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Les nuits d't

1840.[3] The title Nuits d't was Berliozs invention, and


it is not clear why he chose it: the rst song is specically
set in spring rather than summer. The writer Annagret
Fauser suggests that Berlioz may have been inuenced by
the preface to a collection of short stories by his friend
Joseph Mry, Les nuits de Londres, in which the author
writes of summer nights in which he and his friends sat
outside until dawn telling stories.[4] In a 1989 study of
Berlioz, D Kern Holoman suggests that the title is an allusion to Shakespeare, whose works Berlioz loved.[5]

Berlioz in 1845

Les nuits d't (Summer Nights), Op. 7, is a song cycle


by the French composer Hector Berlioz. It is a setting of
six poems by Thophile Gautier. The cycle, completed
in 1841, was originally for soloist and piano accompaniment. Berlioz orchestrated one of the songs in 1843,
and did the same for the other ve in 1856. The cycle
was neglected for many years, but during the 20th century it became, and has remained, one of the composers
most popular works. The full orchestral version is more
frequently performed in concert and on record than the
piano original. The theme of the work is the progress of
love, from youthful innocence to loss and nally renewal.

Background

Gautier in 1839

Berlioz and the poet Thophile Gautier were neighbours


and friends. Gautier wrote, Berlioz represents the romantic musical idea unexpected eects in sound, tumultuous and Shakespearean depth of passion.[1] It is
possible that Berlioz read Gautiers collection La comdie
de la mort (The Comedy of Death) before its publication
in 1838.[2] Gautier had no objection to his friends setting
six poems from that volume, and Berlioz began in March

The cycle was complete in its original version for voice


(mezzo-soprano or tenor) and piano by 1841.[6] Berlioz
later made arrangements for baritone, contralto, or
soprano, and piano.[7] The piano version is not as often
performed in concert or on record as the orchestrated
score, which Berlioz arranged between 1843 and 1856.[8]
David Cairns wrote in 1988 that the success of the piano version was impeded by the inferior quality of the
1

2 MUSIC

piano part in the published score: it is not Berliozs own, them with orchestral accompaniment, those in Les nuits
and Cairns described it as a clumsy, inauthentic piece of d't are the only ones published as a set.[18] They are not
work.[9]
a cycle on the German model of Schubert's Winterreise
In 1843 Berlioz orchestrated the fourth song, Absence or Schumann's Dichterliebe, with narrative and thematic
for his lover, Marie Recio, who premiered it in Leipzig continuity, but form a unied whole by virtue of the
on 23 February 1843; it was not until 1856, that he re- single authorship of the words and the composers use
[19]
turned to Les nuits d't, making an orchestral arrange- throughout of delicate, atmospheric musical shading.
ment of Le spectre de la rose for the mezzo-soprano The structure of the cycle has four sombre songs framed
by exuberant opening and closing ones. The critic A.
Anna Bockholtz-Falconi. The publisher Jakob RieterBiedermann was in the audience for the premiere, and, E. F. Dickinson wrote in a 1969 study, Their common
theme is nominally love unrequited or lost, symbolizing,
much impressed, prevailed on Berlioz to orchestrate the
[10]
rest of the cycle.
The orchestration left the existing arguably, an ache for vanished or unattainable beauty.
But their musical order is apparently fortuitous, and forms
melodic and harmonic writing generally unchanged, but
[18]
for Le spectre de la rose the composer added an intro- an acceptable, rather than a compulsive, association.
Berliozs innovative creation of an orchestral song cycle
duction for muted solo cello, ute and clarinet; the oruntil Mahler took the genre up in the
chestration of this song, unlike the other ve, includes a had few successors
[20]
late
19th
century.
[11]
harp.
The original piano version had a single dedicatee Louise
Bertin, whose father, Louis Bertin, was editor of the
Journal des dbats, for which Berlioz wrote musical criticism and other articles.[2] Each of the six songs of the
orchestral cycle was dedicated individually, to singers
well known in Germany, some of whom had performed
Berliozs music there: Louise Wolf (Villanelle), Anna
Bockholtz-Falconi (Le spectre de la rose), Hans von
Milde (Sur les lagunes), Madeleine Notts (Absence),
Friedrich Caspari (Au cimetire) and Rosa von Milde
(L'le inconnue).[2]

As far as is known, the orchestral cycle was not performed in its entirety during the composers lifetime.[21]
The work was neglected for many years, but during the
twentieth century it was rediscovered and has become one
of Berliozs best-loved works.[20]

