Jules Massenet: Crépuscule (Twilight)

7 05 2010

Dreams in the Dusk, (cc) afsilva

I’m still here, just digging out from the end of my first year at Concordia. Last week was jury week, and I heard so many pieces of music that I want to write about! Posting will be spotty this month, though, as I will be driving to Logan, Utah in a couple of weeks for my summer with the Utah Festival Opera. Hopefully over the summer, I’ll be able to get a cache of posts created so there won’t be this long silence again. As I’ve told my students, feel free to nag me if I’m not posting enough!

I taught several pieces by Jules Massenet this semester (“Je suis encore” from Manon, Bonne nuit, Élégie, and Ouvres tes yeux bleus) and was seduced by the beauty of his songs. Through the simplicity of the accompaniment and the sweep of the melodic line, Massenet is able to perfectly capture the emotion of the text.  I’m surprised to find so few have recorded his songs — perhaps this will become a project for me and my students in the not so distant future.

Many of Massenet’s works are available at IMSLP, including this gem. The song is SO simple, really serving to emphasize the beauty of the dusk. The gentle turns in the vocal line sound like the world settling in for the night, much like the lilies, the ladybirds, and the lovers that the text mentions.





Charles Gounod: Le vallon (The Valley)

12 02 2010

Vallon de Rechy

Vallon de Rechy by maurice_perry (CC)

I was at a freshman faculty meeting this morning, discussing the balance of teaching and scholarly activity in academia. While I have been doing a good job balancing performing and teaching, my writing has not been as consistent or as regular as I’d like it to be. I brought up whether or not blogging is considered publication or just simply something interesting a faculty member does in their spare time. Frankly, the thought that the time and effort I put into writing these posts may not be considered an important contribution to academia is discouraging. Maybe that’s an excuse for not writing more, but it’s always in the back of my mind. Prof Albrecht (another member of my freshman “class”) and I are going to have coffee soon and chat about this and about why faculty should blog.

So, on this French Friday, I present a song I found in the New Imperial Bass Songs Anthology (a poor scan is also available at the University of Rochester). I have a sophomore bass-baritone working on this story-song, and I’m sure he’s glad Gounod didn’t set all sixteen verses of Lamartine’s poem.

Gounod begins the song heavily and slowly, suggesting the desperation of the singer, who asks the valley of his youth to “give respite as I await death.” The poem alternates dark sections with moderately less dark sections until the singer begins to think of “a heart full of hope.” A new melody appears in the piano, suggesting the valley has a happy personality of its own. The song concludes with the words, “When everything changes, nature remains the same. Yes, the same sun gives light all your days.”





Vincent d’Indy: Lied maritime (Maritime song)

27 01 2010

"ghosts" by Naama, used under Creative Commons

It’s the beginning of a new semester, which means I’ve been busy assigning repertoire to my students. I have come across this piece in several anthologies and online, and I have been tempted to assign it, but for lack of familiarity, I’ve avoided it. Additionally, I am so fond of Vincent d’Indy’s orchestral music that I didn’t believe a song this simple could stand up to those works I so enjoyed programming when I worked in classical radio. I was wrong to have doubted d’Indy, as this song is lovely!

The song is in two halves. The first half is calm and rocking, just like the calm sea; the lover looks at the closed eyes of the beloved and feels calm, like the sea. The second half is much more frantic, with rising and falling arpeggios in the piano, and with unexpected pitches and chords in both the voice and piano. The stormy seas are echoed in the troubled heart after looking at the “traitorous eyes” of the beloved.

Any time I get to feature Counter-tenor extraordinaire Philippe Jaroussky, I’m happy. This performance lacks some of the warmth and vocal agility that I tend to associate with him, but it’s still quite striking.

No translation on recmusic.org (though one is provided in the front of the commonly available “40 French Songs, Vol. II” by International). No videos on YouTube. I think this needs to be remedied, tout de suite!





Rhené-Bâton: Sérénade Mélancolique

6 05 2009

With your body, with your arms, make a tomb

With your body, with your arms, make a tomb

My love for the International Musical Scores Library Project grows by the day! Today, I discovered scores by a conductor and composer from the early 20th Century named Rhené-Bâton. His music sounds like a hybrid of Debussy and Fauré – not a bad thing!

The fourth song of Rhené-Bâton’s Op. 16 has an unabashed romantic flair. Much of the text describes the beauty one finds in a lover. At the end, though, the text turns dramatically, and the singer asks the beloved to “make a tomb” with his or her body within which the singer can hide from pain, hence the “melancholy” of the title.

Text (Jean Lahor) and new translation behind cut: Read the rest of this entry »





Gabriel Fauré: Salve Regina (Hail, Holy Queen)

2 05 2009

Our life, our sweetness, and our hope

"Our life, our sweetness, and our hope"

May is Mary’s month in the Catholic Church. Fauré’s setting of the Marian anthem Salve Regina is sweet, with a simple, fluid melody. It is reminiscent of both Fauré’s Requiem and Franck’s Panis Angelicus. Though Fauré originally wrote this piece for choir (and both recordings linked below are choral performances), I think it would work just as effectively as a solo, so in keeping with the theme of this blog, that’s the score that appears below.





Emmanuel Chabrier: L’île heureuse (The happy isle)

1 05 2009

"We are the monarchs of luminous maritime deserts"

This song positively sparkles! The light glints off the water while the boats rock gently in the waves. Amid this scenery painted by the piano, the voice moves very much like the impassioned lovers it represents — at times impulsive, at others, tender and caressing.





Gabriel Fauré: En prière (In Prayer)

5 04 2009

Do not abandon me, give me the necessary gentleness to ease suffering

"Do not abandon me. Give me the needed gentleness to ease suffering"

On this Passion Sunday, Mark’s Gospel shows Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane while the disciples wait, or rather, sleep. Though the text of this prayer is Bourdèse’s, the image of Jesus desiring Calvary in order to ease suffering seems so organic and so appropriate for today.