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Le Papillon et La Fleur (Op.1 No.1) - Gabriel Fauré

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Published on Sep 5, 2009

'Le papillon et la fleur (The Butterfly and the Flower) dates from very early in the career of Gabriel Fauré and was, in fact, his first published composition (Op. 1/1, 1965). The song, or mélodie, as Fauré took to calling them, is clearly a skillful rendering of Victor Hugo's poignantly quaint poem, but follows largely after the Germanic style of mid-century and only hints at Fauré's later, more languorous style. The poem depicts the amorous entreaties of a flower to the butterfly that visits it, the former bemoaning how widely the latter roams free, untethered by roots in the soil, visiting countless other flowers. The poem unrolls in a singsong manner, with clear rhyme and meter, suggesting a similarly straightforward setting. Fauré is thus limited in the extent to which any particular sentiment or feature of the text can find resonance with the music, although his simple strophic structure is certainly not lacking in charm. Indeed, the sturdy bassline underscoring the melody and the cascading figure in the right hand that serves as an interlude between strophes aptly conveys the coy romantic humor of the poet's transparent metaphor. Fauré's later mélodie, of course, become more harmonically complex, structurally varied, and intellectually engaging, but not necessarily more endearing.'

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