Mélodie Maker

The English language, famed for the expansiveness of its vocabulary, is rather surprisingly coy when it comes to the idea of song. Sure, you can have all sorts of songs, but you generally need some type of qualifier to tell your listeners or readers whether you’re referring to a pop song, art song, folk song or whatever.

Not so in French: mention a mélodie (as distinct from a chanson) in the average Paris salon (as if!) and people will know straight away that this conversation is not about your quotidian get-together around the piano; oh no, what you’re talking about here will be French lyric art at its finest.

One of the greatest proponents of this refined and subtle music was Gabriel Fauré; here he is conjuring (via the art of Watteau and the poetry of Paul Verlaine ) the serenade givers and the beautiful listeners of the world of the fêtes galantes:

Les donneurs de sérénades
Et les belles écouteuses…

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