Gounod did not call his setting of Alphonse de Lamartine's Au rossignol (To the Nightingale) of 1867 a chanson -- it is far too rarefied for that -- or a melodie -- it is far too simple for that -- but a harmonie poetique -- a perfect nomenclature for a work for voice and piano of such refined and sublime lyricism. With its incessantly repeated quarter-note chords, the piano accompaniment is virtually vestigial. With its nearly nonexistent modulations and chromatic inflections, its harmonies are almost anodyne. And with its strophic setting of Lamartine's nine verses, its form is seemingly soporific. But Gounod's legato melody is a thing of endless lyrical beauty, a long and rapturous meditation on nature, life, love, and God.
Description by James Leonard
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