If I were forced to sing only one genre of music professionally for the rest of my life, it wouldn't be church music, it wouldn't even be opera--it would be mélodie (French art song). The composers working in the 19th and early 20th centuries were writing for my voice and my heart specifically or, at least, it feels that way to me. It's a beautiful day here, and finally not raining, so I thought I would start my series about mélodie with a song that is unapologetically beautiful, shamelessly lovely. It was written by Reynaldo Hahn (1875-1947) who was actually Venezuelan, but he spent most of his life in France. All of his songs are simply gorgeous, skirting the line of being précieux, but managing to stay within the bounds of good taste. Á Chloris is my favorite of these, a setting of a poem by the libertin Théophile de Viau (1590-1626). It's a song I always go back to when I'm feeling down about singing, and the mere act of singing it in my living room to nobody else but myself reminds me why I wanted to take up this profession.
The piano part in this mélodie is in a deliberately archaic style--a chaccone, or court dance, and it grounds the impassioned poem and vocal line in reality and gives it a gravitas it would otherwise lack. I feel that the whole piece is an exquisite depiction of that delicious anticipation one feels just before declaring affection for another person when one is quite sure that the other person feels the same way.
Á Chloris (M just in case because--youtube)
If it is true, Chloris, that you love me,
And I have heard that you love me well,
I do not believe that kings themselves
Can match such happiness as mine.
Even death would be powerless
To come and change my fortune
For all the joys of heaven!
All that is said of ambrosia
Does not touch my imagination
Like the grace of your eyes.