Rêverie: The Musical World of Proust

Drew Watson

Rêverie: The Musical World of Marcel Proust is an album of French art song (mélodies françaises) and spoken-word narrations from the work of the turn-of-the-century French novelist Marcel Proust.

Proust, who has been called “the greatest novelist of the 20th Century,” was a fervent admirer of music. In fact, music greatly influenced both the form and content of Proust’s famous novel, In Search of Lost Time, first published in 1913.

Our album, Rêverie, features art song—vocal music compositions for solo voice and piano—and each set of songs is introduced by a reading from In Search of Lost Time or from Proust’s letters.

These songs were written by French composers whose works Proust cherished during his lifetime—Gabriel Fauré, Clause Debussy, and Reynaldo Hahn—and whose beautiful melodies and lyrics correspond to the major Proustian themes of moonlight, the sea, love, and regret.

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Behind the Album

In the summer of 2011, Drew Watson and William Carter were invited by the organizers of the biennial Balbec-Normand de Proust in Cabourg, France to present a concert at the gala dinner that ends the weekend-long celebration of French author Marcel Proust and his masterpiece In Search of Lost Time.

In preparation for the event, we selected songs by composers of Proust’s era, songs whose beautiful melodies and lyrics correspond to major Proustian themes. Readings from Proust’s novel and letters introduced each theme and the following set of songs.

The concert, given in the belle-époque dining room of the Grand-Hôtel, a place where Proust himself dined countless times and from which he drew inspiration for well-known passages of his masterpiece, was enthusiastically received.

We subsequently decided to record an expanded version of the program with pianist Jane Watwood Gibbs so that others could enjoy it many times over at their leisure. Rêverie, with a slightly larger selection of songs, is the happy result of our collaboration.