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Emmanuel Chabrier (1841 - 1894) / Rosemonde Gérard (1871 - 1953) and Edmond Rostand (1868 - 1918): Volailleries

Contents of this page:

Notes on the songs:

  • About Emmanuel Chabrier
  • About the poets, the poems and the songs
  • Texts and translations:

    For more information:

  • Getting scores of the songs
  • Text and Translation Sources
  • Bibliography
  • Web sites with more information

  • Notes about Emmanuel Chabrier (1841 - 1894)

    Alexis-Emmanuel Chabrier was born in January 18, 1841 in Ambert, a modest village in the provincial Auvergne region of France. He moved to Paris with his parents in 1856, studied to be a lawyer and then became a civil servant in the French Ministry of the Interior.

    Music was merely a hobby at first, but grew into an obsession and then a profession. He began piano lessons at the age of six, studied harmony and composition while at school and privately even as he worked at the Ministry and raised a family. He also found his way into the salons of a number of intellectuals, writers and artists. Chabrier rapidly became a darling of the Paris avant-garde because of his charm, his wit and his daredevil piano playing. And despite a busy career in the Ministry of the Interior, Chabrier began writing short piano pieces, songs and even comic operettas, impressing the compositional establishment with L'étoile in 1878.

    Chabrier had been obsessed with opera, especially the operas of Richard Wagner, since his student days. In 1880, the 39 year old Chabrier saw his first full scale Wagner opera, a production of Tristan und Isolde, and was in tears from the opening cello note. Later that year, he resigned from the Ministry and with no conservatory training, no academic credentials and no official qualifications, Chabrier decided to try to make his way as a full-time composer and musician.

    Bit by bit, Chabrier worked his way to success; he made an impression on a growing circle of Wagnerian conductors and singers and tried several times to write a hit opera. Unfortunately, Chabrier suffered a nearly comical run of bad luck stretching from poor choice of librettos to opera houses running bankrupt or even being destroyed in fires, so that his operas received some critical and popular acclaim but never ran more than a week in production. His moment in the spotlight came with an orchestral rhapsody called España, completed in 1883 after a trip to Spain and evocative of the rhythms and melodies of Iberia. But he never scored his hit opera, and began to suffer from a degenerative neurologic illness, possibly tertiary syphilis, which cut his career and life short. Chabrier died in Paris on September 13, 1894.

    After his death, a curious auction demonstrated the depth and breadth of his interests. In his lifetime, Chabrier befriended a number of contemporary painters including Edouard Manet (who painted the composer's portrait, shown at right and died in his arms), Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Chabrier collected their paintings at a time when their art was sneered at by the academic establishment (much as Chabrier's music was in his time), and the collection that was auctioned at the composer's death is small but of very high quality. His collection included A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, Skating and Peonies of Manet; The Harvest of Paul Cézanne; Leaving the Conservatory of Renoir; along with a number of fine Monets, Renoirs and Sisleys. Many of of his paintings are now in world-class galleries ranging from the Courtauld Institute in London to the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Fogg Museum at Harvard and the Barnes Foundation.

    Chabrier's music is generally fairly light in tone and style, seeming to owe more to the can-can composer Jacques Offenbach than to Richard Wagner. But among the charming tunes and fart jokes that earned him the nickname "L'ange du cocasse" (the irreverent angel), there is also extraordinary harmonic boldness, with a special fondness for strings of unprepared chords of sevenths and ninths. Chabrier's willingness to take out the stuffy earnestness of the French academy, his earthy humor and his harmonic adventuresomeness made him a model for generations of French composers to follow, from Debussy through Ravel and Poulenc. And yet his parodies are mixed with affection, his ribaldry with a soulfulness that has not been duplicated before or since.

    Notes about Rosemonde Gérard (1871 - 1953), Edmond Rostand (1868 - 1918), the Poems and the Songs

    Texts and Translations

    Note: Hyperlinks in the French text show places where Chabrier's setting differs from the published texts (leave the cursor over the link to pull up a balloon that describes the difference). Hyperlinks in the English text show explanations of some concepts long forgotten in the 21st century, or show links to web sites with useful information.

    Les Cigales

    Words: Rosemonde Gérard (1871 - 1953)
    Source: Les pipeaux: Chapter "Rustica," Poem #17.
    Publisher: Alphonse Lemerre, 1889.  

