Skip over navigation

Baudelaire and the Musical Scene: Musical Settings

"La Vie Antérieure"   |   "L'Invitation au Voyage"   |   "La Cloche Fêlée"   |   "Recueillement"
Soundtracks


La Vie Antérieure

J'ai longtemps habité sous de vastes portiques
Que les soleils marins teignaient de mille feux,
Et que leurs grands piliers, droits et majestueux,
Rendaient pareils, le soir, aux grottes basaltiques.

Les houles, en roulant les images des cieux,
Mêlaient d'une façon solennelle et mystique
Les tout-puissants accords de leur riche musique
Aux couleurs du couchant reflété par mes yeux.

C'est là que j'ai vécu dans les voluptés calmes,
Au milieu de l'azur, des vagues, des splendeurs
Et des esclaves nus, tout imprégnés d'odeurs,

Qui me rafraîchissaient le front avec des palmes,
Et dont l'unique soin était d'approfondir
Le secret douloureux qui me faisait languir.

— Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du mal, “Spleen et Idéal”

Duparc, Henri, 1848-1943, “La Vie Antérieure”

Duparc, Henri, 1848-1943, “La Vie Antérieure”
In: Mélodies / Henri Duparc.
Paris : Alexis Rouart & Cie, 191–
John Hay Library Foster Damon Sheet Music Collection

 

 

Henri Duparc completed 13 songs, Mélodies for voice and piano, between 1868 and 1884. He was a deeply religious man who abandoned composition early due to a serious neurasthenic condition. A student of Cesar Franck, he greatly admired the music of Wagner, and was generally in advance of his time in aesthetic matters. He was an early champion of the poetry of Baudelaire and Verlaine. His songs including “L’Invitation au voyage” and “La Vie antérieure” are characterized by a special feeling for poetic atmosphere and his ability to communicate it in music. He was unique at his time in giving the French melodie musical substance, emotional intensity and unity of music and poem.

— Adapted from M. Cooper, “Duparc, Henri,” Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy; accessed June 5, 2007, http://www.grovemusic.com

[Top]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


L'Invitation au Voyage


Mon enfant, ma soeur,
Songe à la douceur
D'aller là-bas vivre ensemble!
Aimer à loisir,
Aimer et mourir
Au pays qui te ressemble!
Les soleils mouillés
De ces ciels brouillés
Pour mon esprit ont les charmes
Si mystérieux
De tes traîtres yeux,
Brillant à travers leurs larmes.

Là, tout n'est qu'ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté.

Des meubles luisants,
Polis par les ans,
Décoreraient notre chambre;
Les plus rares fleurs
Mêlant leurs odeurs
Aux vagues senteurs de l'ambre,
Les riches plafonds,
Les miroirs profonds,
La splendeur orientale,
Tout y parlerait
À l'âme en secret
Sa douce langue natale.




Là, tout n'est qu'ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté.

Vois sur ces canaux
Dormir ces vaisseaux
Dont l'humeur est vagabonde;
C'est pour assouvir
Ton moindre désir
Qu'ils viennent du bout du monde.
— Les soleils couchants
Revêtent les champs,
Les canaux, la ville entière,
D'hyacinthe et d'or;
Le monde s'endort
Dans une chaude lumière.

Là, tout n'est qu'ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté.




 


— Charles Baudelaire,
Les Fleurs du mal, “Spleen et Idéal”

 

 

Charpentier, Gustave, 1860-1956, Les Fleurs du mal

Charpentier, Gustave, 1860-1956
Les Fleurs du mal / poésies de Charles
Baudelaire ; musique de Gustave Charpentier
.

Paris : Heugel and Co., 1895.
John Hay Library Foster Damon Sheet Music Collection


Gustave Charpentier is primarily known for his opera Louise, first performed in 1900. It was an immense success and has remained in the active repertoire. The subject is really Montmartre and Paris; its heroine has been considered as an early example of a woman liberated from social constraints. His talent was mainly for orchestral and vocal music, and shows the influences of Wagner, Gounod and Massenet. The metamorphosis of simple thematic material and ingenious orchestration account for its originality. Among the many songs he published for voice and piano in three separate editions, there are a number of them based on poems of Baudelaire; they include – “La Cloche fêlée” (1890), “Parfum exotique” (1893), and in 1895 a series of songs based on Baudelaire in the collection entitled Impressions fausses; they include “Le Jet d’eau’ and “L’Invitation au voyage.”

