Igor Stravinsky

Poems of Verlaine (2), song cycle for voice & piano or orchestra, Op. 9

    Description by James Leonard

    Stravinsky composed his two settings of poems by Paul Verlaine for baritone and piano at the seaside resort of La Baule, in Brittany, in the summer after the 1910 premiere of L'oiseau de feu. These were the first French texts Stravinsky had set and they were the last work to which he was to assign an opus number. "Un grand sommeil noir" (A great, black sleep) from Sagesse is one of Verlaine's blackest poems while "La lune blanche" (A white moon) from La Bonne Chanson is one of Verlaine's most exquisite poems. Stravinsky nevertheless set them both in blackest B flat minor. Stravinsky, who dedicated these songs "A mon frère Goury" (To my brother Goury), whose voice was said to be a beautiful baritone, always grieved that Goury "did not live to sing them professionally." Written in Stravinsky's early Russian style slightly tempered by the influence of Debussy, Un grand sommeil noir sounds more like the languid portions of L'oiseau de feu than like the work which Stravinsky also began that summer, Petrushka. Stravinsky's adoption of French may have presaged to live in a Francophone country (Switzerland) until 1939. Similarly, his abandonment of opus numbers after the Verlaine songs is symbolizes his abandonment of his early Russian style derived from Rimsky-Korsakov.

    In 1951, Stravinsky returned to his Verlaine songs and orchestrated them for pairs of flutes, clarinets, and horn plus strings.


    1. Sagesse
    2. La bonne chanson

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2015 Sony Classical 88875026162
    2015 DG Deutsche Grammophon 002894794261
    2015 DG Deutsche Grammophon B002398272
    2010 DG Deutsche Grammophon 001660502
    2007 Sony Classical Essential Classics 103112
    2005 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2001 Gmn.com 101
    1995 Sony Music Distribution 46298
    1993 Orfeo 15821
    1991 Sony Music Distribution 46290