Clair de lune (Fauré)

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"Clair de lune", ("Moonlight") Op. 46 No 2, is a song by Gabriel Fauré, composed in 1887 to words by Paul Verlaine.


Fauré's 1887 setting of the poem was for voice and piano; but in 1888, at the instigation of the Princesse de Polignac, he made a version for voice and orchestra, first performed at the Société Nationale de Musique in April of that year, with the tenor Maurice Bàges as soloist.[1][2] In its orchestral form the song was included in Fauré's incidental music Masques et bergamasques in 1919.[1] The original published version (Hamelle, Paris, 1888) is in B-flat minor. The song is dedicated to Fauré's friend the painter Emmanuel Jadin, who was a talented amateur pianist.[3]

The pianist Graham Johnson notes that it closes Fauré's second period and opens the doors into his third. Johnson notes that it is "for many people the quintessential French mélodie".[4]


The lyric is from Paul Verlaine's early collection Fêtes galantes (1869). It inspired not only Fauré but Claude Debussy, who set it in 1881 and wrote a well known piano piece inspired by it in 1891.[4]

Notes references and sources[edit]


  1. ^ An anonymous rhyming English version reads:
    Your soul is as a moonlit landscape fair,
    Peopled with maskers delicate and dim,
    That play on lutes and dance and have an air
    Of being sad in their fantastic trim.

    The while they celebrate in minor strain
    Triumphant love, effective enterprise,
    They have an air of knowing all is vain,—
    And through the quiet moonlight their songs rise,

    The melancholy moonlight, sweet and lone,
    That makes to dream the birds upon the tree,
    And in their polished basins of white stone
    The fountains tall to sob with ecstasy


  1. ^ a b Nectoux, p. 338
  2. ^ Nectoux, p. 540
  3. ^ Nectoux, pp. 67 and 540
  4. ^ a b Johnson, Graham (2005). Liner notes to Hyperion CD CDA 67334
  5. ^ French text, public domain; English translation checked against translations at The Reader Organisation Archived 2010-12-30 at the Wayback Machine, accessed 29 January 2011, and Johnson, Graham (2005), Liner notes to Hyperion CD CDA 67334.


  • Nectoux, Jean-Michel (1991). Gabriel Fauré – A Musical Life. Roger Nichols (trans.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-23524-2.

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