Henri Duparc: Phidylé


Based on the 1858 poem of the same name by Leconte de Lisle, Henri Duparc’s setting of Phidylé remains one of his more popular works. Initially written for a high male voice and piano in 1882, Duparc also orchestrated it some 10 years later. Duparc was influenced by the stylings of Gabriel Fauré and Richard Wagner, which culminated to create this idyllic and Romantically-styled vocal work. 


The Lyrics – Text provided courtesy of Oxford Lieder


L’herbe est molle au sommeil sous les frais peupliers,

Aux pentes des sources moussues,

Qui, dans les prés en fleur germant par mille issues,

Se perdent sous les noirs halliers.

Repose, ô Phidylé! Midi sur les feuillages

Rayonne, et t’invite au sommeil.

Par le trèfle et le thym, seules, en plein soleil,

Chantent les abeilles volages.

Un chaud parfum circule au détour des sentiers,

La rouge fleur des blés s’incline,

Et les oiseaux, rasant de l’aile la colline,

Cherchent l’ombre des églantiers.

Mais, quand l’Astre, incliné sur sa courbe éclatante,

Verra ses ardeurs s’apaiser,

Que ton plus beau sourire et ton meilleur baiser

Me récompensent de l’attente!


The Music

After a soft introduction from the piano, the delicate voice enters. Duparc’s use of chromatic movement creates a colourful set of harmonic progressions, which are scattered throughout the song. The opening tranquillity is sustained for over a minute before the piano begins to lead the voice into a more dramatic and intense climax. As the voice begins to rise and fall in dynamic the piano begins to play tremolos and heavier chords which culminate in the climax of the piece. Duparc’s use of voice leading is also very apparent and is highly effective in Phidylé. 

The text pays tribute to the Greek Muses, and the lush chromaticism and carefully placed word settings create a really effective final product. Although there are changes in the dynamics, these are always controlled and perhaps even restrained at times, which is something found in many of Duparc’s songs. As the piano plays a close postlude, the music slowly begins to get quieter until it fades into nothing. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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You might also enjoy… Alma Mahler: Five Songs for Voice and Piano


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