Spleen op. 42

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Spleen op. 42


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Year of composition
Difficult (Grades 7+)
8 minutes
Modern classical music
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Spleen op. 42 (2014)

The Flowers of Devil by Charles Baudelaire was published on June 25, 1857. The volume caused fierce emotional storms. Two weeks later, Le Figaro branded it severely immoral. Six poems were banned from the volume. The four Spleen poems could stay in the book.
The choir piece want to be a mood reflection of these verses, the four Spleens. The poems do not appear in the composition, just a few words. This hopelessly repeated words are surrounded by vowels and consonants, as a sounding carpet.

The three rows used in the composition:
1, „Je suis un cimetière abhorré de la lune” – “I am a graveyard that the moon abhors.” (LXXVI.)
2, „J’ai plus de souvenirs que si j’avais mille ans” – “Souvenirs? More than if I had lived a thousand years.” (LXXVII.)
3, „Je suis comme le roi d’un pays pluvieux” – “I’m like the king of a rainy country.” (LXXVI.)

Spleen (LXXVII.)

Je suis comme le roi d'un pays pluvieux,

Riche, mais impuissant, jeune et pourtant très vieux,

Qui, de ses précepteurs méprisant les courbettes,

S'ennuie avec ses chiens comme avec d'autres bêtes.

Rien ne peut l'égayer, ni gibier, ni faucon,

Ni son peuple mourant en face du balcon.

Du bouffon favori la grotesque ballade

Ne distrait plus le front de ce cruel malade;

Son lit fleurdelisé se transforme en tombeau,

Et les dames d'atour, pour qui tout prince est beau,

Ne savent plus trouver d'impudique toilette

Pour tirer un souris de ce jeune squelette.

Le savant qui lui fait de l'or n'a jamais pu

De son être extirper l'élément corrompu,

Et dans ces bains de sang qui des Romains nous viennent,

Et dont sur leurs vieux jours les puissants se souviennent,

II n'a su réchauffer ce cadavre hébété

Où coule au lieu de sang l'eau verte du Léthé.

Spleen (LXXVII.)
I'm like the king of a rainy country, rich
but helpless, decrepit though still a young man
who scorns his fawning tutors, wastes his time
on dogs and other animals, and has no fun;
nothing distracts him, neither hawk nor hound
nor subjects starving at the palace gate.
His favorite fool's obscenities fall flat
—the royal invalid is not amused—
and ladies in waiting for a princely nod
no longer dress indecently enough
to win a smile from this young skeleton.
The bed of state becomes a stately tomb.
The alchemist who brews him gold has failed
to purge the impure substance from his soul,
and baths of blood, Rome's legacy recalled
by certain barons in their failing days,
are useless to revive this sickly flesh
through which no blood but brackish Lethe seeps.

First performance: Debrecen, May 2014, Kodály Choir Debrecen, conducted by Csaba Somos

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