He smiles as she sits
With him at the piano.
Her hands are so small.
“Happy Birthday, dear,”
He says, “I wrote this for you.”
Together they play.
She smiles as Mom looks on
With love at the two.
Ahhh. Isn’t that wonderful? Gabriel Fauré wrote six piano four-hands pieces for Hélène Bardac, nicknamed Dolly, who was the daughter of Emma Bardac, a singer and Fauré’s mistress. The six pieces are known as the Dolly Suite. Berceuse is the first piece in the suite, which was written for Dolly’s first birthday.
Fauré enjoyed playing the suite in public and with the young children of his friends. The photograph above shows Fauré playing the piano with a child identified as Mademoiselle Lombard in 1913. Below is a picture of young Dolly with her mother Emma Bardac and her older brother Raoul from around 1895, about the time Fauré was writing the pieces.
Some folks may remember Berceuse as the theme of BBC Radio 4’s program Listen with Mother, which was a popular children’s radio program in the 1950s through early 1980s.
Image attributions: Gabriel Fauré at the piano with young Mlle. Lombard at Trevano, Lake Lugano, 1913. Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Musique, Est.FauréG.101 via Wikipedia.org, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gabriel_Faur%C3%A9_jouant_%C3%A0_quatre_mains_avec_Melle_Lombard.jpg
Emma Bardac and her children, Raoul and Hélène (Dolly), c. 1895 from Gabriel Fauré: A Musical Life by Jean-Michel Nectoux, trans. Roger Nichols. Cambridge University Press, 2004, p. 287.