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2.110545 - MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - FRANCE: A Musical Tour of the South of France (NTSC)
English 

A Musical Tour of Southern France
With music by Claude Debussy, Erik Satie and Maurice Ravel

 

CHAPTER 1

Camargue

The Camargue is an extended marshy region, lying between two branches of the Rhône. In part now a nature reserve, it has its own breed of white horses, allegedly introduced by the Saracens, and every variety of wild bird, flamingoes, egrets, ibises and wild ducks.

Music Debussy: Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune

Debussy completed his famous Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun) in 1894. It was later to achieve unwanted notoriety in the overtly erotic mime of the dancer Nijinsky, when the score was used by Dyagilev for a ballet in 1912, a treatment of the work with which Debussy was not happy. The inspiration for what was essentially revolutionary music came from a poem by Mallarmé, with its subtly sensuous suggestions of a pagan world. In the form of an Eclogue, the poem is in the words of a Faun, half-goat and half-man, in the mould of the pagan god Pan. He is stirred by the sight of passing nymphs, as he lies resting from the heat of the midday in a wooded glade. The music opens with the sound of the Faun’s reed-pipe, represented by the flute, in a score that makes imaginative use of woodwind, two harps and strings, with percussion confined to antique cymbals, used with sparing yet telling effect.

CHAPTER 2

Côte d’Azur

The Côte d’Azur is the name given to the land lying between the sea and the Alpes Maritimes in the south of France. It includes major holiday resorts, but has areas of peaceful natural beauty, relatively undisturbed. The scene shows the sea, with its gentle waves lapping at the characteristic rock formations of the coast. A further view of the sea is intercut with images from the Munich Glyptothek, the gallery of ancient Greek and Roman statuary collected by Ludwig I of Bavaria.

Music Satie: Gymnopédies Nos. 1 and 2

Erik Satie occupies a curious position in French music at the end of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th. The son of a French ship-broker father and a Scottish mother, he exercised a considerable influence over a number of young composers, perhaps through his very eccentricity. The beautifully evocative Gymnopédies of 1888 derive their title from the ritual dances and exercises performed by naked boys in ancient Sparta and were inspired, according to the composer, by a reading of Flaubert’s Salammbô. Written for piano, the first was orchestrated by Debussy and the second by Roland-Manuel.

CHAPTER 3

Abbaye de Montmajour

The fortified Abbey of Montmajour, near Arles, a Benedictine foundation, was built between the 10th and 13th centuries. Damage incurred in the religious wars of later years caused considerable destruction, and new buildings were undertaken in the 17th and 18th centuries by the Maurist order of Benedictines, to whom the buildings had been entrusted. Their work remained incomplete at the time of the French Revolution and consequent secularisation. Built into the rock on what was once an island, the Abbey retains the solid walls of the crypt, the side-chapels and ceiling vaulting. The cloisters are well preserved, but the Maurist building is now in ruins.

Music Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé Suite No.1 – Nocturne – Interlude – Danse guerrière

Ravel’s symphonie choréographique, a ballet for Dyagilev, Daphnis et Chloé, is based on the Greco- Roman pastoral romance by Longus, a writer of the second century AD about whom little otherwise is known. Described in its title as The Lesbian Pastorals of Daphnis and Chloé, the love story is set on the island of Lesbos, where, after various misfortunes, the lovers of the title are eventually happily re-united. The new ballet was eventually staged in Paris in 1912, but was to some extent overshadowed by the succès de scandale occasioned by L’après-midi d’un faune presented a few days earlier. In the event Daphnis et Chloé had only two performances, in part as a result of the quarrel between the choreographer Fokine, whose idea it was, and Dyagilev’s favourite, Nijinsky, who danced the rôle of Daphnis, with Karsavina as Chloé. The first Suite from the ballet starts with a Nocturne, in which nymphs dance, after the defeat in dance of a rival of Daphnis. The Interlude precedes the appearance of a gang of pirates who abduct Chloé. This is followed by their Warlike Dance.

CHAPTER 4

Île Saint-Honorat • Fortified Monastery • Abbaye de Lérins

The second largest of the Îles de Lérins, the Île Saint-Honorat takes its name from the saint who is said to have established a hermitage and then a monastery there. On the island there is a squarebuilt and imposing fortified monastery. The Abbey, however, is a much larger complex of buildings. After various vicissitudes, including secularisation at the time of the French Revolution, it was re-established as a monastery in 1859, when it was given to the Cistercians. The island itself is set in calm summer seas and is within sight of Cannes, on the mainland.

Music Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé Suite No.2 – Lever du jour – Pantomime – Danse générale

The scene returns to that of the opening, as night passes away. The only sound is that of the streams of dew flowing down over the rocks. Daphnis is prostrate before the Nymphs’ cave. Little by little day dawns. Birds sing and in the distance a shepherd passes by with his flock. Chloé has been saved from the pirates by the intervention of Pan. The old shepherd Lammon explains that Chloé has been saved because Pan remembered the nymph Syrinx, whom he loved. Daphnis and Chloé mime the adventure of Pan and Syrinx. Chloé represents the young nymph wandering in the meadow. Daphnis, as Pan, appears and declares his love. The nymph rejects him, but the god becomes more insistent. She disappears among the reeds. In despair, he seizes some reed stems and makes a flute, on which he plays a melancholy melody. Chloé re-appears and represents, in her dance, the sound of Pan’s flute. Her dance becomes more and more lively until she falls, exhausted, into the arms of Daphnis. Eventually before the altar of the Nymphs Daphnis swears faith, offering two sheep. Young girls, dressed as bacchantes, with tambourines, enter. Daphnis and Chloé embrace tenderly. Young men join them, and they dance in joy, bringing the ballet to an end.

CHAPTER 5

Arles: Roman theatre and Les Alyscamps • Saint-Rémy: Glanum

Originally a Greek trading outpost, Arles grew in importance in Roman times. Remains include a Roman theatre, completed late in the 1st century AD. Other relics from earlier times include the Alyscamps, a Gallo-Roman necropolis containing a number of tombs, with the Chapelle Saint- Honorat continuing Christian use of the cemetery. Glanum, near Saint-Rémy, has two significant monuments from Roman times, a gate, once a triumphal arch, and an impressive mausoleum. The Roman town flourished until the second century AD.

Music Ravel: Introduction and Allegro for flute, clarinet, harp and string quartet

Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro dates from 1905, the year in which, although now with an established reputation, he failed to win the Prix de Rome, the prize bestowed by the French musical establishment, precipitating a crisis in the Paris Conservatoire and the appointment of Ravel’s teacher, Gabriel Fauré, as director. The work is relatively simple in conception and captures absolutely the spirit of the age and of a national poetic mood, a certain nostalgia for an unattainable past.


Keith Anderson


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