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.
The music of Ralph Vaughan Williams has provided singers with a wealth of vocal repertoire, and for baritones his song cycle Songs of Travel surely holds pride of place. Set to poetry of Robert Louis Stevenson, the cycle presents a traveler in a variety of settings; marching off into the countryside, reflecting on the beauty of nature, recalling happy days long past.
‘Bright is the ring of words’ considers the legacy of an artist, affirming that poetry and song live on even ‘after the singer is dead’. It is a fitting text for a performer of art song, a testament to the transcendent power of words and music.
We celebrate the many great artists of the past who still live on in the present day through their works, and we look to the artists of tomorrow who will continue to provide humanity with words that ring brightly.
Recorded at our gala concert in November 2019, ‘Bright is the ring of words’ features frequent Fourth Coast collaborator and chairman of the board of directors Dana Brown on piano.
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!