En Bateau, d'après Watteau (piano reduction) Anthony Gilbert
soprano and piano
Piano reduction of the original version for soprano, recorder, oboe, violin and cello.
This pair of songs was written as an 80th-birthday tribute to Sir John Manduell, CBE, formerly Principal of the Royal Northern College of Music, and a great francophile. Watteau and Wagner haunted both of these poets; indeed Proust's young alter ego, at his moment of epiphany in Combray, invokes Lohengrin and Baudelaire's musical revelation in the same sentence. The songs loosely connect the two poets by yet another Wagnerian-Watteauesque route, the sea, amd by some traces of Wagnerian harmony. First we have turbulence, not inappropriate to Baudelaire, then a corresponding ornate calm for Proust. Their first performance was given by Lesley-Jane Rogers, soprano and the Manchester Chamber Players at St. Martin's Church, Bowness-on-Windermere, on 13th August 2008.
La Musique: Charles Baudelaire
Music will often lift me like a sea!
Towards my pale star
Beneath a ceiling of mist or in a vast ether
I put to sail;
Breast to the fore and lungs filled
Like canvas sails,
I climb high on the backs of tall waves
Veiled by night.
Within me I feel the vibrancy of passions
And sufferings of a ship;
Kind words, storms and their convulsions
Over the immense gulf
Lull me. At other times, a flat calm
Mirrors my despair.
Antoine Watteau: Marcel Proust
Twilight veiling trees and plains
With its blue cloak behind its indefinite
Dust of kisses around weary lips . . .
The vague becomes tactile, the close-
The masquerade, distant and melancholy
Makes the loving gesture more false,
sad and charming.
Poet's caprice – or lover's caution,
Love needing to seem decorous and wise Lull me.
– behold boats, picnics, silences and . . .
Paraphrases © Anthony Gilbert