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RC 68 Les chats (“Les amoureux fervents et les savants austères”)

text source

Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du mal. Nouvelle édition (Paris: Calman Lévy 1890), 189

first performance

1915-10-27 00:00:00.0 Amsterdam, Concertgebouw

dedicatees

recordings

  • Anniversary Edition 6 Et'cetera KTC 1435 CD6

publications

  • Complete Songs for Solo Voice and Piano Vol. 5 Donemus / Alphons Diepenbrock Fonds 20396435
  • Diepenbrock Album B/M Vol. I
  • Les chats De Nieuwe Muziekhandel 22746896

  • Les chats (“Les amoureux fervents et les savants austères”)
  • Baudelaire, Charles
  • contralto and piano // mezzo-soprano and piano
  • 1906-02-23 00:00:00.0
  • duration 3:40

After Diepenbrock had completed the large-scale symphonic poem Im grossen Schweigen (In the Great Silence, RC 67) at the beginning of February 1906, he felt like taking on something entirely different: Les chats (The Cats) by Baudelaire, a poem his friend Johanna Jongkindt (1882-1945) liked very much. However, his first attempt on 19 February was not a success: I tried to set the Sonnet of the Cats by Baudelaire for you, so you could sing it yourself, but I have given up. (BD V:95) Four days later Diepenbrock managed to write the music in one go. Johanna was very charmed by the result, as we can read in a letter he wrote to her on 3 March: …more >

Les chats (incipit)


After Diepenbrock had completed the large-scale symphonic poem Im grossen Schweigen (In the Great Silence, RC 67) at the beginning of February 1906, he felt like taking on something entirely different: Les chats (The Cats) by Baudelaire, a poem his friend Johanna Jongkindt (1882-1945) liked very much. However, his first attempt on 19 February was not a success: I tried to set the Sonnet of the Cats by Baudelaire for you, so you could sing it yourself, but I have given up. (BD V:95) Four days later Diepenbrock managed to write the music in one go. Johanna was very charmed by the result, as we can read in a letter he wrote to her on 3 March:

I’m very pleased you enjoy the little song so much. Whether it is worthwhile, I can only tell when I have heard it sung properly. But the main thing is that you enjoy it and can ‘enliven’ it. (BD V:104)

Diepenbrock made no alterations to his composition, which he orchestrated in October 1907 (see RC 81).

Baudelaire’s poem is about the mystery of cats, who are loved equally by austere scholars and fervent lovers in their ripe season, and who – like them – are sensitive to cold and sedentary. Baudelaire depicts the proud, mysterious character of cats, how they assume the majestic poses of sphinxes, reclining in the depths of solitudes and dreaming a dream without end, the magic sparks in their loins and the particles of gold that glimmer in their mystic pupils.

The form of the sonnet is clearly recognisable in Diepenbrock’s composition: to mark the end of each strophe the piano plays the same motive every time.

Diepenbrock originally composed Les chats for alto in the Phrygian mode on e. This version of the song was premiered by Alice Plato (1889-19**) and Evert Cornelis (1884-1931) on 27 October 1915 and published by De Nieuwe Muziekhandel in 1918. In September of that same year the composer decided to transpose the song for the mezzo-soprano Berthe Seroen (1882-1957), first a semitone higher (see: letter to Seroen dated 27 September 1918), but on second thought also a whole tone higher (see: letter dated 28 September). She performed Les chats together with Evert Cornelis many times.

Diepenbrock had already performed the song in public on 1 and 8 March 1916 with Anke Schierbeek (1878-1960) in the exhibition hall of the Amsterdamsche Handelsbank at benefit concerts for Belgian war victims.

Ton Braas



Les chats

Les amoureux fervents et les savants austères
Aiment également, dans leur mûre saison,
Les chats puissants et doux, orgueil de la maison,
Qui comme eux sont frileux et comme eux sédentaires.

Amis de la science et de la volupté,
Ils cherchent le silence et l'horreur des ténèbres;
L'Érèbe les eût pris pour ses coursiers funèbres,
S'ils pouvaient au servage incliner leur fierté.

Ils prennent en songeant les nobles attitudes
Des grands sphinx allongés au fond des solitudes,
Qui semblent s'endormir dans un rêve sans fin;

Leurs reins féconds sont pleins d'étincelles magiques,
Et des parcelles d'or, ainsi q'un sable fin,
Étoilent vaguement leurs prunelles mystiques.

 

Cats

No one but indefatigable lovers and old
Chilly philosophers can understand the true
Charm of these animals serene and potent, who
Likewise are sedentary and suffer from the cold.

They are the friends of learning and of sexual bliss;
Silence they love, and darkness, where temptation breeds.
Erebus would have made them his funereal steeds,
Save that their proud free nature would not stoop to this.

