Rêverie: The Musical World of Marcel Proust | Front Cover

A journey to the salons of the belle-époque.

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.

Our Story.

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.

Rêverie: The Musical World of Marcel Proust is now available from the providers below.


01. Narration | La Lune

02. Claire de Lune

03. L'heure Exquise

04. Mandoline

05. Narration | La Mer

06. La Mer Est Plus Belle Que Les Cathédrales

07. Au Bord De L'eau

08. Beau Soir

09. Narration | L'amour

10. Rêverie

11. A Chloris

12. Si Mes Vers Avaient Des Ailes

13. Narration | Le Regret

14. Chant D'automne

15. Mai

16. Adieu

  1. 01. "La Lune"

    "Do you remember what the books were like that depicted the moon (with a nose in the middle, I think)..."

  2. 02. Clair de Lune

    Composer: Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
    Author: Paul Verlaine (1884-1896)

  3. 03. L'heure Exquise

    Composer: Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947)
    Author: Paul Verlaine (1884-1896)

  4. 04. Mandoline

    Composer: Gabriel Fauré (1862-1918)
    Author: Paul Verlaine (1884-1896)

  5. 05. "La Mer"

    "On our table was served some gigantic fish, some marine monster [...] like a polychrome cathedral of the sea."

  6. 06. La Mer Est Plus Belle

    Composer: Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
    Author: Paul Verlaine (1884-1896)

  7. 07. Au Bord De L'eau

    Composer: Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
    Author: Sully Prudhomme (1839-1907)

  8. 08. Beau Soir

    Composer: Paul Bourget (1852-1935)
    Author: Paul Verlaine (1884-1896)

  9. 09. "L'amour"

    "This evening, I asked the gypsy orchestra if they know anything by Buncht and when they started playing Rêverie I began to weep..."

  10. 10. Rêverie

    Composer: Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947)
    Author: Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

  11. 11. A Chloris

    Composer: Reynaldo Hahn (1845-1924)
    Author: Théophile de Viau (1590-1626)

  12. 12. Si Mes Vers Avaient Des Ailes

    Composer: Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947)
    Author: Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

  13. 13. "Le Regret"

    "[Her] incomparable eyes made me think of this line of Baudelaire's: 'I love the greenish light of your long eyes, gentle beauty.'"

  14. 14. Chant D'automne

    Composer: Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
    Author: Charles Beaudelaire (1821-1867)

  15. 15. Mai

    Composer: Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947)
    Author: François Coppée (1842-1908)

  16. 16. Adieu

    Composer: Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
    Author: Charles Grandmougin (1850-1930)


"Everything I have ever done has always been thanks to Reynaldo."
Marcel Proust

"The piece Proust found irresistible was Claude Debussy's opera, Pelléas and Mélisande, based on Maeterlinck's play by the same name."

"The window consists of eighteen panels. In the first panel Proust-Buncht lies in bed listening to Fauré's setting of Verlaine's Clair de lune."
Marcel Proust: A Life

  1. 01. Reynaldo Hahn

    "Everything I have ever done has always been thanks to Reynaldo."
    Marcel Proust.

    Reynaldo Hahn is hardly a stranger to connoisseurs of Proust, yet his music is much lesser-known than the nature of his relationship with the writer. Part of a tradition of French mélodie from the mid-century to the fin-de-siècle, Hahn’s music offers a sense of how the musical culture of fin-de-siècle France may have shaped a young and talented compositional voice. Born in Venezuela and arriving in France as a young child, Hahn was quickly steeped in the world of Parisian salons, and institutions like the opera and ballet. He wrote his first songs at age 8 and entered the Conservatoire at age 10, where his teachers included Massenet, Gounod, and Saint-Saëns.

    Proust’s letters to Hahn in subsequent years are a testament to their enduringly close friendship. Written in “lansguage,” a sibilant private code of deformed spellings and terms of endearment, they were often accompanied by witty, irreverent drawings that Proust produced for no one else. In letters leading up to 1913, Proust described to Hahn his ambitions and difficulties in writing the novel that would become In Search of Lost Time.

