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2.110506 - MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - PARIS: A Musical Tour of Paris, Chantilly, Versailles and Chartres (NTSC)
A Musical Tour of Paris, Chantilly, Versailles and Chartres
First Impressions of Paris: Sacré Coeur, Champs-Elysées, Arc de Triomphe, Place des Vosges, Place de la Concorde
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the Sacré Coeur, was built after the disastrous defeat of France in 1870 in the Franco-Prussion War. Its dome and white stone have become a Paris landmark in Montmartre. The Avenue des Champs-Elysées is the great avenue that leads from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe, commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 after Austerlitz. The best known of its bas-relief sculptures is that known as La Marseillaise in which a winged figure leads soldiers to obvious victory. The Place des Vosges, originally the Place Royale, with its arcade restaurants and important residences, now also offers the amenities of a park, with its grass and its bordering of linden trees. The Place de la Concorde, so named in 1795, has a central Egyptian obelisk, presented to France in 1829 by the Egyptian viceroy Mohammed Ali.
In 1777 Mozart had resigned from his position in the court musical establishment of his native Salzburg, travelling, accompanied only by his indulgent mother, to Augsburg, Mannheim and then Paris, in search of greater opportunities. During the summer of 1778 in Paris his mother died and by the end of the year he was reluctantly making his way back to his father in Salzburg. He wrote his so-called Paris Symphony at the end of May and beginning of June and it was first performed on 18th June at the Concerts Spirituels. It ends with the rondo included here. [Recommended recording Naxos 8.550164]
Musée d’Orsay: Sculptures and Paintings by Monet, Renoir, Manet, Courbet, Lepage and Seurat
The Musée d’Orsay stands on the site of the old Palais d’Orsay, burnt down in the period of the Commune, and later an important railway station. After various further changes of use, it was converted, under Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, into a gallery for the exhibition of various forms of art from the period from 1848 to 1915. It was opened in 1986 and has a notable collection of works by Impressionist painters, with a ground floor dedicated principally to art from the period 1848 to 1870.
Debussy returned to Paris in 1887 from Rome, where he had spent the obligatory period of residence, after winning the important Prix de Rome. He wrote his Petite Suite for piano duet in 1889. The work has since won popularity in a variety of different arrangements, none more apt than the present version of a movement from the suite, the gently lilting En bateau, in a version for flute and harp. [Recommended recording Naxos 8.550741]
Grand Palais, Petit Palais and Pont Alexandre III
The iron and glass structure known as the Grand Palais was erected in 1900 for the Universal Exposition of that year and serves as a major exhibition hall. The Petit Palais, built for a similar purpose, has a mixed permanent collection of objets d’art. The Pont Alexandre III, with its ornate gilded sculptures, was also built for the Exposition and was intended as a mark of Franco- Russian accord. The foundation stone was laid in 1896 by Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.
The son of an émigré French father and Polish mother, Chopin had spent his childhood and adolescence in his native Poland, which he left in 1830, to seek his fortune elsewhere. From 1831 until his death in 1849, he made his home in Paris, finding a place for himself as a fashionable teacher and a privileged performer in the houses of the rich. It has been popularly supposed that his Revolutionary Study was written in reaction to the Russian suppression of the Polish rising of 1830, but it had probably been written a year earlier. It was published in Paris in 1833 as the last of a set of twelve studies dedicated to Franz Liszt. [Recommended recordings Naxos 8.553170 and 8.554528]
Jardin du Luxembourg
The Jardin du Luxembourg is a 24-hectare park adjoining the palace built there by Marie de Médicis after the death of her husband Henri IV. The general lay-out is based on the original seventeenth-century plan, although changes were made in the nineteenth century. The gardens contain statues and areas for children’s play and more adult activities, including the traditional game of boules.
