Home / Works / Au clair de la lune chanté dans ‘Les Voitures versées’ varié pour guitare ou lyre op.7 (Matteo Carcassi)

Print content of page

Au clair de la lune chanté dans ‘Les Voitures versées’ varié pour guitare ou lyre op.7 (Matteo Carcassi)


The character of Pierrot was very popular in the nineteenth century, thanks notably to the mime Deburau, and inspired poets, painters and composers. As a result Au clair de la lune, the anonymous eighteenth-century song in which this figure of the commedia dell’arte plays a leading role, formed the basis for many sets of variations for different instruments. It is true that its regular periods and its pleasant and immediately memorable melody made it ideal for this type of exercise. Among the guitarists who wrote such pieces were Louis-Ange Carpentras and Matteo Carcassi, whose variations allude to Boieldieu’s opéra-comique Les Voitures versées (The overturned carriages), premiered at St Petersburg in 1808. Dormeuil, the work’s principal character, does not keep the road that passes near his château in Anjou in good repair, so as to cause accidents: this enables him to take in the victims, who momentarily distract him from his boredom. In Act II, he sings a duet in Italian (the language of opera) with his niece Élise, aiming to impress his listeners; but it is in fact a series of variations on Au clair de la lune. The French language is re-established at the end of the number, embellished with virtuoso runs. Boieldieu’s opera was given in Paris in 1820. It was probably following these performances, when he was just settling in the French capital, that Carcassi composed his score, intended for the guitar or the ‘lyre’ (a term designating the ‘lyre guitar’ fashionable in in the first quarter of the nineteenth century). Noteworthy in the ninth and last variation is the flute-like sonority of the harmonics, symptomatic of the experiments the instrument stimulated at the time.

    Persons - 2
  • BOIELDIEU, François-Adrien (1775-1834)
  • CARCASSI, Matteo (1792-1853)