écoutez la chanson bien sage.

 

Listen to this music sweet
Weeping but for your delight;
On moss the water’s quivering flight
Is as nimble and discreet!

The voice was known to you (and dear!),
But it has been veiled of late
Like a widow desolate,
Yet it still is proud, like her,

And in the long folds of the veil
Which trembles as the autumn blows,
Unto the heart astounded shows
Truth’s star, now hidden, now revealed.

It says, this voice now known again,
That goodness is the goal of life,
That our hate and envious strife,
Past death, nothing shall remain.

It says that in simplicity,
Expecting nothing, glory lies,
In golden weddings and the wise
Peace not won by victory.

Welcome this voice that sustains
Artlessly its marriage-song.
Nothing makes the soul more strong
Than to soothe a soul in pain.

The soul that calmly bears its wrong
Is but in durance and in passage.
It is lucid, like its message!...
Heed the wisdom of this song.

(transl. C.F. Mac Intyre)

 

 

 


  • A-49(1) Écoutez la chanson bien douce, for mezzo soprano

    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4

    A-49(1) for mezzo soprano, signed and dated on the last page 5 Jan 1898 / Alph Diepenbrock, with dedication on the first page Voor To Loman

    • 1898-01-05 00:00:00.0
    • dedication: Voor To Loman
    • location: Diepenbrock Archief Laren
    • pages: 4
  • A-26(2) Écoutez la chanson bien douce, for mezzo soprano

    A-26(2) for mezzo soprano (contralto), dated on the last page 5 Jan 1898

    • 1898-01-05 00:00:00.0
    • location: Diepenbrock Archief Laren
    • pages: unknown
  • A-34(4) Écoutez la chanson bien douce, for mezzo soprano (contralto)

    A-34(4) for mezzo soprano (contralto), signed and dated on the last page A Diepenbrock / Amsterdam / 5 Jan 1898

    • 1898-01-05 00:00:00.0
    • location: Diepenbrock Archief Laren
    • pages: unknown
  • A-85(2) Écoutez la chanson bien douce, for alto or mezzo soprano

    semi autograph A-85(2) for alto or mezzo soprano, dated on the last page by the copyist 5.I.1898

    • 1898-01-05 00:00:00.0
    • location: Diepenbrock Archief Laren
    • pages: unknown
  • A-94(2) Ecoutez la chanson bien douce

    A-94(2) = second of Twee liederen voor eene Sopraanstem met Klavierbegeleiding 1. Sonnet van J K Alberdingk Thym 2. Ecoutez la chanson bien douce Paul Verlaine Alph. Diepenbrock Amsterdam 1898, with dedication on the title page Pour mon cher ami Charles Smulders 24 Mars 1898 and dated on the last page of this work 5 Jan 1898 / 20 Febr. 98

    • 1898-01-05 00:00:00.0 – 1898-02-20 00:00:00.0
    • dedication: Pour mon cher ami Charles Smulders 24 Mars 1898
    • location: Diepenbrock Archief Laren
    • pages: unknown
  • A35-(2) Écoutez la chanson bien douce, for soprano

    semi autograph A-35(2) for soprano

    • location: Diepenbrock Archief Laren
    • pages: unknown
  • A4(6) Écoutez la chanson bien douce,for soprano

    • 1898-01-05 00:00:00.0
    • location: Diepenbrock Archief Laren
    • pages: unknown
  • B-3(2) Écoutez la chanson bien douce, for mezzo soprano

    copy B-3(2) for mezzo soprano

    • location: Diepenbrock Archief Laren
    • pages: unknown
  • SL-2 Écoutez la chanson bien douce

    semi autograph in the possession of G. Overloop-Zimmer (Brussels) in the key of C Major, with dedication Pour Gabrielle

    • dedication: Pour Gabrielle
    • location: G. Zimmer (Brussels)
    • pages: unknown

  • click to enlarge

    Songs 2

    cd NM Classics
    Alexander, Roberta ♦ Jansen, Rudolf ♦ Nes, Jard van ♦ Holl, Robert ♦ Pfeiler, Christa ♦ Esser, Daniël

    Tracks:

  • Complete Songs for Solo Voice and Piano Vol. 4

    1993 Donemus / Alphons Diepenbrock Fonds Braas, Ton
  • Complete Songs for Solo Voice and Piano Vol. 7

    1995 Donemus / Alphons Diepenbrock Fonds Braas, Ton
  • Deux mélodies pour Soprano avec accomp. de piano (nr. 2)

    1905 Noske, A.A.
  • Diepenbrock Album B/M Vol. I

    1952 Reeser, Eduard
  • Diepenbrock Album T/S Vol. II

    1960 Reeser, Eduard

30 apr 1898: Eerste uitvoering van Ik ben in eenzaamheid niet meer alleen (RC 41), Écoutez la chanson bien douce (RC 40), Die Liebende schreibt (RC 20), Hinüber wall' ich (RC 37), Lied der Spinnerin (RC 42), Ave Maria (RC 23) en Canticum “O Jesu ego amo te” (RC 29) door Aaltje Noordewier-Reddingius met begeleiding van Anton Tierie tijdens een soiree in de Kleine Zaal van het Concertgebouw te Amsterdam, waarbij Josephine Royaards-Spoor gedichten van Willem Kloos, H.J. Boeken, Bredero en Vondel voordraagt.

Over de beteekenis van de dichtwerken mag ik, als musicus, het zwijgen bewaren; trouwens er kwamen onder de voorgedragen geen voor over wier meer of minder sympathiewekkende eigenschappen men niet reeds een geruimen tijd een gevoelen heeft hooren uitspreken. Men mag daarom m.i. gerust het zwaartepunt van dezen avond zoeken in het muzikale gedeelte. De compositiën van Diepenbrock toch zijn zoo goed als geheel en al onbekend. Wel is de mis voor mannenstemmen en orgel in druk verschenen, wel zijn de Reijen voor v. d. Vondel's Gysbrecht van Aemstel Woensdag ll. uitgevoerd, wel werd ook het Stabat mater ten gehoore gebracht, maar zelfs deze werken zijn daardoor nog niet als bekend te beschouwen. En van de liederen voor een stem zijn, met uitzondering van een paar uit vroeger tijden, geen in druk verschenen en ook niet in 't openbaar ten gehoore gebracht. Men kan dus zeggen, dat wij in Diepenbrock een nieuwe verschijning mogen begroeten. Maar niet alleen omdat zijne werken nog weinig bekend zijn, moet men Diepenbrock een nieuwe verschijning noemen; neen, ook de wijze, waarop hij der tonen kunst beoefent, mag men als op zichzelf staande beschouwen. Wij hebben dus met een nieuwe verschijning, in den absoluten zin van het woord, te doen.

Het Nieuws van den Dag (Dan. de Lange), 1 mei 1898

pdf All reviews for RC 40 Écoutez la chanson bien douce