Un éclair… puis la nuit ! (A lightning flash… then night!)

15 instruments : 2 perc./ Harp/ 2 Vl. Vla. Cello. Cb.
Duration : 20’
First performance on november 18th 1997 in Angoulême by the Opus 16 ensemble conducted by Jacques Pesi
Publisher : Editions Hamelle (Leduc)

Poem (Charles Baudelaire) :

To a Passer-by

The deafening street around me roared.
Tall, slim, in deep mourning,  majestic grief,
A woman passed, lifting and swinging
With a pompous gesture the hem and flounces of her skirt,

Swift and noble, with statuesque limb.
As for me, I drank, twitching like a crazy man,
From her eye, livid sky where the hurricane is born,
The softness that fascinates and the pleasure that kills,

A lightning flash… then night! O fleeting beauty,
By whose glance I was suddenly reborn,
Shall I see you again only in eternity?

Somewhere else, way too far from here! Too late! Perhaps never!
For I do not know where you flee, you don’t know where I go,
O you whom I would have loved, O you who knew it!

There are poems that we don’t dare to touch because of their pure musicality. In this case, musical paraphrase is the only way to liberate the sublime exaltation that such intensity of beauty evokes, whilst leaving the original intact, in humble, marginal fashion.
« Un éclair… puis la nuit ! » has been written for the 80th birthday of the composer Henri Dutilleux to whom it is dedicated.
Patrick Burgan