La Bonne Chanson (Fauré)

La Bonne Chanson, Op. 61, by Gabriel Fauré, is a song cycle of nine mélodies for voice and piano. He composed it during 1892–94; in 1898 he created a version for voice, piano and string quintet.[1] The cycle is based on nine of the poems from the collection of the same name by Paul Verlaine.[2] According to Fauré himself, the song cycle contains a number of musical themes which recur from song to song. He had devised this technique for the 1891 song cycle Cinq mélodies "de Venise",[3] which was also based on Verlaine's poetry.[4]

Composition

A woman's head and shoulders in profile looking to the left, with short, curled hair
Emma Bardac after a portrait by Léon Bonnat

Much of the cycle was composed in the summers of 1892 and 1893 while Fauré was staying in Bougival,[5] as the guest of the banker Sigismond Bardac and his wife, the soprano Emma Bardac.[6] Fauré was in love with her (although she later married Claude Debussy).[2] Fauré wrote later that the cycle was his most spontaneous creation, with Bardac singing the newly composed material for him each day.[5] The final song, "L'hiver a cessé", was completed in February 1894,[7] and the cycle was published by Hamelle that year, with a dedication to Emma Bardac.[1]

In a 1902 interview conducted by Louis Aguettant for Le Courrier musical,[8] Fauré enumerated five main musical themes which recur throughout the cycle until they appear together in the final song, "L'hiver a cessé". One of these themes was taken from his earlier mélodie "Lydia",[9] Op. 4, No. 2 (c. 1870);[10] Fauré stated that he associated this theme with a singer, possibly meaning Emma Bardac.[11]

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