Bizet returned to Paris from Rome in 1869, after his triumph in the Prix de Rome, the start of what seemed a brilliant career. At home, however, he enjoyed only intermittent success, winning his greatest triumph, a posthumous one, in the year of his death, 1875, with his opera Carmen. In 1872 he had collaborated with Alphonse Daudet in a melodrama, L’Arlésienne (The Girl from Arles), a character who never appears on stage, as the tragic love affair at the heart of the drama unwinds. The new work was a melodrama, a play in which music played a major part. In the theatre this failed, but the music has won lasting popularity in two suites drawn from the original score, including the Menuet, here arranged for flute and harp. [Recommended recording Naxos 8.550741]
Musée Gustave Moreau
The Musée Gustave Moreau, to the south of Montmartre, is a monument to the eccentric achievement of its creator. The nineteenth-century painter Moreau, an artist of independent means and the teacher of Rouault and of Matisse, filled the house with his own work, including mythological scenes such as Apollo and Pegasus, Leda and the Swan, The Unicorns, and the religious Descent from the Cross.
It was in 1879 that Satie returned again to Paris from his native Honfleur, now to study at the Conservatoire, where he proved an unsatisfactory student. Eccentric in his behaviour and in his music, he exercised a surprising influence on contemporaries such as Debussy, and, indeed, on a later generation of French composers. His now familiar Gymnopédies, written in 1888, are three wistful pieces which bear a title derived from the festival dance of naked boys in ancient Sparta. Two of these were later orchestrated by Debussy. [Recommended recordings Naxos 8.550088 and 8.550480]
Gare de Lyon, Café ‘Le Train Bleu’
The Gare de Lyon is the station for trains going to the south-east of France. The Café ‘Le Train Bleu’ is decorated with murals that recall the life of Paris before 1914, the so-called belle époque between the defeat of the Commune and the outbreak of a new war.
France has a long tradition of ballet, whether as a separate entertainment or as an essential ingredient in opera. The French composer Delibes won his first great success with his first complete ballet score, written in 1870 for Coppélia. His ballet Sylvia or The Nymph of Diana was first staged at the Paris Opéra in 1876 and is based on an episode in Tasso’s Aminta. The story allows the nymph of the title to find love with Aminta, with the blessing of Diana and Eros, god of love. The popular Pizzicato opens the third act divertissement. [Recommended recordings Naxos 8.550080 and 8.553338–39 (complete ballet)]
Père Lachaise Cemetery
The famous Père Lachaise Cemetery takes its name from the Jesuit confessor of Louis XIV, Père de La Chaise, who held the land in the late seventeenth century. It became a cemetery a hundred years later, gradually attracting the burial of people of varied fame, from Chopin to Oscar Wilde. Briefly shown are the graves of the actress Sarah Bernhardt, the painter Modigliani, and Edith Piaf.
The Italian composer Puccini won considerable success with his operas based on French sources. His Manon Lescaut, based on the novel by the Abbé Prévost, was first staged in Turin in 1893. It deals with the liaison of the young Manon and the Chevalier Des Grieux, her desertion of him for the older rich man Géronte, and her final disgrace, transportation and death, after her desertion of Géronte and his prosecution of her. In her In quelle trine morbide (In those soft lace curtains) Manon, in her rich lover’s apartment in Paris, regrets her desertion of the young Des Grieux, with whom she is soon to be re-united, but in disaster. [Recommended recordings Naxos 8.550606, 8.554705 and 8.660019–20 (complete opera)]
Eiffel Tower, River Seine
The Eiffel Tower was originally built for the 1889 Universal Exposition to a design by Gustave Eiffel. It is an amazingly intricate structure of cast-iron, a monument to contemporary engineering. Its upper heights offer an amazing view of Paris and the surrounding districts. Like other great cities of Europe, Paris is built around the River Seine, with its historical and more recent bridges.
