Componist, schrijver en denker

LE BALCON for mezzo-soprano or tenor and piano (1944)

After Vermeulen had completed his Fifth Symphony in January 1944, he did not do any creative work for several months as he was numbed by concerns about his son Josquin, whose resistance group was bit by bit being rounded up by the Germans. At the end of February Josquin fled to Spain. His youngest son Donald also left home in order to go into hiding, leaving his parents behind in suspense. Looking for distraction and inspiration in poetry, Vermeulen came across a sonnet by Baudelaire, Le balcon, in which the poet recalls by-gone happy moments with his beloved. Vermeulen was immediately taken by it: "Something about the weary, dark, subdued, but at the same time intense and fiery tone moved me. I thought, hey, wouldn't it be interesting to try to notate this in music as the poet must have recited it to himself." In search of the musical expression of "that intonation of subdued ecstasy, the delight that once was and no longer is which hesitantly, dreamily reverberates everywhere", Vermeulen once again reached that inspired frame of mind in which he had composed his Fourth and Fifth Symphonies. He completed the song on 9 June.
The vocal melody of Le balcon is entirely syllabic right up to the final line. It follows the natural diction of the text with the smallest of ascents and descents (mainly minor and major seconds, only occasionally a third or a fourth) and with a, for Vermeulen, remarkably simple rhythm. The first two strophes are mainly in a low register. Gradually the vocal part climbs to higher registers, where it remains for the last strophes. With its fast melismas the final line "O serments! ô parfums! ô baisers infinis!" forms the passionate climax of the song. The piano part is highly complex and harmonically rich.
The première by Noëmie Perugia and Lia Palla took place in the Bachzaal in Amsterdam in December 1946.

Le balcon

Mère des souvenirs, maîtresse des maîtresses,
Ô toi, tous mes plaisirs! ô toi, tous mes devoirs!
Tu te rappelleras la beauté des caresses,
La douceur du foyer et le charme des soirs,
Mère des souvenirs, maîtresse des maîtresses!

Les soirs illuminés par l'ardeur du charbon,
Et les soirs au balcon, voilés de vapeurs roses.
Que ton sein m'était doux! que ton coeur m'était bon!
Nous avons dit souvent d'impérissables choses
Les soirs illuminés par l'ardeur du charbon.

Que les soleils sont beaux dans les chaudes soirées!
Que l'espace est profond! que le coeur est puissant!
En me penchant vers toi, reine des adorées,
Je croyais respirer le parfum de ton sang.
Que les soleils sont beaux dans les chaudes soirées!

La nuit s'épaississait ainsi qu'une cloison,
Et mes yeux dans le noir devinaient tes prunelles,
Et je buvais ton souffle, ô douceur! ô poison!
Et tes pieds s'endormaient dans mes mains fraternelles.
La nuit s'épaississait ainsi qu'une cloison.

Je sais l'art d'évoquer les minutes heureuses,
Et revis mon passé blotti dans tes genoux.
Car à quoi bon chercher tes beautés langoureuses
Ailleurs qu'en ton cher corps et qu'en ton coeur si doux ?
Je sais l'art d'évoquer les minutes heureuses!

Ces serments, ces parfums, ces baisers infinis,
Renaîtront-ils d'un gouffre interdit à nos sondes,
Comme montent au ciel les soleils rajeunis
Après s'être lavés au fond des mers profondes ?
— Ô serments! ô parfums! ô baisers infinis!