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Two Poems of Verlaine

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

Two Poems of Verlaine

Stravinsky composed his settings of two poems by the French poet Paul Verlaine in 1910, the year his major new ballet The Firebird was completed and premiered by the Diaghilev company in Paris. Although Stravinsky was still strongly under the effect of Rimsky-Korsakov and the tradition he represented, he had also come under the influence of a great innovator of the time, Claude Debussy, and this is strongly felt in these songs for baritone and orchestra, Stravinsky’s first settings of French texts. The dreamy, floating woodwind chords and the suggestive, sustained vocal writing are highly impressionistic and notably different in style from The Firebird’s generally more exotic characteristics.

The first song is entitled Sleep – ‘a cradle swung in a cavern of sadness and night’. This is followed by The White Moon Shines in the Woods, a call to the beloved one to ‘let us dream; a vast and gentle peace descends from the sky endowing the stars with brightness – it is the loveliest hour’.

© Jon Tolansky

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