Six French Songs, Op. 65
For medium voice (Nos. 1, 3, 4, 5, 6) or low voice (No. 2), with piano accompaniment.
Movements and Duration
- Sérénade: Où vas-tu, souffle d'aurore
Allegro quasi Andantino (F major, 74 bars).
Moderato (E minor, 89 bars).
- Sérénade: J'aime dans le rayon
Andante non troppo (B-flat major, 98 bars).
- Qu'importe que l'hiver
Allegro vivo e molto rubato (D minor, 101 bars).
- Les larmes
Andante doloroso (G major, 49 bars).
Allegretto grazioso (G major, 60 bars).
A complete performance of the set lasts around 15 to 20 minutes.
Tchaikovsky selected poems by three different French authors.
1. Édouard Turquety (1807–1867), from his poem Aurore in the collection Amour et Foi (by 1833):
Où vas-tu, souffle d'aurore,
2. Paul Collin (1843–1915), from his poem of the same name in the cycle Mélodies (by 1878):
|Le soleil rayonnait encore.
J'ai voulu revoir les grands bois, Où nous promenions autrefois Notre amour à sa belle aurore.
Je mi disais: "Sur le chemin, Je la retrouverai, sans doute: Ma main se tendra vers sa main, Et nous nous remettrons en route."
Je regarde partout. En vain! J'appelle! Et l'écho seul m'écoute!
O le pauvre soleil pâli! O les pauvres bois sans ramage! O, mon pauvre amour, quel dommage! Si vite perdu dans l'oubli!
3. Paul Collin, from his poem Sérénade in the cycle Mélodies (by 1878):
J'aime dans le rayon de la limpide aurore
4. Paul Collin, from the untitled fourth poem in his cycle Poëme d'Octobre (by 1878):
Qu'importe que l'hiver éteigne les clartés
Si vous donnez le calme après tant de secousses,
6. Paul Collin, from his poem of the same name in the cycle Mélodies (by 1878):
Il se cache dans ta grâce
The composer's sketches show that he also considered, but ultimately rejected, six other poems by Paul Collin – Prière, Rondel à Madame I. Triery, Rondel d'automne, À la mémoire de Madame Marie ***, Lamento, and Mai, as well as the poem Elle est malade to words by Jean Reboul (1786–1864) .
The idea for the songs arose from Tchaikovsky's meeting with Désirée Artôt in Berlin during his conducting tour of western Europe. Tchaikovsky met with her for the first time in twenty years on 23 January/4 February 1888 . On 26 January/7 February the composer spent an evening with Désirée Artôt , during which she asked him to write a romance for her.
The origins of the French songs' composition can be inferred from Tchaikovsky's correspondence with Artôt. The latter wrote on 2/14 April 1888: "I am impatiently awaiting my Lied, which you promised me. I need not tell you that, allowing for my voice, I shall put all my soul into it" . Tchaikovsky replied on 16/28 May: "Do not take it as a mere compliment it tell you that the memory of our wonderful evening at 17 Landgrafstraße will literally be forever imprinted on my mind ... Of course I will write the Lied you honoured me by requesting. But permit me to do it a little later, since at the moment I have a large work on my hands, and I want to write something worthy of you, which I cannot do until this task is completed. The Lied will be ready no later than August" . In a letter from Désirée Artôt to Tchaikovsky we read: "I want to reassure you regarding the Lied, which I asked you for... that there is no need to hurry. If one day you write some Lieder and think that I could perform one of them well, then just think of dedicating it to me—that's all I would like" .
During the summer, the composer's time was taken up with various works, and the last of these–the overture-fantasia Hamlet—was completed on 7/19 October. The next day Tchaikovsky wrote to his cousin Anna Merkling: "Now... all my main works are already finished and only trifles remain, which should be done by the end of the month" . According to a note on the fair copy of the manuscript, the songs were finished on 10/22 October 1888.
Tchaikovsky’s "mélodies" were intended to be performed in the Parisian musical salons of his time. On 15/27 February 1890 Désirée Artôt sang some of the songs at a private musical soirée in the home of the publisher Alfred Noël . The dedicatee's words about the increasing popularity of Tchaikovsky's Op. 65 (see below) can be confirmed by a number public performances in Paris. On 5 April 1891 [N.S.] Pierre-Emile Engel interpreted Déception (No. 2) and Qu'importe que l'hiver (No. 4) on the large concert stage in the Châtelet . Déception was also included in some concerts by local singers: 25 February/9 March 1894 (Henriette B. de Wyganowsky), 15/27 May 1894 by a student of Madame Edouard Lyon, and 15/27 March 1896 (Jenny Pirodon) . Supposedly this was representative of a much wider reception in French salons.
Tchaikovsky wrote the songs to the original French texts, and soon after their completion he sent them to Pyotr Jurgenson, with the note: "Partly in view of the speed with which I wrote these romances and their small size, but chiefly because you will have to pay for a translation, I've decided that I don't want more than 300 roubles from you" . In the same letter, the composer asked for a copy of the songs to be given to the singer, Yelizaveta Lavrovskaya, at her request.
