In Phidylé, Duparc offers a setting of a pastoral poem by Charles Marie Leconte de Lisle, a poet who was affiliated with the late nineteenth century French literary Parnassian movement (paying tribute to the home of the Greek muses, Parnassus). Among the group’s favored inspirations were classical topics from Greek antiquity and other exotic sources which were “treated with emotional detachment and exactitude.” Despite this cool approach, the result was somewhat ambiguous in their selection of romantic settings, in spite of their cultivating anti-romantic sentiment. (See Un Parnasse sterile ou le culte de l’art de Remi Mathis)
The title refers to a shepherdess described in Horace’s Odes, Book III.
If hands raised to heaven you overthrow those palms
to resurgent moon, rustic Phidylé,
And soothe, incense, Lares,
Grain of the year, a voracious sow:
the wind leper save Africa
your generous vine, and the deadly rust:
Your grain; the bad season:
Your sweet babies – when fruit ripens.
The lamb will graze on the snowy Algidus,
among oak and holm oak, grows or victim
Promised in the meadows Albans
His neck redden the ax of the priest.
But there is no point you want to win you,
slaughtering a herd of animals of two years,
Small gods you crowns
Fragile myrtle and rosemary.
A hand, if it spotless altar key
And without the lure of a more opulent victim
Calm hostile Pénates
Piles wheat, salt crackling.
In the Leconte de Lisle poem, a lover watches the shepherdess Phidylé sleeping by a spring in the midday sun, and awaits her wakening. At this time, she will reward him with a smile and a kiss.
The text as translated by David Paley reads:
Softly slumber on grass where the poplar refreshes
On the slopes of the mossy fountains
Where meadow flowers burst in their thousands
But are lost in the midst of darkened bushes.
Rest, O Phidylé! Midday lights upon the leaves
To invite you to sleep in sunshine
Alone, in the clover and thyme,
Humming with ever active bees.
Warm perfume breathes round the glade
And the flowering corn is still
Whilst the birds wing over the hill
Seeking the eglantine shade.
The copses are silent; and the stag is at bay,
Confronted by hounds in the clearing,
And no longer bounds; whilst Diana, deep in the wood is sitting,
Waxing her arrows deadly to prey.
The music is discrete, lushly chromatic and sensual. Dynamics are carefully restrained, and as always in Duparc’s songs, text setting is immaculate and determining.
© Marianne Williams Tobias, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, 2016.