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Chanson perpétuelle

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Ernest Chausson was a great composer of mélodies. Chanson perpétuelle (1898) is one of his last works. Set to a poignant poem by the contemporary poet Charles Cros, itwas first performed by its dedicatee, Jeanne Raunay, on 28 January 1899, a few months before the composer’s premature death (10 June). There are three different versions of this intense extended song: for voice and piano, for voice and orchestra, and for voice, piano and string quartet. Chausson suppressed four of the sixteen verses of Cros’s original poem, which depicts the distress of an abandoned woman, and her past joy, present suffering and future death (by drowning) – the only means of ending her grief. Close to Debussy in its musical symbolism, and to Wagner in its vocal treatment, this is a profound, crepuscular work. It is in C sharp minor and in five parts, following the contours of the poem. The first part presents the main theme, evoking the memory of happy love, which recurs throughout the work. The other four parts, articulated around that theme, express increasingly painful moods: the anguish of waiting in vain, hope, nostalgia, a longing for death. Through his modal and tonal colours, chromaticisms, whole tone scales and ninth chords, Chausson succeeds in intimately connecting love and death. The text and its music are interwoven in suspended – and disenchanted – time. The tremolos from the strings and the last bars, with a solo for the viola, plunge the listener into deep sadness.


publication date : 25/09/23

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