    The Cicadas

    Music: Emmanuel Chabrier (1841 - 1894)
    Source: Six Mélodies, No. 6.
    Publisher: Enoch, January 1890, No. 1696
    Dedication: à Mademoiselle Isabelle Jacmart
    The cicada is well known for its 13- or 17-year-long life cycle (both life cycles are prime numbers, to lower the chances that predators with shorter life cycles will emerge repeatedly in the same season as the cicadas) and for its song. The cicadas make their characteristic sounds in mid-summer when adult cicadas emerge and the males seek mates. They tend to sing on sunny days, and large groups from multiple different species will gather together, singing like a great polyphonic chorus. The resulting sound discourages predators and can generate a noise of over 100 dB, making them the loudest of all insects.
    Très animé
    Le soleil est droit sur la sente,
    l'ombre bleuit sous les figuiers,
    ces cris au loin multipliés,
    c'est midi, c'est midi qui chante!
    Sous l'astre qui conduit le chœur,
    les chanteuses dissimulées
    jettent leurs rauques ululées
    de quel infatigable cœur!
      Les cigales, ces bestioles,
      ont plus d'âme que les violes,
      les cigales, les cigalons,
      chantent mieux que les violons!
    S'en donnent elles, les cigales,
    sur les tas de poussière gris,
    sous les oliviers rabougris
    étoilés de fleurettes pâles.
    Et grises de chanter ainsi,
    elles font leur musique folle;
    Et toujours leur chanson s'envole
    des touffes du gazon roussi!
      Les cigales, ces bestioles,
      ont plus d'âme que les violes,
      les cigales, les cigalons,
      chantent mieux que les violons!
    Aux rustres épars dans le chaume,
    le grand astre torrentiel,
    a larges flots, du haut du ciel,
    verse le sommeil et son baume.
    Tout est mort, rien ne bruit plus
    qu'elles toujours, les forcenées,
    entre les notes égrénées
    de quelque lointain Angélus!
      Les cigales, ces bestioles,
      ont plus d'âme que les violes,
      les cigales, les cigalons,
      chantent mieux que les violons!

    Very lively
    The sun is directly over the path,
    the shadow turns blue under the fig trees,
    the cries in the distance multiply,
    it is noon, it is noon that sings!
    Under the star that conducts the choir,
    the singers which are concealed
    throw their raucous hooting
    from such a tireless heart!
      The cicadas, those bugs,
      have more soul than viols,
      the cicadas, the little cicadas,
      sing better than violins!
    They give themselves up, these cicadas,
    atop the heaps of grey dirt,
    under the scraggly olive trees
    starred with little flowers.
    And tipsy from singing so,
    they make their crazed music,
    and always their song soars out
    from tufts of scorched grass!
      The cicadas, those bugs,
      have more soul than viols,
      the cicadas, the little cicadas,
      sing better than violins!
    Over the rustics, scattered among the thatching,
    the great torrential star
    in wide streams, from high in the sky
    pours slumber and its balm.
    All is dead, nothing sounds any more
    but them, the frenzied ones,
    filling in the spaces between the tolls
    of some remote Angelus!
      The cicadas, those bugs,
      have more soul than viols,
      the cicadas, the little cicadas,
      sing better than violins!

    Villanelle des petits canards

    Words: Rosemonde Gérard
    Source: Les pipeaux: Chapter "Rustica," Poem #15.
    Publisher: Alphonse Lemerre, 1889.

    Villanelle of the Little Ducks

    Music: Emmanuel Chabrier
    Source: Six Mélodies, No. 2.
    Publisher: Enoch, January 1890, No. 1691
    Dedication: à Mademoiselle Mily-Meyer
    The duck may be the bird with the widest cultural presence. Its waddling gait and preposterous quack have endeared the duck to generations of humans, and it is believed that the duck is the funniest of animals, involved in more jokes than any other bird or beast.

    A villanelle is a French poetic form with a characteristic rhyme scheme built around two recurring refrain lines. Gérard's published poem adheres to the traditional villanelle format of five stanzas of three lines each and a concluding quatrain. Chabrier's song adds four stanzas (stanzas 6-9, beginning with "Dans le beau vert d'épignards" and ending with "dodus, lustrés et gaillards") that the poetess never published.

