ARNOLD ROSNER
COMPOSER 1945–2013

Opus 52

La Vie antériure (1971)

for Male Voice, Three Trombones, Chimes, Gong, and String Quartet

Text by Charles Baudelaire [French]

Duration: 5 min.

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This work is a dramatic and vivid setting of a poem by French poet Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867). The unusual instrumental forces recall especially pieces of Heinrich Schütz of similar scoring. (Notes by Carson Cooman)

La Vie antérieure

J’ai longtemps habité sous de vastes portiques
Que les soleils marins teignaient de mille feux,
Et que leurs grands piliers, droits et majestueux,
Rendaient pareils, le soir, aux grottes basaltiques.

Les houles, en roulant les images des cieux,
Mêlaient d’une façon solennelle et mystique
Les tout-puissants accords de leur riche musique
Aux couleurs du couchant reflété par mes yeux.

C’est là que j’ai vécu dans les voluptés calmes,
Au milieu de l’azur, des vagues, des splendeurs
Et des esclaves nus, tout imprégnés d’odeurs,

Qui me rafraîchissaient le front avec des palmes,
Et dont l’unique soin était d’approfondir
Le secret douloureux qui me faisait languir.

— Charles Baudelaire

 

My Former Life

For a long time I dwelt under vast porticos
Which the ocean suns lit with a thousand colors,
The pillars of which, tall, straight, and majestic,
Made them, in the evening, like basaltic grottos.

The billows which cradled the image of the sky
Mingled, in a solemn, mystical way,
The omnipotent chords of their rich harmonies
With the sunsets’ colors reflected in my eyes;

It was there that I lived in voluptuous calm,
In splendor, between the azure and the sea,
And I was attended by slaves, naked, perfumed,

Who fanned my brow with fronds of palms
And whose sole task it was to fathom
The dolorous secret that made me pine away.

— William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)