Hermann Bemberg: Chant Hindou (Hindu Song)

3 04 2009
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The Temple of Brahma in Pushkar

The West has always had a fascination with the East, and in the Romantic period,  “Orientalism” in the arts was a particularly strong trend. Hermann Bemberg’s Chant Hindou was quite popular as a result, though the music itself shows little to no eastern influence. Today, Bemberg would be called a one-hit wonder, Chant Hindou being his hit song.

A note on this recording: There are no indications in the music that the interludes in this piece should move along at a quicker pace than the rest of the music as they do here. I presume this is due to the 78 RPM disc on which it was recorded — in order not to go beyond the disc’s three-minute length, tempi were often incredibly quick, particularly in piano interludes.

There is no translation at recmusic, so I have submitted one. It appears below:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Ernest Chausson: Le charme (The Charm)

1 04 2009

I did not know I loved you until I saw that first tear

I did not know I loved you till I saw that first tear

With a falling melody, Chausson shows the singer literally falling in love as the song progresses. There is a sense, though, that the singer is resisting — the melody avoids falling down to the tonic note of the scale. Finally, the singer reaches resolution at t’aimais – “I loved you.” The singer does not hold that tonic pitch, and the line continues to descend as the tear falls; even the final note in the piano does not reach a definitive resolution, with the final pitch played being the third, not the tonic. A beautifully captured sense of both the beauty and the tentativeness of falling in love!





Cécile Chaminade: L’anneau d’argent (The Silver Ring)

27 03 2009
Obstinate receiver of so many memories

"Obstinate receiver of so many memories"

Shimmering sounds emanate from the piano and the singer sings a simple melody. The image of a glinting silver ring is easy to call to mind. Chaminade avoids low notes until the singer considers that they want the ring to shine on, even after they have died.

Cecile Chaminade was a pianist who wrote lovely character pieces for piano and for voice at the turn of the Century; clubs devoted to her music sprang up in Europe and America, and she was a regular contributor to popular womens’ magazines, where her music was included along with articles on “How to play my music.” Her works usually have a lovely, catchy main melody, a contrasting middle section, and finally a return to the main melody.

This song is familiar to singers and teachers from its inclusion in Joan Frey Boytim’s First Book of Mezzo-Soprano Solos, but her lovely works in several volumes are definitely worth investigation. The first volume is available online (see above), and additional volumes can be found in libraries and in reprints.

I have submitted a translation to recmusic.org, but until it is posted, I’ve included it here Read the rest of this entry »





Pauline Viardot-Garcia: Madrid

20 03 2009

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"My Andalusian princess... a true demon, an angel"

Singer, pianist, and composer Pauline Viardot was born into musical royalty. Both parents and her older sister were famous singers — her father, Manuel Garcia, was the first tenor to sing a high C in full voice. Though born and raised in Paris, she obviously cherished her family’s ties to Spain, which she captures in this energetic and flirtatious piece with its flamenco-inspired rhythms and harmonies.





W.A. Mozart: Dans un bois solitaire (In the solitary woods)

13 03 2009

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“L’Amour se réveille de rien… Cupid wakes at nothing”

Just when you think you’re over someone, you go for a walk in the woods, and Cupid shoots you and makes you remember them all over again! No one can capture a story like this and all the emotions like Mozart can!

Thought Mozart primarily used Italian, German, and Latin in his music, he did occasionally use French texts. His other French song of note is Oiseaux, si tous les ans





Ernest Chausson: Le Colibri (The Hummingbird)

6 03 2009
Le vert colibri, le roi des collines

Le vert colibri, le roi des collines

Chausson perfectly captures a dreamy and sensuous garden in which a hummingbird floats in midair.  He creates a delicate line, notes that simply float away, and arpeggios that seem to perfectly capture a hummingbird’s movement.  The poem’s sense of longing for love are also not lost.

I was impressed with the videos of two young singers Emily Peragine and Laura Intravia. As a friend recently wrote, “If you’re going to put it on YouTube, it better be good.” Well, these two young women most certainly are, and I have no qualms including them as models of this sublime mélodie.