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2.110249 - MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - FRANCE: Cathedrals and Megaliths, Calvaries and Tapestries from Brittany to the Loire (NTSC)
A Musical Tour of France
Chartres Cathedral: Canal and Aqueduct, Briare • Loire
The greater part of Chartres Cathedral of Notre Dame dates from the thirteenth century, with part of the West front and towers surviving from an earlier building. Remarkable features include the medieval stained glass windows, with magnificent rose windows, and the carved figures on the portals. In the seventeenth century a canal some 36 miles long was built from Briare to link the Loire with the Seine. In 1890 an aqueduct was constructed over the river.
Music Fauré: Requiem – Introit and Kyrie
A pupil of Saint-Saëns at the Ecole Niedermeyer in Paris, Gabriel Fauré, in 1871, became assistant organist at St Sulpice, later moving to the Madeleine as deputy to Saint-Saëns and subsequently as choirmaster, when Théodore Dubois succeeded Saint-Saëns in 1877. He wrote a large number of songs, while remaining, as always, intensely critical of his own work, particularly with regard to compositions on a larger scale. In 1892 he became inspector of French provincial conservatories and four years later principal organist at the Madeleine. In the same year he at last found employment as a teacher of composition at the Conservatoire, the way now open to him after the death of the old director Ambroise Thomas, who had found Fauré too much of a modernist for such a position. His association with the Conservatoire, where his pupils over the years included Ravel, Koechlin, Enescu and Nadia Boulanger, led, in 1905, to his appointment as director, a position he held until 1920. His musical language bridged a gap between the romanticism of the nineteenth century and the world of music that had appeared with the new century, developing and evolving, but retaining its own fundamental characteristics. His harmonic idiom, with its subtle changes of tonality and his gift for melody, is combined with an understanding of the way contemporary innovations might be used in a manner completely his own. The initial version of his Requiem was first performed at the Madeleine in 1888, its five movements later expanded and with a final version published in 1901. It opens with the Introit, Requiem aeternam and the Kyrie. [Recording by Schola Cantorum of Oxford and Oxford Camerata, conductor Jeremy Summerly, with Lisa Beckley, Soprano, Nicholas Gedge, Bass-Baritone, and Colm Carey, Organ, from Naxos 8.550765]
Brittany: Enclos paroissiaux, Pleyben and Plougonven
In the half-light a boat makes its way through the Brière, in Brittany, its peat-bogs intersected by dikes and channels. The Enclos paroissiaux, with their gate or arch, cemetery, funerary chapel or ossuary, calvary and church, are a particular feature of Brittany. The region contains remarkable carved calvaries. On the road from Rennes to Brest we pass the historic town of Pleyben, with its calvary including figures in contemporary costumes, dating from the sixteenth century. The calvary at Plougonven is from the same period. Locronan takes its name from the Irish missionary, St Ronan. It has an interesting church, dating from the late fifteenth century. Les alignements at Carnac date from the fifth millennium BC, a remarkable collection of menhirs, standing stones from the megalithic period.
Music Fauré: Requiem – Offertoire
In his Requiem Fauré avoids the terrors of the Day of Judgement familiar from the traditional sequence, the Die irae. The general mood is one of tranquillity and hope. The Offertory, its text slightly adapted, was one of the two movements added to the original work, which was developed with changed instrumentation and a baritone soloist.
Burgundy: Basilica, Vézelay
Vézelay is a fortified village, built on a hill-top and once the site of an important Benedictine abbey, now the Basilica of Ste-Marie-Madeleine. The church has undergone various vicissitudes and was restored in the nineteenth century. The building remains, however, an example of Romanesque architecture in what was once once an important place of pilgrimage.
Music Fauré: Requiem – Sanctus
The Sanctus of Fauré’s Requiem is a particularly moving part of the work, its beauty enhanced by the use of a solo violin, against the texture of lower strings.
Franche-Comté: Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp
Built after the Second World War, during which the original church at Ronchamp had been destroyed, Le Corbusier’s remarkable Notre Dame du Haut, commanding the surrounding countryside from its hill-top, offers a distinct break with tradition, its interior lit by the shafts of light that penetrate through apertures in the concrete walls.
