La Bonne Chanson Op.61

Composer: Gabriel Fauré (b. 1845 - d. 1924)
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Composer: Gabriel Fauré (b. 1845 - d. 1924)

Performance date: 05/07/2018

Venue: St. Brendan’s Church

Composition Year: 1892-8

Duration: 00:41:21

Recording Engineer: Ciaran Cullen, RTÉ

Instrumentation Category:Small Mixed Ensemble

Instrumentation Other: 2vn, va, vc, sop, pf, db

Artists: Ruby Hughes - [mezzo-soprano]
Philippe Cassard - [piano]
Elias Quartet (Sara Bitlloch, Donald Grant [violins], Simone van der Giessen [viola], Marie Bitlloch [cello]) - [quartet]
Niek de Groot - [double bass]

Verlaine wrote La
Bonne Chanson
cycle in 1869-70 when he was courting the sixteen-year-old
Mathilde Mauté de Fleurville. Her mother was a pupil of Chopin and the teacher
of Debussy. Verlaine’s marriage with Mathilde was short-lived due to his scandalous
affair with Arthur Rimbaud. Fauré also had an unsatisfactory marriage though he
remained close to his wife all his life, but he was well-known for his affairs
of the heart and around 1892 he began a long relationship with Emma Bardac,
herself the wife of a music-loving banker and later to become Debussy’s second
wife. In the heady early days of this relationship, Verlaine’s cycle must have
been irresistible, especially as Emma was herself a fine singer.


The nine songs that Fauré chose form a portrait of the
beloved rather than an actual story with the mood ranging from infatuation in the
opening song to a sense of almost mystical union in the final one. Fauré later
recalled: I’ve never written anything as
spontaneously as I did La Bonne Chanson. I may say, indeed I must, that I was
helped by a similar degree of comprehension on the part of the singer who was
to remain its most moving interpreter. The pleasure of feeling those little
sheets of paper come alive as I brought them to her was one I have never
experienced since.
It seems the Bardac and Fauré households mixed very
easily and Fauré would visit the Bardac chateau each evening to show off the
day’s progress with Emma giving advice and corrections as well as inspiration.
It was Emma’s daughter Dolly who was to be the recipient of the piano duets the
Dolly Suite.


The original version of La Bonne Chanson was for singer and piano alone; the chamber
version that we hear today had its first performance in London in 1898 at the house of Elgar’s close
friend, Frank Schuster. Fauré’s immediate reaction was that the strings
complicated the music unnecessarily, but this criticism was based on one
performance only and he may well have been unduly wedded to the original
version for sentimental reasons. To this day it remains a key and moving addition
to the limited repertoire of vocal chamber music.