Born in Germany, Meyerbeer centred his career on Paris, where he became identified with the new grand opera, works with elaborate and grandiose effects on a large scale. This spectacular element is evident in the Coronation Scene of the 1840 opera Le Prophète, based on the sixteenth-century seizure of power by the Anabaptists in Münster, where John of Leyden is crowned Emperor. [Recommended recording Naxos 8.550370]
It is possible to see part of Paris by canal boat. The Canal Saint-Martin joins La Villette, a recently designed park, with the Seine, passing through a number of locks, swing-bridges and foot-bridges.
In 1882 Delibes wrote a set of pastiche dances and airs as incidental music for a staging of Victor Hugo’s play Le roi s’amuse, the source of Verdi’s opera Rigoletto, where the philandering king of the original title becomes a Duke of Mantua. The Pavane may be more familiar in a version by Peter Warlock, in his Capriol Suite, also derived from French dances of the sixteenth century. [Recommended recording Naxos 8.550080]
Children at Play
The parks of Paris provide areas for children’s play, although some districts offer less formal areas in which children make their own games.
Bizet wrote his piano duet Jeux d’enfants (Children’s Games) in 1871. These were later arranged for orchestra. The second of the original set, La Toupie (The Top) is described as an Impromptu. [Recommended recording Naxos 8.553027]
The great cathedral of Notre Dame, a symbol of Paris itself, has undergone various restorations over the years. To its Gothic façade and structure the nineteenth-century architect Viollet-le-Duc added a ninety metre spire. The West Front has a fine rose window, and there are three portals below. Further rose windows are on the North and South. Built on the site of a Roman temple, replaced by a Christian basilica in the fourth century, the present structure has its origins in the twelfth century.
The seventeenth-century French composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier, while less materially successful than Lully in the same period, was in the service of the Duchesse de Guise and of the Dauphin, and held an important position at the Jesuit Church of St Louis and later in the Sainte- Chapelle. Originally for orchestra with a solo trumpet, the Prelude to the first of his two settings of the Te Deum, dating from the 1690s¸ makes an effective organ solo. [Recommended recording Naxos 8.550581]
Napoleon, Hôtel des Invalides, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower
Napoleon Bonaparte came to power as First Consul after an army coup d’état in 1799. He was crowned Emperor in 1804, initiating many reforms of government and doing much to modernise the city of Paris. Les Invalides was in fact built by Louis XIV for his army veterans. Its subsequent association with Napoleon lies largely in the fact that his ashes are entombed in the church of Les Invalides, originally a royal chapel. The formal hospice now houses the Army Museum of military memorabilia. The Arc de Triomphe, fifty metres high, was commissioned by Napoleon to mark his victory at Austerlitz. The Eiffel Tower, symbol of a later age, is particularly spectacular at night, with lighting now installed to reveal the intricacy of the structure.
In the fourth drama of Wagner’s great tetralogy, The Ring of the Nibelung, The Twilight of the Gods, the hero Siegfried, who has disposed of Fafner and retrieved the ring, is tricked into betraying the Valkyrie Brünnhilde and is himself killed by Hagen, the son of the Nibelung Alberich. Brünnhilde prepares a funeral pyre for him and herself rides into the flames. [Recommended recording Naxos 8.550211]
Boat Trip by Night on the River Seine
It is possible to see many of the important buildings of Paris from the River Seine, around which the city is built. Glimpses are caught of Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and the Musée d’Orsay, and other landmarks.
Belgian by birth and at first intended by his father for a career as a virtuoso pianist, Franck settled in Paris, winning a special place for himself as an organist, composer and inspiring example to a group of younger disciples. His Prélude, Choral et fugue of 1884, from which the present chorale is taken, was originally written for the piano, reflecting the influence of the organ, particularly in its orchestral version. [Recommended recording Naxos 8.550155]
The Elysian Fields, the Champs-Elysées, formed a district originally designed to provide an additional view from the Tuileries in the reign of Louis XIV. There were great changes in the second quarter of the nineteenth century, with the transformation of the area into pleasure gardens. More recent changes have brought shops and businesses of a different kind along an avenue once famous for its elegance, as well as motor traffic.