    Allegretto con moto
    Ils vont, les petits canards,
    tout au bord de la rivière,
    comme de bons campagnards!
    Barboteurs et frétillards,
    heureux de troubler l'eau claire,
    ils vont, les petits canards.
    Ils semblent un peu jobards,
    mais ils sont à leur affaire,
    comme de bons campagnards.
    Dans l'eau pleine de têtards,
    où tremble une herbe légère,
    ils vont, les petits canards,
    marchant par groupes épars,
    d'une allure régulière
    comme de bons campagnards!
    Dans le beau vert d'épinards
    de l'humide cressonnière,
    ils vont, les petits canards,
    et quoi qu'un peu goguenards,
    ils sont d'humeur débonnaire
    comme de bons campagnards!
    Faisant, en cercles bavards,
    un vrai bruit de pétaudière,
    ils vont, les petits canards,
    dodus, lustrés et gaillards,
    ils sont gais à leur manière,
    comme de bons campagnards!
    Amoureux et nasillards,
    chacun avec sa commère,
    ils vont, les petits canards,
    comme de bons campagnards!

    They go, the little ducks,
    all on the bank of the river,
    like fine country folk!
    Paddlers and wrigglers,
    happy from muddying the clear water,
    they go, the little ducks.
    They seem a little gullible,
    but they go about their business
    like fine country folk!
    In the water full of tadpoles,
    where a flimsy weed quivers,
    they go, the little ducks,
    marching in scattered groups,
    at a steady pace
    like fine country folk!
    In the fair spinach-green
    of the damp watercress bed,
    they go, the little ducks,
    and though a bit snarky,
    they are of good-natured humor
    like fine country folk!
    Making, in chattering circles,
    a veritable riot of noise,
    they go, the little ducks,
    chubby, glossy and jolly,
    they are jolly in their own way,
    like fine country folk!
    Amorous and nasal,
    each with its crony,
    they go, the little ducks,
    like fine country folk!

    Pastorale des cochons roses

    Words: Edmond Rostand (1868 - 1918)
    Source: Les musardises, édition nouvelle, 1887-1893: Chapter I:
    "La Chambre d'Étudiant," XIII: Souvenirs de Vacances: Poem #5.
    Publisher: Librairie Charpentier et Fasquelle, 1911.

    Pastorale of the Pink Pigs

    Music: Emmanuel Chabrier (1841 - 1894)
    Source: Six Mélodies, No. 4.
    Publisher: Enoch, February 1890, No. 1714
    Dedication: à mon ami Fugère de l'Opéra-Comique
    Le jour s'annonce à l'Orient,
    de pourpre se coloriant;
    le doigt du matin souriant
         ouvre les roses!
    Et sous la garde d'un gamin
    qui tient une gaule à la main,
    on voit passer sur le chemin
         les cochons roses.
    Le rose rare au ton charmant
    qu'à l'horizon, en ce moment,
    là-bas, au bord du firmament,
         on voit s'étendre,
    ne réjouit pas tant les yeux,
    n'est pas si frais et si joyeux
    que celui des cochons soyeux
         d'un rose tendre!
    Le zéphyr, ce doux maraudeur,
    porte plus d'un parfum rôdeur.
    Et, dans la matinale odeur
         des églantines,
    les petits cochons transportés
    ont d'exquises vivacités
    et d'insouciantes gaietés
         presque enfantines.
    Heureux, poussant de petits cris,
    ils vont par les sentiers fleuris,
    et ce sont des jeux et des ris
         remplis de grâces;
    ils vont, et tous ces corps charnus
    sont si roses qu'ils semblent nus,
    comme ceux d'amours ingénus
         aux formes grasses.
    Des points noirs dans ce rose clair
    semblant des truffes dans leur chair,
    leur donnent vaguement un air
         de galantine;
    et leur petit trottinement
    a cette graisse, incessamment,
    communique un tremblotement
         de gélatine.
    Le long du ruisseau floflottant
    ils suivent, tout en ronflotant,
    la blouse au large dos flottant
         de toile bleue;
    Ils trottent, les petits cochons,
    les gorets gras et folichons
    remuant les tire-bouchons
         que fait leur queue.
    Puis, quand les champs sans papillons
    exhaleront de leurs sillons
    les plaintes douces des grillons
        toujours pareilles,
    les cochons, rentrant au bercail
    défileront sous le portail,
    agitant le double éventail
        de leurs oreilles;
    Et quand, là-bas, à l'Occident,
    croulera le soleil ardent,
    a l'heure où le soir descendant
        ferme les roses,
    paisiblement couchés en rond,
    près de l'auge couleur marron,
    bien repus, ils s'endormiront,
        les cochons roses.