Music Fauré: Requiem – Pie Jesu
The Pie Jesu, with its soprano or treble solo, is among the most familiar and best loved movements from Fauré’s Requiem.
Pays de la Loire: Musée Jean Lurçat, Angers
The Salle des malades of the Hôpital St-Jean in Angers, dating from the twelfth century, now houses the large Aubusson tapestries designed by Jean Lurçat, Le Chant du monde, made during the last nine years of his life and completed in 1966. Near Angers is the village of Denezé-sous-Doué, with caves that contain a hundred or more carved figures dating from the sixteenth century and apparently satirical in intention in their representation of notable contemporaries in caricature.
Music Fauré: Requiem – Agnus Dei
The setting of the Agnus Dei includes a reference to the opening Requiem aeternam, continuing the prevailing mood of devotional tranquillity and optimism.
Franche Comté: Les Salines, Salins-les-Bains
The historic salt-works at Salins-les-Bains is here intercut with glimpses of the remarkable polyptych of The Last Judgement by Roger van der Weyden, painted for the Hôtel-Dieu in Beaune and depicting the Archangel Michael weighing the souls of the dead and various religious and contemporary figures. The thirteenth-century church of Notre Dame in Dijon has a West front façade decorated with grotesque animal and human figures.
Music Fauré: Requiem – Libera me
The moving Libera me from the Requiem, its text drawn from the Order of Burial, centres on the baritone soloist.
Normandy: Hambye and Jumièges Abbeys
The Benedictine abbey of Hambye, near Coutances in Normandy, was founded in the twelfth century, an early example of Norman Gothic. The ruined Abbey of Jumièges was founded by St Philibert in the seventh century, but the surviving buildings date from the eleventh century and owe much to the Abbot Robert II, who became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1051, but died at Jumièges the following year.
Music Fauré: Requiem – In paradisum
Fauré’s Requiem ends with a further consolatory text from the Order of Burial. The setting of In paradisum brings the work to an end in a continuing mood of tranquillity and hope.
Normandy: Ship Church and Musée Ernest Kosmowski, Honfleur
The old fishing-port of Honfleur has characteristic streets, bordered by timbered houses. The church of St Catherine, built by shipwrights in the fifteenth century, is said to resemble an upturned ship. Born in Warsaw in 1900, Ernest Kosmowski established himself in Honfleur as a leading figure in the third generation of so-called Painters of the Estuary, in a town that has long been a favourite of artists. Etretat, seen here in the fading light of sunset, also attracted painters, particularly in the later nineteenth century.
Music Fauré: Pavane, Op. 50
Fauré’s nostalgic Pavane was completed in 1887, and has become familiar from various arrangements, always reflecting that contemporary yearning for a past long gone, a world reconjured by Verlaine and other writers. [Recording by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, conductor Keith Clark, from Naxos 8.550088]
Established by a Viking chieftain, Normandy formed an important medieval state, its reputation familiar to the English after the conquest of England by William of Normandy. The landscape reveals the richness of the countryside with its farms and orchards and glimpses of half-timbered thatched houses.
Music Fauré: Sicilienne, Op. 78
Fauré’s Sicilienne has enjoyed wide popularity in a variety of arrangements. It was written in 1898 for cello and piano and dedicated to the English cellist W. H. Squire. It formed part of the incidental music for performances of Molière’s Le bourgeois gentilhomme, and in the version orchestrated by Charles Koechlin was used in incidental music for an English translation of Maeterlinck’s Pelléas et Mélisande in London, in both cases evoking an earlier world, whether baroque or medieval. [Recording by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, conductor Ondrej Lenárd, from Naxos 8.550088]
Normandy: Îles de Chausey
The archipelago of Chausey, with its multitude of rocky islets, is some miles off the Normandy resort of Granville. The voyage out takes some fifty minutes, and calls for some skill in navigation.
Music Fauré: Berceuse, Op. 16
Fauré’s Berceuse was first performed in 1880 by the violinist Ovide Music, accompanied by the composer. With a melody reflecting Fauré’s gifts as a composer of songs, it has been variously arranged. [Recording by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, conductor Keith Clark, from Naxos 8.550088]
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