About this Recording
8.223891 - EMMANUEL: Songs of Burgundy

A Musical Awakening

Maurice Emmanuel (1862 – 1937)

Trente chansons bourguignonnes du pays de Beaune

(Thirty Burgundian Songs for the Beaune Country)



A Musical Awakening


In 1926 in La Revue de Bourgogne Robert Jardillier, musicologist, deputy mayor of Dijon and minister under Leon Blum, raised the question as to whether there was such a thing as Burgundian music. His own answer was very interesting. He analysed the regional element in musical composition, stressing in particular the Trente chansons bourguignonnes (Thirty Burgundian Songs) from Beaune, harmonized by Maurice Emmanuel, as Vincent d'Indy had published his Chansons populaires du Vivarais (Popular Songs from Vivarais). At the same period, one strongly marked by the dawning of a new Burgundian awareness, Maurice Emmanuel wrote about the Burgundian school of music and showed the extent to which Franco-Burgundian choral writing exercised a profound influence (Le miroir dijonnais et de Bourgogne, 1924 and 1925).


Like the more contemporary achievement of Henri Berthat in bringing to life again the Vingts chansons du vin de Bourgogne (Twenty Songs of the Wine of Burgundy), the work of Maurice Emmanuel is not a merely archaeological investigation of popular and musical traditions. It is expressive of a re-awakening, the rediscovery of regional feeling.


In the 1920s, indeed, there were attempts to find the unknown present in the past. In 1910 in Berlin Edgar Varese had had his symphony Bourgogne performed, the first of his works to be played in public. Tournus was the inspiration for his Rapsodie romane. In 1902 and 1903 Claude Debussy wrote the first sketches of his La mer at Bichain, a village in Villeneuve-sur-Yonne. These two composers evoke Burgundy very clearly in the commentaries arising from these works. It must not be forgotten that under the pseudonym of Claude Bonvin, the music critic Emile VuilIermoz sang passionately in praise of wine and music, particularly those of Burgundy.


"The Burgundian school", w rote Maurice Emmanuel, "in European choral writing, is the one that has most tenaciously maintained the modal plurality that popular musicians have practised everywhere”, and he goes on to show the relationship between music at the court of Burgundy and the work of Rene Moissenet, continued today in the musical establishments of Dijon, Autun and Morvan and through the enthusiasm of Marcel Comeloup.


The connection with wine was rediscovered by Francis Poulenc, and Colette expressed her admiration of it: "By the side of a lime-stone hill, Poulenc, surrounded by vines, lives in a great, airy mansion, where he makes and drinks his wine", she w rote: "through his sparkling instrumentation, we can hear and see shining the golden bubbles drawn from a rich land. Look at Poulenc: are these the features of a water-drinker? He has a strong and sensitive nose, an eye quick to change expression". And if he wrote at Anost, in the middle of Morvan, far from the vines, his Mass in G major, the wine of the country was certainly on his table. Many composers, Hoffmann, Kreisler, have admitted that Burgundy offered music in its wine.


Here it is another matter, one of wine turning into music through daily happiness and songs transmitted from father to son, from generation to generation. This precious inheritance must be preserved. That a great musicologist is interested in it shows that often love of the past is joined to faith in the future. This, in short, is the idea of Burgundy.


Jean-François Bazin

President of the Regional Council of Burgundy



Maurice Emmanuel

Born at Bar-sur-Aube on 2nd May 1862, to die in Paris on 14th December 1938, Maurice Emmanuel followed a double career, as a music historian and as a composer. He entered the Conservatoire in 1880, but was eliminated from the Prix de Rome competition because one of his teachers refused to allow the bold modal and rhythmic writing of his Sonata for Cello and Piano, composed in 1887. Maurice Ravellater suffered the same reverse and took it no worse. As far as Maurice Emmanuel is concerned, acknowledged by musicians such as Charles Koechlin and Olivier Messiaen, and by critics as expert as Fred Goldbeck and Marc Pincherle, as one of the great French musicians of the twentieth century, it was rather his fame as a historian and as a teacher that harmed his reputation as a composer. It was difficult, in fact, to recognise that the man who had submitted a thesis as the Sorbonne on ancient Greek dance, published a history of the language of music and taught the history of music at the Conservatoire from 1907 to 1937, could equally be a composer whose personal style and powerful inspiration might disconcert superficial hearers. What is striking, in fact, in Maurice Emmanuel, is the freshness of each work. His six Piano sonatines (1893-1925), his two symphonies (1919 and 1931), his stage works, Promethee enchafne (Prometheus Bound) (1918), salamine (1929), and Amphitryon (1936), his Odelettes anacreontiques for voice, f1ute and harp (1911), show an astonishing richness of inspiration in various ways. At a time when musical impressionism was triumphant, Maurice Emmanuel gave importance to precision of musical line. No-one could have been more independent than this humanist, brought up on a culture apart from that of his own time, but in advance of it. Fred Goldbeck spoke of him as a great classical composer of the day, admiring in the tragedy salamine "the rhythm freed from the bar-line and polyphony that breaks the tyranny of the dominant major", as much as the freedom found in all his works, including, of course, the Trente chansons bourguignonnes, which remind us that Maurice Emmanuel lived at Beaune, on the Cote d'Or, from 1869 to 1880, the shining years of his childhood and adolescence. Completing the harmonization of these Burgundian songs in 1913, he rediscovered his early impressions, the light, the happiness. His perfect understanding of modal music and his ability to provide varied accompaniments did the rest. The result is a masterpiece.


