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2.110248 - MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - PARIS: The Seine, Les Tuileries, Opera, Sacre-Coeur, The Louvre (NTSC)
A Musical Tour of Paris
La Tour Eiffel • Le Musée d’Orsay • Les Tuileries • Notre-Dame • The Seine • Le Grand Palais • Le Pont Alexandre III
Gustave Eiffel’s famous tower, the Tour Eiffel, was built for the exhibition of 1889, celebrating the centenary of the French Revolution. 1051 feet (320 metres) in height, the tower offers panoramic views of the city, while serving itself as a monument to French engineering skill and a symbol of Paris itself. Following the bank of the Seine, along the Quai d’Orsay, the visitor comes to the present Musée d’Orsay, converted into a gallery of nineteenth-century art from its origin as a railway station. The station, occupying the site of the former Palais d’Orsay, was opened on 14th July 1900 and was again a remarkable example of French skill, its iron structure cleverly concealed by stone facing, and serving as a model for New York Grand Central Station and Union Station in Washington. On the opposite bank of the Seine are the Tuileries Gardens, recently restored. These were originally laid out by Le Nôtre in 1666. The Tuileries Palace, where Louis XVI was once held prisoner, before his execution in 1793, was destroyed in the disturbances of 1870–71. The gardens are adjacent to the Louvre. At the heart of Paris is the Île de la Cité and here stands the great Cathedral of Notre-Dame, built in the twelfth century on the site of earlier churches, themselves constructed where an earlier Temple of Jupiter had once stood. The West face of the building has three portals and a rose window above and there are further rose windows on the North and South sides of the cathedral. Above the two towers rises a steeple, the work of Viollet-le-Duc, who played a major part in the restoration of the building in the nineteenth century. The Paris Exhibition of 1900, which followed the success of the 1889 Exhibition, resulted in a further monument to iron construction in the Grand Palais, with its important art exhibitions. The nearby Alexandre III bridge, with its remarkable single span, was a mark of friendship between Russia and France, opened by Tsar Nicholas II in 1896.
The initial inspiration for Beethoven’s Third Symphony seems to have come from the French envoy, Count Bernadotte, who had been sent to Vienna in 1798, taking with him in his entourage the virtuoso violinist and composer Rodolphe Kreutzer, to whom Beethoven later dedicated his most famous violin sonata. Bernadotte spent some time in Beethoven’s company and seems to have given him the notion of composing a heroic symphony in honour of General Bonaparte. The French had, by force of arms, established a number of republics and had compelled Austria to unfavourable peace terms at the treaty of Campo Formio. As First Consul it seemed that Napoleon embodied the virtues of the republic of classical Rome, an ideal that had a strong attraction for Beethoven. The score of the completed symphony was seen by Beethoven’s friends early in 1804, bearing on its title page the name ‘Buonaparte’ at the top and below, the name of the composer. At the news that Napoleon had declared himself Emperor, Beethoven tore the page up, leaving on his own copy the words Sinfonia grande, with the added pencil note Geschrieben auf Bonaparte. The completed work was in the end dedicated to Prince Lobkowitz, who paid 400 ducats for the privilege. While Beethoven may have had earlier reservations about Napoleon, it seems likely that he had hoped, at one time, for an invitation to settle in Paris.
The Seine • Bibliothèque Nationale • Hôtel National des Invalides • Napoleon’s Tomb • Cour d’Honneur • Luxemburg Gardens • Versailles: Paintings of Napoleon’s Battles
Away from the river and the Louvre, past the Banque de France, is the old Bibliothèque Nationale, now replaced as the national library by a modern building in the 13th arrondissement. Like its now deserted counterpart in London, the old library had a particularly fine reading room, designed by Henri Labrouste and opened in 1868. The room is now used for occasional exhibitions. It is necessary to cross the Seine again to the left bank to find Les Invalides, now a memorial to Napoleon. The building was originally commissioned by Louis XIV for veterans of his armies and provided a pioneering venture in Europe as a military hospital. It was opened in 1674, with tunnels below that have subsequently proved useful. Facing the Cour d’Honneur of this impressive building, with its colonnade-surrounded central courtyard, is the Church of St-Louis and the Dôme des Invalides, under which is the tomb where the remains of Napoleon were eventually laid. The dome itself, the work of Hardouin-Mansart, was completed in 1706. The Luxemburg Palace and Gardens were commissioned by the widowed Marie de Médicis, who took up residence in the Italianate palace in 1625. The gardens retain something of their original formal lay-out. The great Palace of Versailles was the concept of Louis XIV and built on the site of an earlier royal hunting-lodge. It was much embellished and extended during the seventeenth century. Napoleon himself made the Grand Trianon, a smaller palace in the grounds of Versailles, his occasional residence. As Emperor, Napoleon had many of his exploits recorded by painters of the time, and most notably by the revolutionary Jacques Louis David, who became a fervent Bonapartist.