2 Music

By Berliozs standards the orchestration is on a modest


scale. There is no percussion, and the forces stipulated
For the orchestral version, Berlioz transposed the second are the normal string section of violins, violas, cellos and
two
and third songs to lower keys.[12][n 1] When this version double-basses; woodwind: two utes, two clarinets,
[22]
bassoons,
one
oboe;
brass:
three
horns;
harp.
was published, Berlioz specied dierent voices for the
various songs: mezzo-soprano or tenor for Villanelle,
contralto for Le spectre de la rose, baritone (or option- 2.1 Villanelle
ally contralto or mezzo) for Sur les lagunes, mezzo or
tenor for Absence, tenor for Au cimetire, and mezzo Villanelle": text and translation
or tenor for L'le inconnue.[14] The cycle is nevertheless
usually sung by a single soloist, most often a soprano or
mezzo-soprano.[15] When the cycle is sung by sopranos
Allegretto
the second and third songs are usually transposed back
Key: A major; orchestration: 2 utes, 1 oboe,
to their original pitches; when lower voices sing the cy2 clarinets in A, 1 bassoon, strings.[23]
cle some other songs are often transposed downwards; in
the view of the Berlioz scholar Julian Rushton this has a
The rst of the set, Villanelle is a celebration of spring
particularly deleterious eect in the rst song, the lightand love. It tells of the pleasures of wandering together
[16]
hearted Villanelle.
in the woods to gather wild strawberries, returning home
[The poems] form a narrative which leads from a spring- with hands entwined. The setting is strophic; Berlioz
born joie de vivre (Villanelle) and a loss of innocence (Le maintains the villanelle rhythm of the original poem,
spectre de la rose), to the death of a beloved (Sur les la- while varying the orchestral accompaniment with string
gunes), a dirge (Absence), the obliteration of her memory counterpoints, and, at the end of each verse, a bassoon
(Au Cimetire), and the beginning of a new future (L'le solo, pitched higher at each iteration. Rushton comments
inconnue).
that these variations add to the sense of the natural variety and freshness of spring.[12]

Annagret Fauser[17]

2.2 Le spectre de la rose

Although Berlioz wrote more than fty songs, twenty of Le spectre de la rose": text and translation

2.6

L'le inconnue

Adagio un poco lento et dolce assai.

Andantino non troppo lento

Key: B major; orchestration: 2 utes, 1 oboe, 2


clarinets in A, 2 horns in E, 1 harp, strings.[24]

Key: D major; orchestration: 2 utes, 2 clarinets in A; strings.[30]

Le spectre de la rose tells of a girls dreams of the ghost


of the rose she had worn to a ball the previous day. Although the rose has died, it has ascended to paradise; to
have died on the girls breast was a fate that kings might
envy.[12] The setting is through-composed.[17] Holoman
describes the song as among the most perfect expressions of French Romanticism.[25]

Au cimetire: Clair de lune (At the Cemetery: Moonlight), is a further lament, with the bereaved lover now
more distant from the memory of his beloved, and perturbed by a ghostly vision of her.[17]

2.3

Sur les lagunes: Lamento

Sur les lagunes": text and translation

Andantino

2.6 L'le inconnue


L'le inconnue": text and translation

Allegro spiritoso
Key: F major; orchestration: 2 utes, 1 oboe, 2
clarinets in B, 2 bassoons, 1 horn in F, 1 horn
in C, 1 horn in B, strings.[31]

Key: F minor; orchestration: 2 utes, 2 clarinets in B, 2 bassoons, 1 horn in C , 1 horn in


F, strings.[26]

L'le inconnue (The Unknown Island) hints at the


unattainable a place where love can be eternal. Rushton
describes the song as cheerfully ironic, set by Berlioz
Sur les lagunes: Lamento (On the Lagoons: Lament), with a Venetian swing.[32] This closing song is strophic
with its sombre harmonies and orchestration is imbued with the form ABACA'DA.[17]
with melancholy; the undulating accompaniment suggests
the movement of the waves. The poem is the lament of a
Venetian boatman at the loss of his beloved, and the pain
of sailing out to sea unloved.[27] This is the second of the 3 Recordings
two through-composed songs in the cycle.[17]
Main article: Les nuits d't discography

2.4

Absence

Absence": text and translation

Adagio
Key: F sharp minor; orchestration: 2 utes, 1
oboe, 2 clarinets in A, 1 horn in A, 1 horn in
D, strings.[28]
The rhetorical Absence pleads for the return of the
beloved. Rushton suggests that unlike the other ve songs,
this one may make use of existing music, written for an
abandoned cantata, Erigone, and this possibly explains
why in this song alone Berlioz cut and rearranged Gautiers verses.[29] This song, and Au cimetire, which follows, are strophic, with the form ABA.[17]

