This recording is of the first US performance of this piece. The Eastman Chorale was directed by William Weinert and the performance took place in Christ Church, Rochester on November 7,1997. This is not an easy piece to perform with its shifting chromatic harmonies and changes of metre. However I believe this performance was successful in capturing its luxuriantly Romantic spirit. I am grateful to Prof. Weinert for allowing me to use it here.
The music was originally composed for the New Zealand Choir, Viva Voce and has since had several performances in New Zealand.
Ronsard wrote the book in which this sonnet appears after the death of his mistress, Marie. The images of the poem are as poignant now as they must have been to those who first read it.
“A beautiful and impressive work…” Dale Warland
“A fine setting…..good understanding of the French text….” Jean Sturm
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Comme on voit sur la branche au mois de mai la rose
En sa belle jeunesse, en sa première fleur
Rendre le ciel jaloux de sa vive couleur,
Quand l’aube de ses pleurs au point du jour l’arrose;
La grâce dans sa feuille, et l’amour se repose
Embaumant les jardins et les arbres d’odeur;
Mais battue ou de pluie ou d’excessif ardeur
Languissante elle meurt, feuille à feuille déclose.
Ainsi en ta première et jeune nouveauté
Quand la terre et le ciel honoraient ta beauté,
La Parque t’a tuée, et cendre tu reposes.
Pour obsèques reçois mes larmes et mes pleurs,
Ce vase plein de lait, ce panier plein de fleurs,
Afin que vif et mort ton corps ne soit que roses.
Pierre de Ronsard from Sur le Mort de Marie,
Le Deuxième Livre d’Amours, 1556
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Just as you see a rose on a bough in May
In its youthful beauty, its first flowering,
Making the sky jealous of its vivid colour
When dawn wets it with tears at the break of day;
Oh, the elegance of its form where love lies
Bathing the gardens and trees in fragrance,
Till damaged by rain or intense heat
It sickens and dies, falling petal by petal.
So in the first freshness of your youth,
When both earth and heaven praised your beauty,
Fate cut you down, and now you are ashes.
As offerings accept my bitter tears,
This vase of milk and this basket full of flowers,
So your body in life and death may be no less than roses.
translation © Christopher Marshall, 1997.