Dans Le Bois – song for voice and piano (18 June 1928, Britten aged 14)
Dedication A Mlle Raymonde Chevillard
Text Gerard de Nerval
Background and Critical Reception
Britten’s first published setting in French is almost immediately contemporaneous with the Quatre chansons françaises, which follow this song by just over two months in the output. Gerard de Nerval’s poem, in three verses, runs quickly through a year in the life of a bird in the woods, his voice ‘pure, simple and touching’ in the Spring, then falling silent in the misty season. The dedicatee, Mlle Raymonde Chevillard, was a French girl who stayed in the Britten household for the late spring and summer of 1928.
Again the choice of key is F major, the setting a domestic one – though if it was written for the girl to sing, she had a slightly wider range than Britten’s mother, with the song ending on a low pianissimo to reflect the bird’s descent into silence. Britten effects some neat modulations within the brevity of the song, ending in D minor rather than resolving back to F. Again the spirit of Schumann is close to the surface.
Elizabeth Atherton (soprano), Malcolm Martineau (piano) (Onyx)
Dans Le Bois
Also written in 1928: Bartók – String Quartet no.4
Next up: Quatre chansons françaises