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Songs

Songs

Cythère

Cythère

Un pavillon à claires-voies
Abrite doucement nos joies
Qu'éventent des rosiers amis;
L'odeur des roses, faible, grâce
Au vent léger d'été qui passe,
Se mêle aux parfums qu'elle a mis ;
Comme ses yeux l'avaient promis,
Son courage est grand et sa lèvre
Communique une exquise fièvre ;
Et l'Amour comblant tout, hormis
La Faim, sorbets et confitures
Nous préservent des courbatures.

Cythera

The latticed arbour
Tenderly hides our ecstasy
The friendly rose trees cool;
The faint scent of roses,
Thanks to the summer breeze that blows,
Blends with the perfume she wears;
As her eyes promised –
She is fearless and her lips
Communicate an exquisite fever;
And Love, having sated all, except
Hunger – sherbets and preserves
Keep our bodies from aching.

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Composer

Poldowski was born Régine Wieniawski, daughter of the Polish violinist and composer Henryk Wieniawski. Her famous father died when she was ten months old. Poldowski moved among the musical aristocracy from an early age and performed her own music publicly when still a teenager.

In 1896 she and her mother moved to London, where her first works were published under the name ‘Irène Wieniawska’. After her marriage in 1901 to Sir Aubrey Dean Paul, she was also known by many combinations of her married and maiden names. Her legacy is further complicated by her cosmopolitan background, since her mother Isabelle Hampton was English and she was born in Brussels. After the death of her first child, her marriage eventually collapsed and she moved to Paris for further studies. She took the pseudonym ‘Poldowski’. Two songs are associated with her child’s death: ‘Soir’ and ‘Berceuse d'Armorique’; the former opens with ambiguous, oscillating chords before the plangent oboe d’amore joins and the song unfolds into a hearfelt lament. Tragically, both her surviving children were drug addicts. 

Poldowski enjoyed a successful career as a composer and pianist in the 1910s, her music championed by a range of figures including the pianist Lazare Lévy and the conductor Henry Wood. Her songs were championed by stars like Gervase Elwes, who sang her Verlaine settings and regularly championed her music until his untimely death in 1921.

In 1919-22, Poldowski lived in the USA. Her opera Silence was premiered in London in 1920. Upon her return to London she moved within powerful musical circles. She ran important concert series in New York and London in the early 1920s which attracted international artists, as well as a fashion boutique. Her work was regularly performed during the 1910s and 1920s in Belgium, the Netherlands, London and Paris, by singers like Elwes, Maggie Teyte and Jane Bathori-Engel. She developed pneumonia and died in London aged 52.

Poldowski is particularly important for her 22 settings of Verlaine, which are among the finest in existence. She also set texts by William Blake, W. B. Yeats, Alfred, Lord Tennyson and of her own composition. Her style reflects the full range of early 20th-century French trends, with a subtle approach to harmony and text and a unique voice. Her Blake setting, ‘Song’, creates an austere, medieval atmosphere which recurs, transformed, in ‘Dans la musette’. She creates glowing, sparkling textures in ‘Sérénade’ and ‘Mandoline’, Wolfian demonism in ‘Cortège’, and guileless lyricism in ‘L’heure exquise’. ‘Effet de neige’ shows her harmonic assurance in its unfathomable, dark opening chords, as do the searching ‘À Clymène’ and the sublimely contoured ‘Dimanche d’avril’ and ‘Bruxelles’. There are many discoveries to be enjoyed here.

© Natasha Loges, 2022

 


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Poet

Paul-Marie Verlaine was a French poet associated with the Symbolist movement. He is considered one of the greatest representatives of the fin de siècle in international and French poetry.
Born in Metz, Verlaine was educated at the Lycée Impérial Bonaparte (now the Lycée Condorcet) in Paris and then took up a post in the civil service. He began writing poetry at an early age, and was initially influenced by the Parnassien movement and its leader, Leconte de Lisle. Verlaine's first published poem was published in 1863 in La Revue du progrès, a publication founded by poet Louis-Xavier de Ricard. Verlaine was a frequenter of the salon of the Marquise de Ricard (Louis-Xavier de Ricard's mother) at 10 Boulevard des Batignolles and other social venues, where he rubbed shoulders with prominent artistic figures of the day: Anatole France, Emmanuel Chabrier, inventor-poet and humorist Charles Cros, the cynical anti-bourgeois idealist Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, Théodore de Banville, François Coppée, Jose-Maria de Heredia, Leconte de Lisle, Catulle Mendes and others. Verlaine's first published collection, Poèmes saturniens (1866), though adversely commented upon by Sainte-Beuve, established him as a poet of promise and originality.

Taken from Wikipedia. To view the full article, please click here.


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