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2.110299 - MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - FRANCE: A Musical Visit to Paris, Versailles, Chantilly and the Pays de la Loire (NTSC)
English 

A Musical Tour of France
With music by Ludwig van Beethoven

 

CHAPTER 1

Palace of Versailles • Chantilly

The Palace of Versailles, originally a hunting-lodge for Louis XIII, was enlarged into a palace of unrivalled magnificence under Louis XIV. The formal gardens were originally laid out in the second half of the 17th century by Le Nôtre, and include terraces and avenues, with fountains and statuary of all kinds, and further embellishment dating from the mid-eighteenth century, including the Bassin de Neptune. The interior of the palace includes the famous Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors), with its seventeen windows and facing mirrors. The Château of Chantilly is impressive in its situation, standing in a lake. The original building dated from the 15th century, but, after destruction in the Revolution, was eventually rebuilt in the later 19th century. Much of the two châteaux that form the complex, the Grand Châteu and the Petit Château, are given over to the Musée Condé, with its rich collection of works of art, including French portrait drawings and a remarkable collection of richly bound books in the Cabinet des livres. Chantilly itself is well known for its horse-racing, its Grandes-Ecuries (Great Stables), built in the 18th century, able to house 240 horses.

Music Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5, Op 73, ‘Emperor’ – I. Allegro con brio

The Concerto in E flat major, Op 73, dedicated to Archduke Rudolph, has been described by Alfred Einstein as “the apotheosis of the military concept” in the music of Beethoven, a reference to popular expectations at the time. The martial element in the work suggests comparison with the Eroica Symphony of 1803, a work that Beethoven conducted at a charity concert during the French occupation of Vienna in 1809. The concerto opens with an impressively triumphant piano cadenza, an indication of the scale of what is to come. This is followed by the orchestral announcement of the principal theme, one of the expectedly strong character, to be miraculously extended by the soloist in a movement of imperial proportions.

CHAPTER 2

Paris: Montmartre • Canal Saint-Martin • Place des Vosges

Montmartre won a reputation of its own in the late 19th century, when it attracted artists of all kinds and others in search of entertainment at places like Au Lapin Rouge, once frequented by Picasso, Modigliani and Apollinaire. The streets of Montmartre retain something of a village atmosphere, towered over by the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur. The Canal Saint-Martin was the result of a Napoleonic project to provide the growing city of Paris with fresh water. Over four kilometres in length, it joins the Canal d’Ourcq to the Seine, and can be crossed on various iron footbridges, its course marked by locks. The Place des Vosges, originally the Place Royale, was at one time the site of a royal residence. Its surrounding buildings exhibit a remarkable classical symmetry in its 36 pavilions, nine on each side, with four arcades below. It was the first of the open squares of Paris, taking form, after earlier uses, in the early 17th century.

Music Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5, Op 73, ‘Emperor’ – II. Adagio

The slow movement of the Emperor Concerto, in B major, an unexpected key that has already been suggested indirectly in the first movement, is introduced by the strings, with a theme of great beauty that is only later to re-appear in a version by the soloist. It is the latter who hints at what is to come.

CHAPTER 3

Le Pays de la Loire: Castle of Chinon • Les Entonneurs Rabelaisiens, Chinon • Tiffauges Castle • La Cigale, Nantes

The Pays de la Loire is at the historical heart of France, with its capital at Nantes, and including under its name a number of départements. Chinon, a historic town on the river Vienne, enjoys particular fame as the birth-place of the 16th century humanist, doctor and writer François Rabelais, creator of Pantagruel and his monstrous father, Gargantua. His memory is revived by the Fraternity of the Entonneurs Rabelaisiens, pledged to follow the precepts of Rabelais, Beuvez, ne mourrez jamais (Drink, never die), promoting in its ceremonies the local wine. The medieval catapult at Chinon is seen in action. The castle at Tiffauges recalls another figure of greater notoriety, Gilles de Rais, adopted by Charles Perrault in his tales of the wicked Bluebeard. La Cigale, in Nantes, is a traditional brasserie, symbol of a way of life.

Music Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5, Op 73, ‘Emperor’ – III. Rondo: Molto allegro

The last movement offers music of characteristic ebullience and necessary contrast, providing a brilliant conclusion to one of the greatest of all concertos.

CHAPTER 4

Paris: Le Train Bleu and Gare de l’Est • Hotel Terminus and Gare du Nord

The original Train Bleu, between 1922 and 2007, provided a relatively easy means of transport for travellers landing at Calais and heading for the Riviera, picking up more passengers in Paris. The Train Bleu has been replaced by the modern TGV, but its name and former traditions of excellence and luxury are continued in the restaurant of the same name. The Gare de l’Est was built in 1849, designed to serve as a station for travellers heading East, while the Gare du Nord, near which the Hotel Terminus is glimpsed, was for passengers heading North.

Music Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 26 in E flat major, Op 81a, ‘Les Adieux’ – I. Adagio – Allegro (Les Adieux)

In 1809 the Empress and the Imperial family were compelled to take refuge outside Vienna, where the French had the city under attack. Beethoven gave titles to the movements of his sonata Les Adieux, written to mark this event and the family’s subsequent return. The first movement starts with a slow setting of the word Lebewohl (Farewell) followed by a sonata-form movement. On the manuscript Beethoven had written “The Farewell, Vienna, May 4, 1809, on the departure of his Imperial Highness Archduke Rudolph”.

CHAPTER 5

Paris: Père Lachaise Cemetery

The Père Lachaise Cemetery, named after the confessor of Louis XIV, who once owned the land, was established in the 19th century, with some notable graves, such as that of Molière, moved here, to increase the cemetery’s popularity as a place of burial. We see monuments to Apollinaire, Proust, Oscar Wilde, Victor Hugo, Balzac, Sarah Bernhardt, Modigliani, Chopin, Gustave Charpentier, Bellini and Delacroix, among others.

Music Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 26 in E flat major, Op 81a, ‘Les Adieux’ – II. Andante espressivo (L’absence)

The slow movement of the sonata represents the period of waiting until the Archduke, Beethoven’s pupil and friend, should return.

CHAPTER 6

Paris: Place de la Concorde • Arc de Triomphe • Les Champs-Elysées • Trocadéro • Eiffel Tower

The Place de la Concorde, intended, in 1757, as a setting for an equestrian statue of Louis XV, became the site of the execution of 1200 people during the Terror that followed the French Revolution. The Arc de Triomphe, a national symbol, stands at the centre of l’Etoile, twelve avenues radiating from it in the form of a star, part of Baron Haussmann’s designs for a new Paris in the 19th century. The Champs-Elysées extends from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe. The old Palais du Trocadéro was replaced in 1937 by the modern Palais de Chaillot, with its adjacent gardens, while the iron tower designed by Gustave Eiffel was intended to mark the 1889 Universal Exposition, celebrating the centenary of the French Revolution. At one time deplored, it has now become a symbol of the city of Paris.

Music Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 26 in E flat major, Op 81a, ‘Les Adieux’ – III. Vivacissimamente (Le retour)

The Archduke’s return is celebrated in a brilliant and cheerful final movement.


Keith Anderson


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