vl - vla - vcl - pno


Score and parts on special sale from the Hire Library

Programme Notes

Voyages, cycle for voice and piano quartet, op.90

1. Le voyage (i) (Baudelaire)

2. L'invitation au voyage (Baudelaire)

3. Demain, dès l'aube . . . (Hugo)

4. Le voyage (ii) (Baudelaire)

In 2003 I made an independent setting of Baudelaire's 'L'invitation au voyage' for soprano and piano quartet. When at the end of that year I was asked to set some more French poems for baritone and chamber ensemble, I decided to use the piano quartet line-up again and to make 'L'invitation', with its vocal part slightly adapted, the centrepiece of a song cycle whose common theme would be journeys. But I also wanted to make it possible for the three new songs to be performed on their own if necessary. The cycle opens and closes with the first and last sections, respectively, of Baudelaire's great eight-part poem 'Le voyage'. Part 1 begins the child setting out on the voyage of life: the music begins in diatonic simplicity and becomes more chromatic as the boy grows into adolescence. Part 8 welcomes death as a liberation from life's ennui, but the last line reaches out into the unknown like a thunderbolt, and the music too ends with a challenge. Victor Hugo's 'Demain, dès aube . . .' describes a voyage [ITAL] of a very different kind: the poet's desperate journey across France to the tomb of his daughter, who was drowned with her young husband in the Seine near Rouen. 'L'invitation au voyage' is by far the longest of the four songs. After an introduction for piano quartet, the three verses of the poem are accompanied only by the strings: the first verse by violin alone, the second verse by violin and viola, and the third by string trio. The vocal writing is often elaborate, particularly in the second verse where Baudelaire describes the extravagant furnishings of his dream house. The verses are separated by interludes for piano quartet, which reflect on the words just heard, and there is an extended postlude which incorporates the final setting of the famous refrain 'Luxe, calme et volupté' (the only moment in the song where all five musicians come together) and, at the very end, a repetition of the opening line. There is a feeling that the voyage the poem promises has begun. 'L'invitation au voyage' was commissioned by Association a tempo and first performed at the 'Consonances' Festival, St Nazaire, France, on 16 September 2003. The remaining three songs of Voyages [ITAL] were commissioned by the London Bridge Ensemble and first performed by them at the Wigmore Hall, London, on 23 May 2005.

© DM


Winchester Discovery Centre (Winchester, Hampshire, United Kingdom)

London Bridge Ensemble/Ivan Ludlow


No Venue (Saint-Nazaire, Pays de la Loire, France)

François Le Roux/Per Enoksson/Lilli Maijala/Martti Rousi/David Selig


No Venue (Schiermonnikoog, Netherlands)

François Le Roux/Frank Peters/Hebe Mensinga/Justus Grimm/Paul de Clerck


St Briavels Church (St Briavels, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom)

Daniel Tong/Ivan Ludlow/Wye Valley Chamber Players


Wigmore Hall (London, United Kingdom)

Ivan Ludlow/London Bridge Ensemble