Heinrich Heine’s collection of poems, Lyrisches Intermezzo, is well-known in music circles, largely due to Robert Schumann’s settings of sixteen of these poems in his masterwork Dichterliebe. Because of Dichterliebe’s place of importance in art song literature, many other settings of Heine’s sixty-five poems are often overlooked. Breton-born composer Joseph Guy Marie Ropartz composed Quatre Poèmes d’après l’Intermezzo d’Henri Heine in 1899, after having collaborated on a new French translation of the entire Lyrisches Intermezzo in 1890. This cycle is rarely performed, largely due to Ropartz’s relative obscurity as a composer, as the focus of his career was administration of two regional conservatories in France. The Quatre Poèmes were written fairly early in Ropartz’s life, but feature many compositional techniques that remain staples of Ropartz’s work throughout his career. It is an accessible work to many singers and audience members already familiar with Heine. The texts of the four songs are not simply translations of Heine’s original, but altered to adhere to the rules of French poetry. Examining the changes made in the text, both in language and structure, reveals information that will aid performers’ understanding of the poetry and of Ropartz’s choices in musical setting. The music of the work is greatly dependent on a single motive, an idée fixe, and considering the role of this motive in its various appearances is illuminating to the narrative arc of the cycle. This study seeks to aid potential performers and listeners of the Quatre Poèmes by expanding their understanding of the artists responsible for creating it, and by exploring the textual and musical elements that are the building blocks of this work.
- A Textual and Musical Commentary on J. Guy Ropartz’s Quatre Poèmes après l’Intermezzo d’Henri Heine (1899)