The pleasure of love lasts but a moment; the sorrow of love lasts a lifetime.
Over the years, musicians of all stripes have been attracted to Jean-Paul-Égide Martini’s beautiful song "Plaisir d’amour". From classical singers like Paul Robeson, to folk singers like Joan Baez, Martini’s haunting melody has found a home in the repertoire of countless performers. Perhaps most famously the tune provided inspiration for the Elvis Presley hit "Can’t help falling in love" in 1961.
With the limitations that the pandemic has put on collective music making, many musicians have turned to creating more independent, self-produced projects. The rippling arpeggios in the accompaniment of "Plaisir d’amour" seem naturally suited to a guitar, and with Valentine’s Day just around the corner I thought that an art song on the theme of "the pleasure of love" would be a fun quarantine project to put together. The text is a bit more wistful than your average Valentine’s Day card; Martini captures that mood with a simple but effective melody in the opening refrain. The first verse sets up the story of unrequited love, the second takes a melancholy turn into a minor key only to give way to the refrain once more.
"Plaisir d’amour" is the music for which Martini is best remembered today. He was born and educated in Bavaria, and made his career as a court musician in Paris. He composed music and led concerts for the royalty and politicians of France, including Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and Napoléon Bonaparte. He fled Paris during the French Revolution but returned in later years to teach composition at the Paris Conservatory. He died in 1816 on Valentine’s Day.
Enjoy this musical valentine from Fourth Coast Ensemble, much "amour" to you all.
This beloved 20th century art song floats in on a cloud of nostalgia. The narrator recalls a single moment – most of us have experienced at least one – where time stood still and everything was right in the world.
Robert Hillyer's poem awakens the senses as he recalls the sights, sounds and scents of being in love while living abroad at age twenty. The memory becomes more intoxicating with each new detail: It was a summer morning. Perfect greenery hung overhead. The sidewalks smelled of fresh rain as they were being washed down.
American composer Ned Rorem spent a formative decade of his own life living in France from 1949-1958. He brings the poem to life with a lilting melody and gently rocking gestures in the piano. Perhaps there is a single twinge of longing for the pleasures of youth as the narrator looks back on that distant moment; but then again, there is pleasure in keeping the memory alive across the years, too.
As you listen to this song, perhaps you will take a moment to resurface your own memories of youth, travel, and love.
Please enjoy this performance, featuring myself with pianist Mark Bilyeu, live in concert on February 2, 2017 at the State Street Gallery in Chicago.
Hello, and welcome to the blog! We are Fourth Coast Ensemble, Chicago's classical vocal quartet. Join a different member of our ensemble each week for insights into our favorite art songs, links to archival and new recordings, and reflections on why we value and continue to come back to this musical medium. We proudly present, your weekly #artsongfix!