— Adapted from R. Orledge, “Charpentier, Gustave,” Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy; accessed June 5, 2007, http://www.grovemusic.com

[Top]

 

 

 

 

 

 


La Cloche Fêlée


II est amer et doux, pendant les nuits d'hiver,
D'écouter, près du feu qui palpite et qui fume,
Les souvenirs lointains lentement s'élever
Au bruit des carillons qui chantent dans la brume.

Bienheureuse la cloche au gosier vigoureux
Qui, malgré sa vieillesse, alerte et bien portante,
Jette fidèlement son cri religieux,
Ainsi qu'un vieux soldat qui veille sous la tente!

Moi, mon âme est fêlée, et lorsqu'en ses ennuis
Elle veut de ses chants peupler l'air froid des nuits,
II arrive souvent que sa voix affaiblie

Semble le râle épais d'un blessé qu'on oublie
Au bord d'un lac de sang, sous un grand tas de morts
Et qui meurt, sans bouger, dans d'immenses efforts.

— Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du mal, “Spleen et Idéal”

Loeffler, Charles Martin, 1861-1935, “La Cloche fêlée”

Loeffler, Charles Martin, 1861-1935
“La Cloche fêlée” / Ch. M. Loeffler.
New York : G. Schirmer, 1904.
John Hay Library Foster Damon Sheet Music Collection


Charles Martin Loeffler left Alsace where he was born to settle in the United States in 1881, where he became a citizen in 1887. An active, prominent figure in the musical world, he was a member of the Boston symphony for 21 years and was also a popular composer who received many honors. He was known as a symbolist whose compositions were sometimes described as decadent because of the sinister and somewhat bizarre atmosphere that marked many of his early works. His style was heavily influenced by French composers and some Russian music. His music manifests fluid rhythmic and melodic writing, ingenuity of orchestration and rich harmonic color. He was inspired by diverse literary sources, and his many songs include several based on Baudelaire’s poetry. Some are orchestrated, others have string or piano accompaniment such as “Harmonie du soir” (1893) or “La Cloche fêlée” (1904).

— Adapted from E. Knight, “Loeffler, Charles Martin,” Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy; accessed June 5, 2007, http://www.grovemusic.com

[Top]

 

 

 

 

 

 


Recueillement


Sois sage, ô ma Douleur, et tiens-toi plus tranquille.
Tu réclamais le Soir; il descend; le voici:
Une atmosphère obscure enveloppe la ville,
Aux uns portant la paix, aux autres le souci.

Pendant que des mortels la multitude vile,
Sous le fouet du Plaisir, ce bourreau sans merci,
Va cueillir des remords dans la fête servile,
Ma Douleur, donne-moi la main; viens par ici,

Loin d'eux. Vois se pencher les défuntes Années,
Sur les balcons du ciel, en robes surannées;
Surgir du fond des eaux le Regret souriant;

Le soleil moribond s'endormir sous une arche,
Et, comme un long linceul traînant à l'Orient,
Entends, ma chère, entends la douce Nuit qui marche.

— Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du mal, “Spleen et Idéal” (1868 ed.)

Debussy, Claude, 1862-1918, “Recueillement”

Debussy, Claude, 1862-1918, “Recueillement”
In: Cinq poèmes de Charles Baudelaire ;
musique de Claude Debussy
.
Paris : A. Durand & fils, c. 1904.
John Hay Library Foster Damon Sheet Music Collection

One of France’s greatest composers, Debussy was always inspired by literary texts and visual arts. His Cinq Poèmes de Baudelaire (1887-1889), an early work, was under the strong influence of Wagnerism and the symbolists. These melodies are characterized by their length, use of chromatic harmonies and wide intervals reminiscent of Wagner. He gradually detached himself from the influences of Wagnerism and produced a series of masterworks in which he extended and revitalized the range and tonal potential of French music; he explored a variety of modes in music and underwent the influence of musical expression from Russia, the Orient and early forms of French music. After having been associated with the symbolist poets such as Mallarmé and producing his operatic masterpiece Pelléas et Mélisande (1902), he developed musical techniques which have been loosely associated with impressionism. The great piano works  Estampes, and Nocturnes, and orchestral pieces such as Images led to the label of impressionist music, which he himself rejected. Toward the end of his life he returned to a kind of classical expression transformed by his many technical innovations in music.

— Adapted from F. Lesure, “Debussy, Claude,” Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy; accessed June 5, 2007, http://www.grovemusic.com

[Top]

 

 

 

 


Soundtracks

To listen to soundtracks of selected musical settings of Baudelaire’s poems, click on the following:

These soundtracks are only available to Brown University users. Off campus users need to authenticate first to gain access to these resources. For more information, click on off campus.

[Top]

 

Next exhibit section >