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Songs

Songs

Au Rossignol (1867)


This song was recorded live in The Jacqueline du Pré Music Building, St Hilda’s College as part of the Oxford Lieder Festival in 2006.
Click here to listen to this song performed by Sophie Daneman and Julius Drake.



Au Rossignol

Quand ta voix céleste prélude
Au silence des belles nuits,
Barde aîlé de ma solitude,
Tu ne sais pas que je te suis.
Tu ne sais pas que mon oreille
Suspendue à ta douce voix,
De l’harmonieuse merveille
S’enivre longtemps sous les bois!
Tu ne sais pas que mon haleine
Sur mes lèvres n’ose passer,
Que mon pied muet foule à peine
La feuille qu’il craint de froisser!
Ah! ta voix touchante ou sublime
Est trop pure pour ce bas lieu!
Cette musique qui t’anime
Est un instinct qui monte à Dieu!
Tu prends les sons que tu recueilles
Dans les gazouillements des flots,
Dans les frémissements des feuilles,
Dans les bruits mourants des échos!
Et de ces doux sons où se mêle
L’instinct céleste qui t’instruit,
Dieu fit ta voix, ô Philomèle!
Et tu fais ton hymne à la nuit!
Ah! ces douces scènes nocturnes,
Ces pieux mystères du soir
Et ces fleurs qui penchent leurs urnes
Comme l’urne d’un encensoir,
Et cette voix mystérieuse
Qu’écoutent les anges et moi,
Ce soupir de la nuit pieuse,
Oiseau mélodieux, c’est toi!
Oh! mêle ta voix à la mienne!
La même oreille nous entend;
Mais ta prière aérienne
Monte mieux au ciel qui l’attend!

To the Nightingale

When your heavenly voice ushers in
The silence of the lovely nights,
You are unaware, winged bard
Of my solitude, that I follow you!
You are unaware that my ear,
Spellbound by your gentle voice,
Has revelled for long beneath the trees
In the miracle of your melody!
You are unaware that my breath
Does not dare to pass my lips,
That my soundless feet scarecly tread
The leaves they fear to crush!
Ah! Your voice, touching or sublime,
Is too pure for this base earth!
This music which inspires you
Is an impulse that soars to God!
You gather your melodies
From the murmuring of the waves,
From the rustling of the leaves,
From the echoes' dying cadences,
And from these sweet sounds, mingled
With the heavenly instinct that instructs you,
God fashioned your voice, O Philomel!
And you sing your hymn to the night!
Ah, these sweet nocturnal scenes,
These divine mysteries of evening,
And these flowers which incline their heads
Like a censer's urn,
And this mysterious voice
That I with angels listen to,
This sigh of divine night -
All this, melodious bird, is you!
Ah, mingle your voice with mine!
The same ear hears us both;
But your aerial prayer
Climbs better to heaven which awaits it!
Translation © Richard Stokes, from A French Song Companion (Oxford, 2000)

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Composer

Charles-François Gounod was a French composer, best known for his Ave Maria, based on a work by Bach, as well as his opera Faust.

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Poet

Alphonse Marie Louis de Prat de Lamartine, Knight of Pratz, was a French writer, poet and politician who was instrumental in the foundation of the Second Republic and the continuation of the Tricolore as the flag of France.


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Oxford Lieder is one of the world's leading promoters of song and the winner of a prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society Award. The focal point of each year is the two-week Oxford Lieder Festival in October.

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