First performance : Orchestre Philharmonique de Liège, Laure Delcampe (sop), cond. : Patrick Davin, 28.11.02, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels.
Commissioned by Orchestre Philharmonique de Liège, written with support from the Communauté Française de Belgique (Direction Générale de la Culture, Service de la Musique)
An die Nacht for sopran and symphonic orchestra
on a text of Novalis (Hymnen an die Nacht) (2001/2002)
Here the link with Schumann is made via Novalis, the brilliant poet of the night of early German romanticism, whom Schumann admired so much and to whom he was attached with so many ties, even in the unfolding destiny of their biographies. The sublim text sings of night complicit in the union of the lovers and it curses the return of daylight that puts an end to it, an end even to the life of the beloved woman. This has been a recurrent theme in Western poetry ever since the medieval Chansons d'Aube and was to reach its high-point in the second act of Wagner's Tristan und Isold. In the present instance, however, the lovers are more of the age of Romeo and Juliette, as Novalis lost his little fiancée when she was barely 15 years old, and himself was not much older. Precedeed by an ample orchestral prologue (forming a third of the whole work), Mernier'work is not so much a grand lied as a symphonic poem with voice; and if the voice is treated with an extraordinary diversity of ornemental vocalising, the orchestra, at times at the limit of the audible, attains an extreme degree of refinement and complexity, in an aural atmosphere of absolute beauty, with one or two vague allusions (never literal quotations) from the Alban Berg of the Altenberg Lieder. (Harry Albreich)