Jean Roy



Trente chansons bourguignonnes


The collection of popular songs from Beaune begins with a remarkable and stimulating examination, studded with words in local dialect, of the particular literary and musical features of each song. After that come the songs themselves, for voice and piano, the vocal line alternating between soloist and chorus. The piano accompaniment is a masterpiece of grace, discretion and wit. The very flexible rhythms of the chosen text are made even more flexible, the modes acquire a fresher air, more penetrating. Stunning imagination awakens the energy hidden in these old melodies and with what exquisite harmonic variations! Contrapuntal interest never fails, however many the verses, for example in Chez Jean Nicot, Le veigneron, the extraordinary Perdriole, with its 365 bars and twelve verses paying tribute to the months of the year, heaping gift on gift and difficulty on difficulty for the musician. The Complainte de Notre-Dame is distinguished for its modal flavour, as is V'la que l'aloueutte chante. Some songs, Le pommier d 'aoat and Guillenle, are harmonized poetically, with a sensitiveness full of sunshine, of hills, of resplendent vines. Emmanuel knew how to create a mood, as, for example, in his use of the Dies irae in the danse macabre of rai va le loup, the diatonic yet spicy chords of Gens de Bouze, the delicate pedals, the discrete addition of a chant in Noel and finally, in Aidieu, bargeire, the great sweetness of the modal melody with chords without thirds, closely related to Ravel and to the Images of Debussy, prolonging caresses and sadness. I have kept to the end Lai maoh mariee, the real pearl of the collection. This is not the rough and direct pleasure of the good vine- dressers of Beaune, but a deeply human voice, suited to all times and places, that throbs in these bars. The modulation to the subdominant in the fifth verse, the final fifth of the sinister refrain are powerfully dramatic. The shudder of death takes hold on us with implacable force, tragic and hidden, giving peace and cold.

"It is time for us to go! Let us go! It is time for us to go! Night is upon us" .We feel ourselves sinking into the earth: "the earth takes us…".


Such are the Trente chansons bourguignonnes. While still a student at the Conservatoire, moved by a course in which Maurice Emmanuel had lovingly developed his theories on the ancient modes, I hurried to a festival of his music. There were performed these thirty songs: I was amazed and at the same time converted to modal music. That was fifteen years ago. My enthusiasm has not changed further proof of the lasting freshness of the work.


Olivier Messiaen

(by kind permission of Madame Yvonne Loriod-Messiaen)



The Reasons for Certain Choices


\With the exception of three that are harmonized, Chez Jean Nicot, M'y allant promener and Les mois de /' annee, all the songs are monodic. My first task, therefore, was to share them suitably between soloists, soloists and chorus and chorus alone. The second point, not the least, was the language, whether to use patois or French. Some songs are only in French and these offer no problem. For the others, the choice follows the character of the song or the difficulty (very few singers in the Burgundy Regional Choir speak patois) and to keep a certain balance, relying for some slight retouching of the text that seemed obvious and for pronunciation (which often varies from one village to another) on the help of my friend Remi Guillaumeau.


The last two songs present a slight problem. Based on Christmas melodies by Bernard de la Monnoye of Dijon, they are given as sketches in the important study that introduces the collection of songs, but Maurice Emmanuel had not envisaged their performance, since "it was necessary to suppress elements in the text according to principles of decorum". To remain faithful to the wish of the composer, we have relegated these songs to the end of the recording.


Roger Toulet



The Origin of the Songs


The collection of popular melodies, harmonized by Maurice Emmanuel, owes its origin to Charles Bigame (1825 -1911), from Beaune, a scholar with a passionate enthusiasm for local traditions. Emmanuel wrote: “He had a perfect ear, and, without technical musical knowledge, he was better in accuracy of voice and in sureness of intonation than many professionals… At harvest time, even if it meant neglecting the supervision of his own crop, he was on the look-out all day, one might say, listening through the vines to the voices of the Beuqions of the hinterland and the Auxois, the voices of the Laillots of Morvan and of all the harvesters who swarmed to the coast and mingled their songs with those of our vine-dressers.”





“From Saulx-le-Duc to Saulieu, Liemais to Amay, across the Montagne, the language changes from one parish to another ...These thirty songs, therefore, cannot be considered as the musical and verbal expression of only the spirit of Beaune, but as a summary of the tunes and speech that mingle at harvest time under the ramparts of Beaune, at the end of summer.”


Charles Bigame had no fixed system of recording local dialect. In spite of all the care taken in the transcription of the texts collected, it would have been idle to pretend to reconstruct exactly the pronunciation of each syllable in the conditions of the collection (how ought one to pronounce, in the 1980 accent of Gemeaux, words such as maoh, pefhre or neih?). The choice made by the Regional Choir of Burgundy in the interpretation of the songs in patois takes account of the orthographic accuracy of Bigame's transcription and the current pronunciation of these various patois throughout Burgundy.


Rémi Guillaumeau



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