Like those great sphinxes lounging through eternity
In noble attitudes upon the desert sand,
They gaze incuriously at nothing, calm and wise.

Their fecund loins give forth electric flashes, and
Thousands of golden particles drift ceaselessly,
Like galaxies of stars, in their mysterious eyes.

(transl. George Dillon)

 


  • A-62(2) Les chats

    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4

    A-62(2) signed and dated on the last page A Diepenbrock 23 Febr 1906 and with dedication on the first page Voor Jo

    • 1906-02-23 00:00:00.0
    • dedication: Voor Jo
    • location: Diepenbrock Archief Laren
    • pages: 4
  • A-56(2) Les chats

    A-56(2), copied by Johanna Jongkindt, signed and dated on the first page A Diepenbrock 26 Febr. 1906

    • 1906-02-26 00:00:00.0
    • location: Diepenbrock Archief Laren
    • pages: unknown
  • A-80(13) Les chats

    semi-autograph A-80(13) with dedication on the first page A J.J.

    • dedication: A J.J
    • location: Diepenbrock Archief Laren
    • pages: unknown
  • A-92(2) Les chats

    copy A-92(2)

    • location: Diepenbrock Archief Laren
    • pages: unknown
  • B-7(6) Les chats

    B-7(6) dated (Febr. 1906)

    • 1906-02-01 00:00:00.0 – 1906-02-28 00:00:00.0
    • location: Diepenbrock Archief Laren
    • pages: unknown
  • HGM 189/023c Les chats, for mezzo soprano

    semi-autograph HGM 189/023c (NMI, archive Berthe Seroen) for mezzo soprano

    • location: Nederlands Muziek Instituut, archive Berthe Seroen
    • pages: unknown
  • HGM 189/28 Les chats

    HGM 189/28 (NMI, archive Berthe Seroen) in F Phrygian

    • location: Nederlands Muziek Instituut, archive Berthe Seroen
    • pages: unknown
  • HGM 189/29

    HGM 189/29 (NMI, archive Berthe Seroen) in F# Phrygian

    • location: Nederlands Muziek Instituut, archive Berthe Seroen
    • pages: unknown

  • click to enlarge

    Anniversary Edition 6

    cd Et'cetera KTC 1435 CD6
    Alexander, Roberta ♦ Jansen, Rudolf ♦ Nes, Jard van ♦ Holl, Robert ♦ Prégardien, Christoph ♦ Pfeiler, Christa ♦ Doeselaar, Leo van ♦ McFadden, Claron ♦ Ameling, Elly ♦ Meer, Richte van der ♦ Baldwin, Dalton

    Tracks: 1 = RC 79; 2 = RC 68; 3 = RC 117; 4 = 97; 5 = RC 132; 6 = RC 104; 7 = RC 111; 8 = RC 43; 9 = RC 99; 10 = RC 138; 11 = RC 137; 12 = RC 4; 13 = RC 15; 14 = RC 14; 15 = RC 13; 16 = RC 51

  • Complete Songs for Solo Voice and Piano Vol. 5

    1996 Donemus / Alphons Diepenbrock Fonds Braas, Ton
  • Diepenbrock Album B/M Vol. I

    1952 Reeser, Eduard
  • Les chats

    1918 De Nieuwe Muziekhandel

27 okt 1915 Eerste uitvoering van de Berceuse voor mezzosopraan en piano (RC 112) door Alice Plato met begeleiding van Evert Cornelis in de Kleine Zaal van het Concertgebouw te Amsterdam. Op het programma staat ook Les chats.

Het geheele programma was eene noviteit en gij ziet, dat Alice Plato nog immer radicaal optreedt. Een coup de théâtre van negen Hollandsche manuscripten, waaronder vier prullen en vijf meesterstukjes. Ik noem alleen de laatste: Il pleure dans mon coeur van Carl Smulders, La chanson de Marie-des-Anges van Oberstadt, Berceuse en Les chats van Diepenbrock, Le grand Lustrucu van Dresden. Wie zou meer verlangen? Dat gebeurt anders alleen op een binnenlandsch muziekfeest, wanneer de zangers en zangeressen met dik geld betaald worden voor het Hollandsche lied.

De Telegraaf (Matthijs Vermeulen), 28 oktober 1915

 

Oberstadt componeerde La chanson de Marie-des-Anges, het gedicht van Jean Richepin; dit en twee liederen van Diepenbrock, Berceuse en Les chats, verdienden onze belangstelling 't meest.

Algemeen Handelsblad (S.Z. [= W.N.F. Sibmacher Zijnen]), 28 oktober 1915

pdf All reviews for RC 68 Les chats (“Les amoureux fervents et les savants austères”)