Journal of Romance Studies

Henri Dutilleux, haunted by Baudelaire

Towards his song cycle Le Temps l’horloge

Journal of Romance Studies (2021), 21, (3), 399–417.


One of the leading French composers of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, Henri Dutilleux (1916-2013) set only one text by Baudelaire, though he said that the poet was the artist in any medium who had the strongest impact on him; indeed, he said that ‘Baudelaire continues to haunt me.’ This article explores how this ‘haunting’ affected Dutilleux’s oeuvre, from his cello concerto Tout un monde lointain… [‘A Far Distant World’] (1967-1970) whose five movements are each preceded by a Baudelaire epigraph, through to his final completed work, the song cycle Le Temps l’horloge [‘Time the Clock’] (2006-2009) which concludes with a setting of Baudelaire’s prose poem Enivrez-vous [‘Be Intoxicated’]. Le Temps l’horloge also features settings of poems by Jean Tardieu and Robert Desnos, and Baudelaire’s poetry and art criticism were centrally important to both these writers. The multiple interrelationships between Baudelaire, Tardieu, Desnos, and Dutilleux are traced in this article, and analysis of ‘Enivrez-vous’ shows it to be the summation of Dutilleux’s output.

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Author details

Potter, Caroline