Listen to this clip of Nous Deux with Blythe Gaissert from the critically acclaimed CD HOME
Nous Deux/The Two of Us
for mezzo-soprano and string quintet
poetry by Paul Éluard
I heard Nous Deux recited at a wedding ceremony outside of Paris in September 2019 and knew at once that I would set this for Blythe’s upcoming CD, Home. This poem about the power of union with its iterations of “nous deux” and “chez nous” in which two lovers find home everywhere because love itself finds a home in them reflected perfectly the warm humanity of my artist colleague Blythe.
Eluard’s poems are famously set to music by Francis Poulenc in cycles such as, Tel jour telle nuit and La Fraicheur et Le Feu. His poetry evolved over decades from his Surrealist work 1919-1938 to a more traditional but modern period 1938-1952. Nous Deux was penned just a year before he died and is included in the four books of poetry comprising Last Love Poems.
Blythe and I discussed using an English translation of Nous Deux but how could we compete with the simple and incantatory iambic tetrameter of the original French. I instinctively set the text in dreamlike minimalism and then launch into an ardently Romantic B section, ensconcing Blythe’s burnished mezzo in the warmth of an agile string quintet. The CD Home can be found on Bright Shiny Things at brightshiny.ninja.
*"Nous deux" par Paul Éluard in "Oeuvres complètes, tome II" au © Editions Gallimard, 1968
Commissioned by Blythe Gaissert
Praise from Opera News
"Martin Hennessy’s setting of Paul Eluard’s “Nous deux” lulls the listener with a tonal, post-Romantic approach, then grows stormy before returning to the comforting opening sonorities that represent two people at home wherever they find themselves, as long as they’re together."
Praise from the Financial Times
"Other highlights include a loving couple in the warm embrace of a string quintet in Martin Hennessy’s “Nous Deux."