    Dawn arrives in the East,
    coloring itself crimson;
    the finger of smiling morning
         opens the roses.
    And under the watch of a young boy
    who holds a stick in his hand,
    one sees passing over the path
         the pink pigs.
    The rare, charming shade of pink
    which on the horizon, at that moment,
    over there, at the edge of the firmament,
         one sees spreading,
    does not delight the eyes as much,
    is not as fresh nor as joyful
    as that of the silken pigs
         of a soft pink.
    The zephyr, that sweet marauder,
    carries more than one roving scent.
    And, in the morning fragrance
         of sweet briars,
    the little pigs, carried away,
    are of exquisitely liveliness
    and of carefree cheerfulness
         almost child-like.
    Happy, emitting little cries,
    they go by the flowery paths,
    their games and laughter
         full of grace;
    they go, and all these fleshy bodies
    are so pink that they seem naked,
    like artless lovers
         with plump bodies.
    Black specks amidst the pale pink
    seem like truffles in their flesh,
    giving them something of the air
         of galantines,
    and their little trotting motion
    to their fat, unceasingly
    communicates a quivering
         like jelly.
    Along the flow of the stream,
    they follow, all a-snorting,
    the broad flowing smock
        of blue cloth.
    They trot, the little pigs,
    the piglets plump and playful,
    wiggling the corkscrews
        their tails make!
    Then, when the fields, without butterflies,
    emit from their furrows
    the sweet laments of the crickets,
        ever the same,
    the pigs will reenter their fold,
    marching under the doorway,
    waving the double fan
        of their ears.
    And when, over there in the West,
    the burning sun crumbles,
    at the time when evening descends
        closing the roses,
    peaceably bedded in a ring
    near a chestnut-colored trough colored,
    well sated, they will fall asleep,
        the pink pigs.

    Ballade des gros dindons

    Words: Edmond Rostand (1868 - 1918)
    Source: Unknown (never published by Rostand)

    Ballad of the Stout Turkeys

    Music: Emmanuel Chabrier (1841 - 1894)
    Source: Six Mélodies, No. 3.
    Publisher: Enoch, January 1890, No. 1699
    Dedication: à Mademoiselle Jeanne Granier
    Les gros dindons, à travers champs,
      d'un pas sollennel et tranquille,
    par les matins, par les couchants,
      bêtement marchent à la file,
    devant la pastoure qui file,
      en fredonnant de vieux fredons,
    vont en procession docile
      les gros dindons!
    Ils vous ont l'air de gros marchands
      remplis d'une morgue imbécile,
    de baillis rogues et méchants
      vous regardant d'un œil hostile;
    Leur rouge pendeloque oscille;
      ils semblent, parmi les chardons,
    gravement tenir un concile,
      les gros dindons!
    N'ayant jamais trouvé touchants
      les sons que le rossignol file,
    ils suivent, lourds et trébuchants,
      l'un d'eux, digne comme un édile;
    Et, lorsque au lointain campanile
      l'Angélus fait ses lents din! dons!
    ils regagnent leur domicile,
      les gros dindons!
    Prud' hommes gras, leurs seuls penchants
      sont vers le pratique et l'utile,
    pour eux, l'amour et les doux chants
      sont un passetemps trop futile;
    Bourgeois de la gent volatile,
      arrondissant de noirs bedons,
    ils se fichent de toute idylle,
      les gros dindons!
    The stout turkeys, they cross fields
      with a step solemn and untroubled,
    at dawn, at dusk,
      stupidly march in a line,
    before the shepherdess who sings,
      humming an old tune,
    they go in docile procession,
      the stout turkeys!
    They seem like fat merchants,
      filled with an imbecile haughtiness,
    like bailiffs, arrogantly and spitefully
      watching you with a hostile eye;
    Their red wattles oscillate,
      they seem, among the thistles
    gravely to hold a council,
      the stout turkeys!
    They have not ever found moving
      the sounds that the nightingale makes,
    they follow, clumsy and stumbling,
      one among them, dignified as a magistrate;
    And when from the distant bell tower,
      the Angelus makes its slow ding! dong!
    they return to their homes,
      the stout turkeys!
    Sages stout, their only inclinations
      are to the practical and useful,
    for them, love and its sweet songs
      are a pastime too trifling;
    Philistines of the race of birds,
      rotund with black paunches,
    they care nothing for any romance,
      the stout turkeys!

