La lune, source d'inspiration inépuisable pour les compositeurs
La lune, source d'inspiration inépuisable pour les compositeurs © Getty  /  Dan Kitwood

[PLAYLIST] The Classical Clair de lune Playlist

The Moon has inspired a great deal of music.

The moon has always been a source of inspiration for composers. The magical, mysterious and romantic nature of the moon has led to some of the greatest classical music hits, including Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata and Clair de lune by Debussy.

But they are not the only composers to have taken inspiration from the moon; Schubert, Dvorák, Fauré and others have immortalised the moon in their works. 

French Works 

Clair de Lune by Gabriel Fauré

Au calme clair de lune triste et beau,   
> Qui fait rêver les oiseaux dans les arbres   
> Et sangloter d'extase les jets d'eau,   
> Les grands jets d'eau sveltes parmi les marbres.

Paul Verlaine's words were put to music by Gabriel Fauré and lend a great tenderness to his melody. They were taken from the French poet's work Fêtes galantes, which also inspired Claude Debussy

Ballade à la lune by Jacques Offenbach

C'était, dans la nuit brune,   
> Sur le clocher jauni,   
> La lune   
> Comme un point sur un i.

The heavenly Ballade à la lune, inspired by a famous poem by Alfred de Musset, is a main feature of Fantasio, Offenbach's comic opera. 

Le lever de la lune by Camille Saint-Saëns

Ainsi qu'une jeune beauté   
> Silencieuse et solitaire,   
> Des flancs du nuage argenté   
> La lune sort avec mystère.

There are probably no great poets behind Le lever de la lune by Saint-Saëns, since the text is anonymous, and was, according to certain specialists, perhaps even written by the composer himself...

Les heures by Ernest Chausson

Et tout s'en vont dans l'ombre et dans la lune,   
> Pour s'alanguir et puis mourir   
> Avec les heures une à une,   
> Les heures au pâle sourire.

Ernest Chausson's Les heures is a darker work, which takes inspiration from a poem by Camille Mauclair that does not romanticise moonlight but rather speaks of time passing and death. 

The Moon in Opera 

Clair de lune in Werther by Jules Massenet

Les étoiles et le soleil peuvent bien dans le ciel tour à tour reparaître, j’ignore s’il est jour, j’ignore s’il est nuit !

This love aria is sung under the light of the moon between Charlotte and Werther before the two lovers leave each other for the night.

Song to the Moon in Rusalka by Antonín Dvořák

Tell him, silvery moon,            
that I am embracing him.            
At least momentarily            
let him recall dreaming of me.

The Song to the Moon in Rusalka is the most popular aria in the opera. The opera's story is inspired by the tales of two Czech authors but also by The Little Mermaid; a water creature falls in love with a prince. Her song to the moon is dedicated to her earthly and distant love.

Il mondo della luna by Joseph Haydn

Il mondo della luna is a little known work by Haydn. The Austrian composer set a libretto by Carlo Goldoni to music to create his one act opera. 

The Moon in Lieders 

An Den Mond by Franz Schubert

Schubert was inspired by the writing of Christoph Hölty to create this Lied (a sung German poem, often accompanied by an instrument), It's the most popular Lieder of the 23  Schubert composed based on the poems of Hölty.

Mondnacht by Johannes Brahms

Mondnacht by Brahms took inspiration from a poem written by the German Romantic poet Joseph von Eichendorff.

Mondnacht de Robert Schumann

That same German poem inspired Schumann. 

Der Mond by Felix Mendelssohn

Mendelssohn composed six songs about the moon, one subtitled My Heart is Like the Dark Night

The Moon in Music

Clair de lune by Claude Debussy

This is not one of Debussy's masterpieces, but also perhaps one of the most popular pieces of classical music. It has been used in cinema, advertising, on the television and even in video games, Clair de Lune is part of the third movement of the Bergamasque Suite, a piece for solo piano that includes a prelude, a minuet, Clair de Lune and Passepied.

Moonlight Sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven

Another piece of music inspired by the Moon and another hit. Beethoven's Sonata No. 14, known after the death of the composer as the Moonlight Sonata. The very slow first movement is the most famous part of this piece.

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