Recueillement (Contemplation) is the first song Diepenbrock orchestrated immediately after completing the piano version (RC 79). The earliest manuscript was ready on 17 July 1907. The neat copy he made for Gabrielle Zimmer-Derscheid dates from 24 July. A mere two weeks later, on 8 August 1907, he put the finishing touches to the orchestration in manuscript A-61(1).
Thanks to Willem Mengelberg, the work was already premiered in Paris that autumn. On 3 November 1907 Mengelberg conducted the Colonne Orchestra in a programme featuring the Dutch-born baritone Jan Reder (*1872), who had moved to the French capital in 1902, in Diepenbrock’s Der König in Thule (The King in Thule, RC 16/78) and Recueillement. It was some time before Mengelberg performed the orchestral song in Amsterdam as well; the Dutch premiere took place on 15 April 1909. Disappointed by the performance (Reder’s voice was drowned out by the orchestra and Mengelberg lapsed into “his chapel master’s style of conducting”), Diepenbrock decided the song should never be sung by a baritone again:
The range is definitely for Mezzo-soprano or Alto. (BD VI:103)
In the summer of 1916 Diepenbrock revised the instrumentation, following the idea he had used for the orchestration of Puisque l’aube grandit (Since Dawn Awoke, RC 97/130): creating an accompaniment as “a guard of honour” and not as “a troupe of gendarmes”. (BD IX:140) The revised score and orchestral parts were ready just in time for the performance by the alto Jacoba Repelaer van Driel (1884-1967) and the Residentie Orchestra, conducted by Rhené-Baton (1879-1940) in the Kurhaus in Scheveningen on 12 September 1916. For the critic of the newspaper Het Vaderland, A. de Wal, their interpretation was a revelation:
The very beautiful orchestral and vocal rendition we were given now of Baudelaire-Diepenbrock, opened my ears to the great unity of the poetry and the music, which are fused in an indescribable, refined-pure feeling of bitter-sweet resignation and nostalgie de l’infini, full of the light-dark mystery of la douce nuit qui marche (the approach of the sweet night). There is a refined intellectual sensitivity in this music, which always has a remarkable bearing on the atmosphere of Baudelaire’s text and music of ideas. (BD IX:479)
Later a singer such as Bernard Kruysen proved that – despite Diepenbrock’s comment of 1909 – this masterful song also comes into its own when sung by a baritone.