For the first edition Jurgenson commissioned Russian translations from Aleksandra Santagano-Gorchakova (1842–1913), and Tchaikovsky later made some changes to her Russian translations of Décéption (No. 2) and Sérénade (No. 3) .
The first edition of the songs was slightly delayed. On 9/21 March 1889, Pyotr Jurgenson reported that he was sending out the proofs . The French songs were not issued until the spring–probably in April or May 1889 . Around the same time they were printed by Daniel Rahter in Hamburg .
In France, Rondel (No. 6) was also published in the supplement of the Journal du dimanche. After Tchaikovsky’s death, the journal Les Annales politiques et littéraires included the song Déception (No. 2) to commemorate the composer in its issue of 19 November 1893 [N.S.] .
The Six French Songs, Op. 65, were published in volume 45 of Tchaikovsky's Complete Collected Works (1940), edited by Ivan Shishov and Nikolay Shemanin.
On 17/29 October 1888, Tchaikovsky wrote to Désirée Artôt: "I have just delivered to my publisher, P. Jurgenson, 6 mélodies which I have written for you, and for which I ask you to consent to accept the dedication. I have tried to please you and I think you could sing all of them–in other words, all six will suit the present range of your voice. I would very much hope that these melodies will please you, but unfortunately, I am not at all sure. I must confess to you that I have been working too much of late, and it is more than probable that my new compositions are rather the product of good intentions than of true inspiration. And then, one is a little intimidated when one is composing for a singer one considers the greatest among the great" .
Désirée Artôt replied: "I wished for only one Lied, but you have so generously written six for me. They say "as generous as a king", but they have forgotten to add "or as an artist". Naturally I am very curious to make this new acquaintance, but I do not want to cause you additional work, so I will wait until Jurgenson has published them. But then ask him to send them to me as soon as possible. I will not thank you, but you can be sure of my happiness that you have so quickly and finely fulfilled your promise. I only hope that my talents are worthy of your inspiration" .
When Artôt received the set in August 1889 she wrote to Tchaikovsky: "At last, dear friend, your Lieder are in my hands, waiting to be transferred to my voice. Indeed, 4, 5 and 6 are superb, while the first Sérénade is adorable and has a charming freshness. La Décéption also pleases me enormously. In short, I am in love with your new offspring, and so proud that you have created them with me in mind. One of my students here is already learning them, and many of others are making ready to perform them in September and October" . "I am falling more and more in love with your last six Lieder which, as I expected, are becoming very popular" .
Notes and References
- Misattributed to Paul Collin on the autograph score.
- Short musical sketches exist for Lamento, Mai and Elle est malade. See TH 229 and ČW 503-509.
- See the composer's diary — Letter 3484 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 23 January/4 February 1888. (1923), p. 194 — and also
- See diary entry for 26 January/7 February 1888 — (1923), p. 195.
- Letter from Désirée Artôt-Padilla to Tchaikovsky, 2/14 April 1888 — Klin House-Museum Archive.
- Letter 3569 to Désirée Artôt-Padilla, 16/28 May 1888. The "large work" referred to was the Symphony No. 5.
- Letter from Désirée Artôt-Padilla to Tchaikovsky, 21 May/2 June 1888 — Klin House-Museum Archive.
- Letter 3691 to Anna Merkling, 8/20 October 1888.
- See Letter 4041 to Mariya Klimentova-Muromtseva, 19 February/3 March 1890.
- See Lucinde Braun, (2014), p. 253-254.
- See Inga Mai Groote, Östliche Ouvertüren. Russische Musik in Paris 1870-1913 (Kassel : Bärenreiter, 2014), p. 355, 357, 360.
- Letter 3699 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 16/28 October 1888.
- See letter from Pyotr Jurgenson to Tchaikovsky, 17/29 October 1888 — Klin House-Museum Archive.
- See Letter 3754, 4/16 January 1889, Letter 3771, 18/30 January 1889, and Letter 3813, 4/16 March 1889, all to Pyotr Jurgenson; also Jurgenson's letters to Tchaikovsky of 21 January/2 February and 28 February/12 March 1889.
- Passed by the censor on 11 February 1889.
- See letter from Pyotr Jurgenson to Tchaikovsky, 12/24 August 1889 — Klin House-Museum Archive — and Tchaikovsky's reply in Letter 3921 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 13/25 August 1889.
- See Lucinde Braun, (2014), p. 254.
- Letter 3700 to Désirée Artôt-Padilla, 16/28 October 1888.
- Letter from Désirée Artôt-Padilla to Tchaikovsky, 27 October/8 November 1888 — Klin House-Museum Archive.
- Letter from Désirée Artôt-Padilla to Tchaikovsky, 9/21 August 1889.
- Letter from Désirée Artôt-Padilla to Tchaikovsky, 24 February/8 March 1890.