Thursday, November 22, 2012

Watch Marion Cotillard as Joan of Arc, complete, here

Whee! It's Benjamin Britten's 99th birthday and everyone is behaving as if it is already his 100th. Wonderful stuff, of course, on the one hand...but on the other hand there will be such a lot of Britten around in the next two years - first the run-up to the centenary, then the run-away, so to speak - that I wonder if we'll ever want to hear a note of him again afterwards. So here's a reminder that other composers in the same generation also wrote some rather good music. (Honegger was, of course, 21 years older than Britten, but shares with him a gritty and distinctive approach to personal language and an origin in, comparatively speaking, a musically parochial country - in his case, Switzerland - that led him to gravitate to France early on.)

The gorgeous French actress Marion Cotillard starred in the title role of Honegger's 1938 masterpiece Jeanne d'Arc au bucher in a live broadcast on Medici TV the other day. They've kindly made the video available for us to watch complete, free, right here on JDCMB, for 90 days. Honegger wrote the oratorio originally for the actress Ida Rubinstein and the combination of his vivid and filmic imagination with Paul Claudel's poetic text make for a compelling listen.

Don't forget, in the months ahead while we soak up every note that Britten ever wrote, that the early to mid 20th century was one of the richest eras in terms of diverse creativity that the world has ever known; now that the stranglehold of the Second Viennese School has shifted to give us a more accurate perspective, we can see and sample the full spectrum of artworks in all their glory.

Joan at the Stake – With Marion Cotillard on