The growing popularity of the work was reected in


the number of complete recordings issued in the LP
era. Among those are versions sung by Eleanor Steber, Suzanne Danco and Victoria de los ngeles in
mono recordings and Rgine Crespin, Leontyne Price and
Janet Baker in stereo. More recent recordings have featured Vronique Gens, Anne Soe von Otter, Bernarda
Fink and Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. Recordings by male
singers include those by Nicolai Gedda and Jos Van
Dam. The piano version has been recorded from time to
time, and there have been two studio recordings of the orchestral version with multiple singers, as stipulated in the
orchestral score; these were conducted by Sir Colin Davis
and Pierre Boulez. Conductors of other versions have
included Ernest Ansermet, Sir John Barbirolli, James
Levine, Charles Munch and Fritz Reiner.[33]

4 Notes, references and sources


2.5

Au cimetire: Clair de lune


4.1 Notes

Au cimetire": text and translation


[1] From D to B and G minor to F minor respectively.[13]

4.2

References

[1] Blakeman, p. 3
[2] Anderson, p. 3
[3] Holoman, p. 275
[4] Fauser, pp. 119120
[5] Holoman, pp. 9293 and 275
[6] Rushton, p. 165
[7] Grard, p. 6
[8] Cairns, pp. 3 and 12
[9] Cairns, p. 12
[10] Holoman, p. 514
[11] Anderson, p. 4
[12] Rushton, Julian Hector Berlioz, Linn Records, 2013
[13] Cairns, p. 5

EXTERNAL LINKS

4.3 Sources
Anderson, Keith (2005). Notes to Naxos CD 8.
557274. Naxos Records. OCLC 232300936.
Berlioz, Hector; Thophile Gautier (1904) [1856].
Les nuits d't. Leipzig: Breitkopf & Hrtel. OCLC
611290556.
Blakeman, Edward (1989). Notes to Chandos CD
Chan 8735. Chandos Records. OCLC 22246622.
Cairns, David (1986). Berlioz. In Alan Blyth.
Song on Record. Cambridge University Press. ISBN
978-0-521-36173-6.
Fauser, Annagret (2000). The songs. In Peter Bloom. The Cambridge Companion to Berlioz.
Cambridge Companions to Music. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-59638-1.
Holoman, D Kern (1989). Berlioz. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-06778-3.
Rushton, Julian (2001). The Music of Berlioz. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-816690-0.

[14] Cairns, p. 4
[15] Cairns, p. 6

5 External links

[16] Rushton, pp. 165166


[17] Fauser, p. 119
[18] Dickinson, A E F. Berliozs Songs, The Musical Quarterly, July 1969, pp. 329343 (subscription required)
[19] Cairns, pp. 45
[20] Rushton, p. 45
[21] Holoman, p. 367
[22] Berlioz, IVI
[23] Berlioz, I
[24] Berlioz II
[25] Holoman, p. 239
[26] Berlioz III
[27] Holoman, p. 516
[28] Berlioz IV
[29] Rushton (2001), pp. 4546
[30] Berlioz V
[31] Berlioz VI
[32] Rushton (2001), p. 45
[33] Cairns, p. 3; and Les nuits d't", WorldCat, retrieved 2
July 2015

Les nuits d't: Scores at the International Music


Score Library Project
BerliozSongs.co.uk | Scores and texts of Berlioz
songs for voice and piano
Texts of Les nuits d't.

Text and image sources, contributors, and licenses

6.1

Text

Les nuits d't Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_nuits_d'%C3%A9t%C3%A9?oldid=712635249 Contributors: JackofOz, Antandrus, Graham87, Rjwilmsi, TBHecht, Melodia, Pegship, Kleinzach, Tim riley, Kyoko, HitroMilanese, Folantin, Mherr, DJRafe, Johnbod, VolkovBot, TXiKiBoT, CenturionZ 1, Phe-bot, Salamander01234, Lethesl, GFHandel, Addbot, DOI bot, Pmiize, Yobot, Citation
bot, Citation bot 1, Trappist the monk, Frietjes, Solomon7968, Max2x4, Msalkindpearl, YFdyh-bot, TAP Bot, Snicker34759, Musiclvr1,
Narky Blert, BU RoBOT and Anonymous: 11

6.2

Images

File:Berlioz_image_03.jpg Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5b/Berlioz_image_03.jpg License: Public domain Contributors: http://www.karadar.com/PhotoGallery/berlioz.html Original artist: August Prinzhofer
File:Portrait_of_Thophile_Gautier.jpg Source:
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/42/Portrait_of_Th%C3%
A9ophile_Gautier.jpg License: Public domain Contributors: Muse de l'Ile-de-France: http://domaine-de-sceaux.hauts-de-seine.net/
les-expositions/archives-des-expositions/theophile-gautier-dans-son-cadre/ Original artist: Auguste de Chatillon

6.3

Content license

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