Verdi’s opera of 1853, La Traviata, is based on the play by the younger Alexandre Dumas, La dame aux camélias (The Lady of the Camelias). The fallen woman of the title, the fashionable courtesan Violetta, is persuaded to relinquish her true love, Alfredo, at the urging of the latter’s father. Unaware of his father’s intervention, Alfredo treats her with contempt and they are only re-united as she lies dying. The Introduction to the first act sets the opening scene, a drawing-room in Violetta’s house, where she is entertaining her guests. [Recommended recordings Naxos 8.550091 and 8.554077]
The Château de Chantilly, outside Paris, belonged to the Montmorency family from 1484 and later to the Prince de Condé. It consists of two buildings, the Petit Château and the Grand Château, the latter destroyed in the Revolution. It was rebuilt in the third quarter of the nineteenth century by the Condé heir, the Duc d’Aumale, a son of Louis-Philippe. The buildings stand in a great lake, with a park laid out by Le Nôtre in the seventeenth century.
The Prelude which opens La Traviata is in contrast with the following scene, with its lively Introduction. Here there is music that will return to introduce the final tragedy. [Recommended recordings Naxos 8.550091, 8.553041 and 8.660011–12 (complete opera)]
Chantilly: Musée de Condé
The last owner of the Château de Chantilly bequeathed it to the Institut de France and it now contains a remarkable art collection, with royal portraits and portraits of the French nobility, as well as masterpieces of Italian, French, German and English painting.
The Château of Versailles was largely the conception of Louis XIV, building on a hunting lodge erected there by Louis XIII. The gardens were laid out by Le Nôtre. The palace became the centre of government in 1682, and it was from here that the royal family was seized by the Paris mob in 1789, to be taken to the Tuileries.
Marin Marais, pupil of Sainte-Colombe, and virtuoso of the viola da gamba, has won much wider fame through the film Tous les matins du monde. He studied with Lully and was one of the foremost players of his day, appointed Ordinaire de la Chambre du Roi by Louis XIV when he was only 23. His compositions consist chiefly of works for the viola da gamba, including the present Allemande, a German dance to open a set. [Recommended recording Naxos 8.550750]
Versailles: Château interior – King’s Bedchamber, Salon d’Hercule and Chapel
The King’s Bedchamber, where Louis XIV died and from which Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette appeared before the mob in 1789, was used by the King for formal levées. It has been restored as it was at the death of Louis XIV, the Sun King. The Salon d’Hercule guarded the entrance to the state apartments with the help of Swiss Guards. The Royal Chapel, with its impressive ceiling paintings and columns, was completed in 1710 by Robert de Cotte.
The Suite in G major of the viola da gamba virtuoso Marin Marais starts with a Prélude. [Recommended recording Naxos 8.550750]
André Le Nôtre laid out the gardens of Versailles in the geometrical style of grand gardens of the seventeenth century. The brothers Pierre and François Francine were employed from 1723 to 1784 to create fountains and water displays. The statuary in the gardens is largely classical in conception, representing figures from Greek mythology.
Marin Marais ended his Suite in G major with the traditional Gigue. [Recommended recording Naxos 8.550750]
The Cathedral at Chartres rests on the site of a Roman temple and the present building dates largely from the thirteenth century. The West façade has the triple Royal Portal, doorways with statues and reliefs, and there are triple porticoes on the North and South, again ornamented with statuary. The medieval stained glass is particularly famous, mainly from the thirteenth century, although one window at least survives from an earlier period. The interior is otherwise remarkable for its height and its width, a very fine example of early Gothic architecture and one of the great buildings of Europe.
One of the greatest French song composers, Fauré reflected in his songs the poignancy and nostalgia that permeated French culture in the closing years of the nineteenth century. His setting of a French translation of Italian verses in Après un rêve (After a dream), written in 1878, has since appeared in a wide variety of arrangements, through which it always retains its original qualities. [Recommended recording Naxos 8.550791]
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