Paroles du Chagrin

Four Songs for soprano and piano

Premiered by Rose Hegele and Katelan Tran Terrell. Kilbourn Hall, Eastman School of Music.
October 2014.
1. Je suis comme je suis - Jacques Prévert
2. Déjeuner du matin - Jacques Prévert
3. Il pleure dans mon coeur - Paul Verlaine
4. Le ciel est par-dessus le toit - Paul Verlaine
Duration: 15'

Program Notes

Paroles du Chagrin features poems by Paul Verlaine (1844-1946) and Jacques Prévert (1900-1977) that to me, all share feelings of sorrow - hence, the title of the cycle (Songs of Sorrow).
The opening song is a depiction of a seemingly defiant femme fatale whose caprice and provocativeness only serve to mask her vulnerability. That evanescent moment of exposed weakness in the middle of the song is rare, yet crucial to understanding her otherwise confident image that she is trying to project.
More desolate and suspenseful, “Déjeuner du matin” is also narrated from a female perspective. She is observing her lover, describing his every move, while he is coldly performing his daily routine without acknowledging her presence. When he suddenly stands up and leaves, perhaps forever, she breaks down. The outburst of sixteenth notes in a six-note ostinato at the end in the piano represents the pouring rain under which the man disappears, and also the rush of anger and fear that the woman experiences.
Verlaine compares tears to rain in "Il pleure dans mon coeur". These light yet consistent and piercing staccati notes on the piano become dried out tears by the end (muted strings of the piano), until they also gradually evaporate. The central point of this poem is the hopeless question to why is there so much pain... without reason? Perhaps it is the lack of answer that makes this poem the most disheartened.
Finally, the cycle closes on a more lighthearted note with "Le ciel est par-dessus le toit", yet it only appears so. Verlaine wrote this poem when he was in prison. As the poem unfolds, there are hints of bitterness that lead to the final stanza where the speaker explicitly expresses remorse for his lost youth. To portray the idea of life being elusive, I set the text with music that imitates a somewhat fast-moving waltz.

[ Score excerpt (opens in new tab)]

Ania Vu's Senior Recital in Hatch Hall, Eastman School of Music. May 2017.

Soprano - Michele Currenti
Piano - Jeremy Vigil

Recording session. November 2016
Soprano - Jennifer Lawrence
Piano - Jeremy Vigil