The scant thirty-four bars of Fauré's Le secret (1880 - 81) unfold with an adagio chordal accompaniment over which hovers an incantatory melody, like smoke from the censer evoked in the central climactic lines of Armand Silvestre's Parnassian poem:
I want the day to proclaim it,
The love that I hid in the morning,
And over my open heart, poised,
Like a grain of incense, to inflame it
The formal solemnity of the text is rippled with barely suppressed excitement, which Fauré expresses with serenely anxious modulations whose hymnic rapture expresses at once secrecy, sacredness, and, in its octave rise to "penché / Comme un grain d'encens," a triumphant proclamation. Where the opening wavers between major and lydian modality, the final pianissimo verse achieves unambiguous closure in the key of F major. While the song is technically undemanding, Fauré's subtle translation of the poem's conceit into pure music garlanded with exquisite vocal inflections calls for an interpretive artist of the first order. Small wonder that specialists of the mélodie so often include it in their programs.
Le secret was first sung by bass André Quirot at a concert of the Société Nationale de Musique on January 6, 1883.