Showing posts with label Gabriel Fauré. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gabriel Fauré. Show all posts

Saturday, September 20, 2014

FILM OF FAURÉ, 1913

I just came across the site of Cmusic.org, which here posts 14 rare bits of footage of some early 20th-century composers and conductors of note (Saint-Saëns and Shostakovich among them). While recordings exist of Fauré playing his own music, I've never before seen actual film of my beloved Monsieur Gabriel, aka The Archangel, and got quite choked up on viewing this.

He slightly resembles an elderly, nervous and rather unwell Charlie Chaplin. In fact this was 1913, 11 years before his death; he would have been about 68. One can't help suspecting he was in the process of smoking himself into his grave. But look at those twinkly eyes.




Friday, February 14, 2014

Ooh, I've got a mystery Valentine!

JDCMB has received a mystery Valentine!

Well, a mystery to you. When/if I think of a suitable return message, you'll probably guess correctly...




Mademoiselle Jane Huré, to whom Gabriel Fauré dedicated his Chanson d’Amour in 1882, has surely by now earned a right of reply. It would go something like this: 

“Let me get this straight. You love my eyes.  And my forehead. You’ve mentioned each of those three times. Does that mean you actually love me - it's far from obvious! You call my voice strange, but you seem to like that too, right?. And there's this as yet undecided area you like... somewhere between my feet... and my hair? Plus you say you want to kiss me on the lips?  And you've got some wishes, rising up towards me? Hm. I’d better see those..."

 My mystery correspondent has also, helpfully, included a link to the Fauré sheet music.


Monday, June 03, 2013

JD & Friends on R3

Listen out for our broadcast today on BBC Radio 3's In Tune! David Le Page, Viv McLean and I will be performing some extracts from our 'Hungarian Dances' concert ahead of Ulverston on Saturday, the St James Theatre Studio next Tuesday and the Musical Museum, Kew Bridge, on 8 September (and more later). http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b020vjxx

PLEASE COME TO THE CONCERTS!
St James Theatre Studio, 11 June, 8pm
Ulverston, 8 June, 11am (yes, a sort of palindrome on 11 and 8...)

And if you missed the Composer of the Week on Faure last week, it's on iPlayer all of this week to podcast: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00sv826

You wouldn't believe how much organising is involved in even a single concert... Normal JDCMB service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Fauré is Composer of the Week

This week BBC Radio 3 is re-airing the series of Composer of the Week programmes on Gabriel Fauré with which I was involved a few years ago as commentator. I spent a few wet yet wonderful days trotting around Paris with presenter Donald Macleod and our producer; we visited the great man's old haunts such as the Niedermeyer School, the Madeleine, the Polignac Foundation (in the former home of Winaretta Singer, the Princesse de Polignac) and, er, the Gare St-Lazare.

We also visited his grave and found someone had left a white rose on it: a Fauré-esque flower if ever there was one.




You can catch up online at the website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006tnxf
And my biography of cher Monsieur Gabriel is still kicking about too.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sunday roundup from a very busy week

I've been burning the candle at both ends, to coin a phrase. It beats the hell out of sitting alone at home watching repeats of Midsomer Murders - something I have resolved never to do again.

Last Saturday, Don Carlo at the Royal Opera House. You wake up, the sun is shining, you're free, it's opening night at Covent Garden, Jonas is singing and you're not there? Unthinkable! I scooped a return and drank long and deep of the genius of Verdi. It was almost impossible to imagine a finer cast. Sometimes when Kaufmann is on stage, the rest can fade to insignificance, but here his peers matched him moment for moment.

This appears to be the one performance that the scheduled soprano, Anja Harteros, was able in the end to do, and the first time I've managed to hear her live. Her voice has an almost uncanny beauty along with extraordinary range of expression: the deepest levels enhanced by taut, dramatic diction, the uppermost soaring with rare 100-carat sheen. She's the perfect stage partner for Kaufmann, matching his sensitivity to nuance and blending with his multifaceted colourations, the final duet daringly hushed. Mariusz Kwiecien's double-edged charm and rich-flowing baritone, as Rodrigo, might otherwise have stolen the show, while Ferruccio Furlanetto's magnificently tortured and heartbreaking Philip II threatened to do likewise, with the type of voice and interpretation that brings every twist of phrase and fortune into close-up. Eric Halfvorsen's Grand Inquisitor rose to the challenge of one of Verdi's nastiest and truest personalities. In the pit, Tony Pappano and the orchestra plunged through the four-and-a-half hour span with passion undimmed; and the chorus was absolutely on fire for the auto da fe, a scene in which the confluence of symbol and drama could scarcely be finer.

Carlos is, after all, a German romantic hero - by Schiller - in all but moniker, a soul whose obsession with Elisabeth after one scant encounter in the forest can match that of Goethe's Werther for Charlotte. Flanders is Elisabeth; the burning heretics are the heart of Carlos, who burns inwardly for breaking the taboo of aching for his stepmother. Freud might have enjoyed that final moment of farewell when he addresses Elisabeth as 'mother'. What happened to Carlos's real mother anyway? We are not told.

Lianna Haroutounian has since stepped into Harteros's shoes, making her ROH debut; and the churlish anonymi grumbling on the ROH comments boxes that the house should have had a "name" as second cast may want to think again. Fiona Maddocks's review today declares: "Haroutounian seemed to pull forth ever-increasing vocal powers until you thought her heart, or yours, would burst."