The Eroica Symphony has a number of original features, including the substitution of a funeral march for the slow movement.
Arc de Triomphe • Place des Vosges • Marché d’Aligre • Marché de la Bastille • Bookstalls • La Brocante
The Arc de Triomphe was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806, after his victory at Austerlitz. This triumphal arch is 164 feet (50 metres) high and 147 feet (45 metres) wide. It was completed only in 1836, 21 years after Napoleon’s final defeat. The arch is ornamented with patriotic low-relief sculptures and serves as a radial centre to a series of avenues, including the great Avenue des Champs-Elysées, city-planning under Napoleon III and his prefect of the Seine, Baron Haussmann. Originally the Place Royale and the site of the principal royal residence in Paris, the Place des Vosges, so named since 1800, is symmetrical in design, with nine formal buildings on each side of the square, completed in 1612. The formal pavilions, with their steeply pitched slate roofs and façades of red brick, have served as residences for some of the most distinguished figures in French history. The markets of Paris offer the widest varieties of produce, whether fruit and vegetables, the exotic spices of the Marché d’Aligre, or the open-air book-stalls by the banks of the Seine and the second-hand goods of La Brocante.
A Scherzo replaces the traditional Minuet in the Eroica Symphony.
Sacré-Coeur • Place du Tertre • Opéra • Place de la Concorde • The Louvre • Tuileries • Châtelet • Hôtel de Ville
Sacré-Coeur, the Church of the Sacred Heart in Montmartre, was built in the aftermath of the French defeat in 1871, designed by Paul Abadie and completed by Lucien Magne, after the former’s death in 1884. The building is Byzantine in concept and remarkable not only for its design and the technical skill involved in its construction, but for the continuing whiteness of its stone. Nearby is the Place du Tertre, with its stalls of portrait-painters of varied skill and its other amusements. The Opéra Garnier, built over a lake by the architect from whom it takes its name, was again the concept of Napoleon III as part of his scheme for modernising the city. The building is extravagant in style, with its grandiose façade, looking onto the Place de l’Opéra and the Avenue de l’Opéra, which provides an approach to it. The Place de la Concorde, with its central ancient Egyptian obelisk, can be approached from the Avenue des Champs-Elysées. Designed in the 1750s as the Place Louis-XV, with an equestrian statue of the King, it became the Place de la Révolution and the scene of the execution of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette and of many others during the Terror. Looking from the Obelisk past the Tuileries Gardens, the Louvre can be seen, with the new Pyramid of I.M. Pei in front of it. A medieval fortress in origin, the buildings were enlarged and adapted by successive monarchs. Finally, when the royal family moved to Versailles, it became even more closely associated with art and artists, a connection continued from 1793, leading to the present Musée du Louvre, one of the major art galleries of the world. Further along the bank of the Seine is the Place du Châtelet, with its two theatres, and the Hôtel de Ville, rebuilt between 1874 and 1881, after the destruction of the earlier building in the troubles of the Commune in 1871.
The Eroica Symphony ends with another unusual feature, a set of variations, based on a theme from Beethoven’s music for the ballet The Creatures of Prometheus. The whole symphony is on a heroic scale, and unusual, at the time, for its length.
Paris by night • Chartres Cathedral
The Eiffel Tower is even more impressive at night, with its relatively modern internal lighting. Other landmarks of Paris appear transformed in the night. The ancient city of Chartres lies some fifty miles to the south-west of Paris. The cathedral was rebuilt at the end of the twelfth century, after an earlier building had been destroyed, with much of the town, in a fire. The structure is noted for its slender Gothic proportions and the richness of its stained glass and sculptures. The former constitutes one of the most remarkable collections of medieval stained glass, dominated by its characteristic blue colour and seen in splendid rose windows and in lancet windows, three of which date from an even earlier period, before the fire. The West façade has particularly notable carved figures, with a central portal surmounted by the figure of Christ, his hand raised in blessing, surrounded by symbols of the Evangelists.
In 1807 Beethoven wrote an overture to the play Coriolan, the work of the dramatist Heinrich von Collin, brother of the philosopher employed as tutor to Napoleon’s son, the Duke of Reichstadt. Collin’s verse plays enjoyed considerable popularity in Vienna, where their topical patriotism found a ready response. In Coriolan he treated the story of the Roman general Coriolanus, victorious in war, but contemptuous of the common people. Failing to win election to the consulship, he is dissuaded from attacking and destroying his own country by the pleading of his wife and his mother. The first theme of the overture suggests Coriolanus himself, with a secondary theme representing the pleading of his wife.
Symphony No. 3 by Michael Halász conducting the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, from Amadis 7164 • Coriolanus by Stephen Gunzenhauser conducting the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, from Naxos 8.550072.
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