Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Berlioz - Les Nuits d'été (Summer Nights)

The works of Hector Berlioz that are most well known are works that display his flair for orchestral color such as the  Symphonie Fantastique.  He also composed many works for voice; opera, choral works and songs for soloist. His most popular work for solo voice is set to poems by French poet Théophile Gautier, a neighbor and friend to Berlioz.  The songs were set to poems taken from Gautier's book La comédie de la mort (The Comedy of Death). Berlioz came up with the title Les Nuits d'été for the set of six songs but it is unclear why he used the name.

The songs were written for mezzo-soprano or tenor with piano accompaniment in 1841. He eventually orchestrated all six by 1856 and it is in this form that they are usually heard. The first version with piano accompaniment was not very popular due to the ineffective piano part. Berlioz was not a pianist, a rare thing for composers of his time. His instrument was the guitar, which freed his orchestrations up from the influence of the piano. His orchestrations are for what was a modest orchestra for Berlioz, and his deft use of orchestral color has made this version of the songs one of his most popular works for solo voice.

Country Song
When the new season comes,
When the cold has vanished,
We will both go, my lovely,
To gather lily of the valley.
Gathering the pearls underfoot,
That one sees shimmering in the morning,
We will hear the blackbirds
Whistle.

Spring has come, my lovely,
It is the month blessed by lovers;
And the bird, preening his wing,
Speaks verse from the edge of his nest.
Oh! come now to this mossy bank
To talk of our beautiful love,
And say to me in your sweet voice:
"Always!"

Théophile Gautier
Far, far away, straying from our path,
Causing the hidden rabbit to flee
And the deer, in the mirror of the spring
Bending to admire his great antlers,
Then home, completely happy and at ease,
Our hands entwined round the basket,
Returning carrying strawberries
From the wood.

The Spectre Of The Rose
Open your closed eyelids
Touched by a virginal dream!
I am the ghost of a rose
That you wore yesterday at the ball.
You took me, still pearly
With silver tears, from the watering can,
And in the starlit party,
You carried me all evening.

O you who caused my death
Without being able to chase it away
Every night my rose-colored spectre
Will dance by your bedside.
But fear not, I claim neither
Mass nor De Profundis.
This light scent is my soul
And I come from Paradise

My destiny is enviable
And to have a fate so beautiful
More than one would have given his life;
For on your breast I have my tomb,
And on the alabaster on which I repose
A poet with a kiss
Wrote, "Here lies a rose
Of which all kings will be jealous."

On The Lagoons: Lament
My beautiful love is dead,
I shall weep forever;
Into the grave she takes
My soul and my love.
To Heaven, without waiting for me,
She has returned;
The angel who took her
Did not want to take me.
How bitter is my fate!
Ah! Without love to go over the sea!

The white creature
Lies in a coffin;
How all of nature
Seems to me in mourning!
The forgotten dove
Weeps and dreams of the absent one.
My soul weeps and feels
That it is deserted!
How bitter is my fate!
Ah! Without love to go over the sea!

Over me the vast night
Spreads like a shroud.
I sing my song
That only Heaven hears:
Ah! How beautiful she was
And how I loved her!
I shall never love
A woman as much as her…
How bitter is my fate!
Ah! Without love to go over the sea!

Absence
Come back, come back, my beloved!
Like a flower far from the sun,
The flower of my life is closed
Far from your bright red smile!

Between our hearts what a distance!
So much of space between our kisses!
O bitter fate! O harsh absence!
O great desires unappeased!

Come back, come back, my beautiful beloved!
Like a flower far from the sun,
The flower of my life is closed
Far from your bright red smile!

Between here and there what fields,
What towns and hamlets,
What valleys and mountains,
To tire the hoofs of the horses.

Come back, come back, my beautiful beloved!
Like a flower far from the sun,
The flower of my life is closed
Far from your bright red smile!

The Cemetery: Moonlight
Do you know the white tomb,
Where there floats with a plaintive sound
The shadow of a yew tree?
On the yew a pale dove
Sitting sad and alone at sunset,
Sings its song:

An air morbidly tender
At once charming and deadly,
That hurts you
And that one would like to hear for ever
An air like the sigh in Heaven
Of a loving angel.

One might say that an awakened soul
Weeps under the ground in unison
With the song,
And for the misfortune of being forgotten
Complains, cooing
Very softly.

On the wings of the music
One feels slowly returning
A memory.
A shadow, an angelic form
Passes in a shimmering ray
In a white veil.

The belle de nuit flowers, half closed,
Cast their weak and sweet scent
Around you,
And the ghost in a gentle pose
Murmurs, stretching its arms to you:
Will you return?

Oh! Never again by the grave
Will I go, when evening falls
In a black cloak,
To hear the pale dove
Singing at the top of the yew
Its plaintive song.

The Undiscovered Isle
Tell me, young beauty,
Where do you want to go?
The sail swells its wing,
The breeze begins to blow.

The oar is of ivory,
The flag is of moire,
The rudder of fine gold;
I have for ballast an orange,
For sail an angel's wing
For cabin boy a seraph.

Tell me, young beauty,
Where do you want to go?
The sail swells its wing,
The breeze begins to blow.

Is it to the Baltic?
To the Pacific Ocean?
The isle of Java?
Or perhaps to Norway,
To pick the snow-flower
Or the flower of Angsoka?

Tell, me, tell me, young beauty, tell me, where do you want to go?

Take me, says the beautiful one,
To the faithful shore
Where one loves for ever!
That shore, my dear,
Is almost unknown In the land of love.

Where do you want to go?
The breeze begins to blow .




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