Sunday, March 06, 2005

"Oh! quand je dors" - Franz Liszt

I LOVE this chanson. One of the most beautiful things ever written. One of my favorite recordings of this is by Kathleen Battle at Carnegie Hall, an unusual choice to sing this song since it's more appropriate for a fuller, lyric sound, but Battle does a great job.

In the chanson, the singer asks his/her lover to approach the couch that he/she is sleeping on, just as Petrarch (the famous Italian poet) appeared to Laura. "Let your breath touch me as you pass; suddenly my lips will part!" The singer describes how her furrowed brow will reveal the never-ending, dark dream that is finally coming to an end - a metaphor for how the lover has saved the singer from a lifetime of not being loved. The singer asks the lover to gently awake her with a kiss.

The song, accompanied by piano, has tons of text painting with the word placement and piano passages. It begins with an opening cadenza in the left hand, that suggests the lover entering the room. The singer's opening melody is mostly in the middle range, but on the word, "Petrarch" the singer shoots up to a high G. Generally all of the important words are on high notes or runs for emphasis - "kiss," "love," "dream," etc.

The opening section is a parallel symmetric period, the first phrase ending in a half cadence and the second ending in an AC. The B section is developmental of the A section and tonally unstable. This makes sense because the singer at this point is talking about the nightmare she is having. Eventually the B section returns to the melody from the A section, but this time it has modulated up - I still consider this part of the B section. The B section ends on a huge cadence for the word "radiant." The A section returns in the original key and is similar to the first time it was sung. This time, however, there is a short terminative section added. Therefore, the song is in a rounded binary form.

The only flaw with this recording is that Battle takes a breath in the middle of a word - "fem / me" or "woman." It's a pretty careless mistake, but oh well.

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