Aria: Softly Awakes My Heart

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The Transcriptions Series series

Recital Music publish a wealth of original works for double bass alongside a popular, accessible and growing range of transcriptions for bassists of all ages and abilities. Most transcriptions published by Recital Music are by David Heyes, who has a successful and proven track record when arranging for double bass.

Operas have long been plundered for their wonderful melodies by instrumentalists and the operatic fantasy was a staple of 19th-century recital fare and for almost every conceivable instrument. Giovanni Bottesini composed many works for double bass based on famous operas with Bellini's 'La Sonambula' probably being the most popular, and in recent times both Frank Proto and Stuart Sankey have written fantasy's on themes from Bizet's operatic masterpiece 'Carmen'.

Every instrument states that they sound most like a human voice, which is surely not always the case, hence the attraction of vocal music to the instrumentalist. The double bass boasts a vast repertoire of transcriptions, for every ability level and 'borrowed' from other instruments, alongside a vast quantity of songs and arias which have been adapted for the instrument. František [Franz] Simandl transcribed many works for double bass in the 19th-century including an aria from Beethoven's 'Fidelio' alongside editing others for publication.

'Softly Awakes My Heart' (Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix) is an aria from 'Samson and Delilah' by Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921), probably the most famous aria in the opera, and is sung in Act 2 by Delilah as she attempts to seduce Samson into revealing the secret of his strength. It was composed between 1867-69, although set aside for a few years, and in 1872, not too long after the premiere of Saint-Saëns's second opera La princesse jaune, the composer went to Weimar to see the first revival of Wagner's Das Rheingold under the baton of Franz Liszt, the former musical director of the Weimar court orchestra and opera. Liszt was highly interested in producing new works by talented composers and persuaded Saint-Saëns to finish Samson and Delilah, even offering to produce the completed work in Weimar. Encouraged, Saint-Saëns began composing Act 1 in late 1872 and worked on it sporadically for the next few years. In 1875, Saint-Saëns presented Act 1 in Paris at the Théâtre du Châtelet but it was harshly received by music critics and failed to gain the public's interest. That same year acclaimed mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot, for whom Saint-Saëns wrote the role of Dalila, organised and performed a private performance of Act 2 at a friend's home in Croissy, with the composer playing the piano. Viardot was a great admirer of the work and she hoped that this private performance would encourage Halanzier, the director of the Paris Opéra who was in attendance, to mount a full production.

Although Saint-Saëns completed the score in 1876, no opera houses in France displayed any desire to stage Samson et Dalila and it was first performed in Weimar on 2 December 1877 in a German translation, and is Saint-Saëns's most regularly performed opera.
'Softly Awakes My Heart' is a wonderful addition to the double bass transcription repertoire and the slow and evocative vocal line is well suited to the sonorous and lyrical qualities of the instrument. The aria is slightly truncated when played by double bass exploring its middle range, with evocative slow melodies set against a rhythmic chordal accompaniment and the second verse, with a more exotic and chromatic accompaniment, is omitted but when you are not telling the story with words it doesn't really matter. A two bar introduction with a chordal accompaniment and repeated semiquaver figure, marked Andantino, sets the mood and the double bass plays a beautifully simple and sonorous melody in its lower solo register. The music ebbs and flows, emphasising the lyrical potential of the instrument, building slightly with two small climactic moments, before changing completely into a beautiful and poignant Poco lento. The solo line has a falling chromatic figure, with a simpler arpeggio accompaniment, before the climax of the aria builds with glorious music and an evocative melody beginning with the interval of a minor 7th, before descending by step.

Had Saint-Saëns only written this aria he would still be remembered for all time. The quality, poignant and heartbreaking melody combine to create a mini-masterpiece which ought to be in the repertoire of every double bassist who can demonstrate more than simply technical prowess. The changes of mood and intensity produce a transcription which is successful on so many different levels. The bassist will soon discover if they have a good legato bowing technique and the musical power when studying this most glorious of arias. [David Heyes / 10 May 2019]

Cat No. RM975
Supplier Code RM975
ComposerCamile Saint-Saëns
ArrangerDavid Heyes
CategoryDouble Bass & Piano
SeriesTranscriptions Series
Difficulty level6 - 7
ISMN 979-0-57045-975-9
EAN-13 9790570459759
Weight 163 grams
Availability NOT IN STOCK. Sorry for delay!
Available in approx. 7—12 days.