Digital resources for French Romantic music

Fragments poétiques op. 13 (Benjamin Godard)




Lamartine – Musset – Hugo


Each of these Fragments poétiques, published in 1869 bears the title of a poet. Lamartine has a particularly unusual harmonic palette, with keys never firmly established and exotic-sounding chromatic inflexions within the melodic line. The strummed chords of the opening, followed by this unusual melody, seem to conjure the image of a mysterious minstrel. By contrast, Musset borders on the Impressionist, with much of the piece featuring a left hand drone on E and B, and repeated semiquavers in the treble whilst the melody sits in the middle. A free middle section devoid of barlines and marked ‘con fantasia’ functions almost as a kind of recitative, before the return of the rich, unsettled opening material. Finally, Hugo is jaunty and straightforward, free of the harmonic complexities of its predecessors and full of light, bouncing dotted rhythms. Whether this was intended to reflect Godard’s view of the three poets in question is difficult to say; though he does head the work with a brief quotation from Lamartine’s Harmonies poétiques et religieuses (a work of great importance to Franz Liszt, philosophically and musically): « Depuis l’heure charmante / où le servant d’amour, / sa harpe sous sa mante, / venait pour une amante / soupirer sous la tour. » Since the delightful hour / When the servant to love, / His harp under his cloak, / Came to sigh for his beloved / At the foot of the tower. The stanza in question is taken from the tenth book of Lamartine’s work: a section entitled ‘Réponse à M. Victor Hugo.

    Person - 1
  • GODARD, Benjamin (1849-1895)
  • Themes - 2
  • Courant – Symbolisme et impressionnisme
  • Piano – La « pièce de genre » pianistique