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    Performing Editions of the Music

  • Enoch et Cie, Paris, catalog nos. 1696 (Cigales), 1691 (Canards), 1714 (Pastorale) and 1699 (Ballade).
    Enoch was the original publisher for the Six Songs in 1890. You can still buy editions of the four barnyard songs from the publisher, possibly even with the original wonderful cover art (I'm not positive about this). However, at 7+ euros per song, the price is a bit steep.

  • Delage, Roger, ed. Emmanuel Chabrier: Mélodies en 2 volumes, Vol. 2. Paris: Musica Gallica, published by Heugel et Cie, 1997. HE 33 709.
    A beautifully edited and published critical edition of all of Chabrier's known songs. Volume 2 includes all of the Six Songs of 1890, along with a useful footnoted introduction in French, English and German. This volume is also pricey (mine was 72 euros) but probably worth it if you're doing multiple songs and want a clean edition to work from.

  • Unknown ed. French Art Songs: The Ultimate Collection. CD-ROM. King of Prussia, PA: Theodore Presser, Co., 2005.
    This 2-CD set includes sheet music to songs by a wide range of French composers which are now in the public domain. They are in printer-ready PDF format, though the printed results aren't as easy to read as Delage's edition.

  • Masters Music Publications, Inc. Emmanuel Chabrier: Collected Songs vol. 2
    A cheap edition of unknown provenance and unidentified editor. An on-line version of this edition can be browsed at the on-line music library at the Indiana University School of Music.
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    Text and Translation Sources

  • Gérard, Rosemonde. Les pipeaux. Paris: Alphonse Lemerre, 1889.
  • Rostand, Edmond. Les musardises, édition nouvelle, 1887-1893. Paris: Librairie Charpentier et Fasquelle, 1911.
  • Œuvres Complètes Illustrées de Edmond Rostand de l'Academie Française: Les Musardises. Paris: Librairie Pierre Lafitte & Cie, 1911.

  • Lied and Art Song Texts Page: Chabrier songs with some English translations (Emily Ezust)
  • Christopher Goldsack's texts and translations
  • See also the books by Pierre Bernac and Graham Johnson & Richard Stokes.

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    Recommended Reading

  • Myers, Rollo H. Emmanuel Chabrier and His Circle. London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., 1969.

  • Poulenc, Francis (trans. Cynthia Jolly). Emmanuel Chabrier. London: Dobson, 1981 (original pub. Paris, La Palatine, 1961).
    The two above volumes are the only English language biographies of Chabrier available at present. The definitive biographical study was written by the French conductor and musicologist Roger Delage, but it has not been translated into English.

  • Huebner, Steven: 'Chabrier, Emmanuel', The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. S. Sadie and J. Tyrrell (London: Macmillan, 2001), v, 403-408.

  • Bernac, Pierre. The Interpretation of French Song. New York: W.W. Norton, 1978.
    An essential reference on French song, with short written introductions, texts and translations, hints on the art of French pronunciation and performer's notes from one of the most important French singers of the 20th century.

  • Johnson, Graham and Stokes, Richard. A French Song Companion. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.
    Another indispensable reference, surveying the French art song with notes on the composers and their most significant songs, texts and English translations.
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    For more information:

  • All Music Guide on Emmanuel Chabrier
  • Wikipedia page on Emmanuel Chabrier
  • James Murray's sleeve notes with a biographical sketch

  • All Music Guide to the Six Songs
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    Dr. Jimbob's Home -> Classical Music -> Emmanuel Chabrier: Volailleries

    Last updated: October 4, 2007 by James C.S. Liu.

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