  2. 02. Claude Debussy

    The piece Proust found irresistible was Claude Debussy's opera, Pelléas and Mélisande.

    Claude Debussy is one of the best-known composers of fin-de-siècle French music. He was also a key figure in the Symbolist movement, being a regular attendee at Stéphane Mallarmé’s Tuesday gatherings (Les Mardistes). Debussy was also an active critic, writing for La revue blanche, among other places. He used these platforms not just to review concerts but to express opinions about contemporary music, either through his own voice or that of the invented interlocutor, Monsieur Croche.

    In terms of musical language, Debussy is often credited with a movement away from rigid tonality and a fuller exploration of multiple aspects of musical sound, including timbre and form. That many of his innovations were seen in response to the music of Richard Wagner was something that he would embrace, deny, and generally struggle with throughout his later life.

  3. 03. Gabriel Fauré

    "The window consists of eighteen panels. In the first panel Proust-Buncht lies in bed listening to Fauré's setting of Verlaine's Clair de lune."
    Marcel Proust: A Life

    Gabriel Fauré, perhaps the master of French mélodie, made his mark on the world of fin-de-siècle French music through the genres of song, solo piano, chamber music, and in his role as a teacher. Still best known for his over 100 songs and his Requiem, Fauré’s musical aesthetic across genres displays a much- celebrated French clarity and simplicity, while also anticipating some of the tonal revolutions of the early 20th century.

    Recognition came to Fauré in the 1890s. He began to move in high society and numbered among his acquaintences John Singer Sargent, Frank Schuster (also a friend of Elgar), the Princess de Polignac, and Proust, who drew his descriptions of Vinteuil's music from Fauré's works.

The Artists.

Tenor Drew Watson

Pianist Jane Watwood Gibbs

Scholar William C. Carter

  • Drew Watson | Tenor
  • Jane Watwood Gibbs | Pianist
  • William C. Carter | Proust Scholar
  1. Tenor Drew Watson

    Drew Watson | Tenor

    Drew Watson is a singer of Opera, concert, and sacred music. He has sung several seasons with Opera Birmingham and has also appeared in productions with New York Opera Studio, Columbia University Bach Society, and Sursum Corda.

    An active recitalist and avid interpreter of the French mélodie, Drew has given numerous concerts and recitals in both Europe and the United States, and his singing has been featured in television broadcasts to over 120 countries worldwide.

    Drew holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from Columbia University and has studied vocal performance at The Julliard School and at the Conservatoire National de Paris. He recently obtained a Master of Business Administration from INSEAD.

    Email drew@drewwatsonreverie.com

  2. Pianist Jane Watwood Gibbs

    Jane Watwood Gibbs | Pianist

    Jane Watwood Gibbs is a pianist, accompanist, and vocal coach. She has been a member of the piano faculty at numerous institutions, including The University of Texas at Austin, Birmingham-Southern College, and The University of Montevallo.

    A specialist in French and German art, she has worked extensively with John Wustman and has accompanied for vocal master classes of Anna Moffo, John Wustman, and Dalton Baldwin.

    Ms. Gibbs performs regularly with a duo-piano team and with The Birmingham Piano Quartet. She holds a Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Arts degree from Birmingham-Southern College and the Master of Music degree from The University of Texas at Austin.

    Email jane@drewwatsonrevereie.com

  3. Scholar William C. Carter

    William C. Carter | Proust Scholar

    William C. Carter is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. His biography Marcel Proust: A Life was selected as a "Notable Book of 2000" by The New York Times, a "Best Book of 2000" by the Los Angeles Times, and a "Best Biography of 2000" by the Sunday Times of London.

    Harold Bloom has written that Carter is "Proust's definitive biographer" and that his most recent book, Proust in Love is "a marvelous study of the comic splendor of the great novelist's vision of human eros and its discontents." He co-produced the aware-winning documentary Marcel Proust: A Writer's Life.

    His annotated edition of Scott Moncrieff's translation of Swann's Way was published in November 2013 by Yale University Press. His website is www.proust-ink.com.

    Email billcart@uab.edu


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