On Tuesday we had the first run-through at home of the Hungarian Dances concert with the new team for the Ulverston and the St James Theatre June performances. David Le Page (violin) and Anthony Hewitt (piano) used to be duo partners in their teens, but hadn't met in 23 years...yet it was as if they'd last seen each other yesterday. And the intensity of their musical response to the story took me completely by surprise. It felt as these concerts probably should: we may be a reader and two musicians, but their engagement with the drama and the emotions in the narrative bounced different angles into the music, while their impassioned interpretations made me see new and darker corners in my own text. It was as if we all made music together, essentially. I'm hugely grateful to them and excited about sharing a stage with them. Ulverston is on 8 June, the St James Theatre Studio in central London is on 11 June, and booking is open.

On Wednesday, to St John's Smith Square to hear Angelo Villani in recital. Angelo, you remember, is the Italian-Australian pianist we talked to a little while back when he started to make his comeback after 20 years away from the concert platform due to a trapped nerve in his shoulder. He performs in white gloves. And there's something of the white gloves about his musicianship too, in the best sense: while some complained that the programme he chose consisted more of the slow and soft than the barnstorming so many people seem to expect of concert pianists these days, that was actually the point.

Whether in the freely-calibrated rubato of the Chopin Nocturnes Op.9, two of the Liszt Petrarch Sonnets and the Ballade No.2, or the Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde, adapted from Wagner by various hands including Von Bulow, Liszt and Villani himself, his exceptional and microscopic sensitivity, the way he immerses us in sonority, allows us to soak up the edges of vibration as if letting subtle-coloured dye infiltrate and diffuse through our inner worlds. It's unusual and it may not be for everyone, but this is fine-art pianism and it is good to know that it hasn't been entirely lost in the outside welter of the (largely positive but often noisy) Lang Lang Effect.

There's a wonderful story about Daniel Guilet, the founding violinist of the Beaux Arts Trio, as a young lad meeting Fauré in the foyer of the Paris Conservatoire. Monsieur le Directeur, as Fauré was then (pictured right), said to Daniel: where are you going in such a hurry? "My violin lesson, sir." Ahh, said Fauré. You'll go to your lesson and you'll learn to play fast and loud. But to play slow and soft: that is really difficult.

On Thursday, my mates from the Culturekicks blog took me to the trendiest gig in town: The Knife, at the Roundhouse. I'll be writing about it more fully for them, but in brief, the experience was a polar opposite from Angelo's concert (=ear protectors) and in other ways just like the Proms, because if you're my height you can't see much. Music: Nordic Noir without the murders. More about it soon.

The great thing is that in this extraordinary world, and especially in this matchless city of ours, there's room for everything: music of different eras, angles, twists, turns, scale, substance and aspect. Try to do it all, if and when you have the chance. Because each experience feeds the next.

Last but not least, yesterday I went to a school reunion and saw friends I haven't seen since our A levels, more years ago than I'd like to admit, and they hadn't changed a bit. Time's a funny old thing. Just as an opera that is well over 100 years old can feel as fresh and relevant in terms of drama and emotional impact as an electro-post-pop band, the passing decades simply disappear when people's energies connect, reconnect and blossom. Yes, this was quite a week...


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fauré programme to download

My 'Building a Library' on the Fauré Cello Sonata No.2 is now available to download from Radio 3's website (I suspect this is UK only). You can find it here.



Friday, January 18, 2013

JD on R3 talking FAURÉ tomorrow

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On Saturday morning - ie, tomorrow - I'm on BBC Radio 3's CD Review, discussing various recordings of Fauré's miraculously beautiful Cello Sonata No.2. Start time is about 9.30am. A bit more info here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01pyffm




Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Musical inspiration from CERN's Large Hadron Collider

Fascinating correlation this morning between an article in The Guardian about the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and a script that I'm trying to finish exploring different interpretations of a notoriously elusive piece by Fauré: the Cello Sonata No.2, which dates from his 'Indian Summer' of 1921. 

The Higgs boson, says the article, is just the beginning. The Collider will be used in future to explore the substance of dark matter and the existence of other dimensions, which apparently should be detectable through the wave-like movement of particles and the way they respond to gravitational force. 
"The rules of quantum mechanics say that particles behave like waves, and as the LHC ramps up to higher energies the wavelengths of the particles it collides become ever shorter. When the wavelengths of the particles are small enough to match the size of the extra dimensions, they would suddenly feel gravity much more strongly.
"What you'd expect is that as you reach the right energy, you suddenly see inside the extra dimensions, and gravity becomes big and strong instead of feeble and weak," says [Andy] Parker [professor of high energy physics at Cambridge University]. The sudden extra pull of gravity would cause particles to scatter far more inside the machine, giving scientists a clear signal that extra dimensions were real.
Extra dimensions may separate us from realms of space we are completely oblivious to. "There could be a whole universe full of galaxies and stars and civilisations and newspapers that we didn't know about," says Parker. "That would be a big deal."
More here.

It was a mention earlier in the article of "looking for signs of the missing energy and momentum" that reminded me of Fauré's Cello Sonata No.2. The metronome marks mean that this piece is supposed to go like the clappers, but the fascinating paradox of it is that some recordings that meet the markings sound like they're trying to finish the Xmas shopping at 11.59pm on 24 December, while some that are slower simply let themselves fly. Finding the reasons for missing energy and momentum is key to detecting which performers know best how to bring this late-flowering of Fauréan genius to life.

And it's the way the performers uncover the work's hidden depths that makes all the difference. From some, you'd scarcely know they were there. Fauré can be like playing 'pass the parcel' - he wraps up his emotional kernel in many layers, and hides it, but you know it's there somewhere, and you need to find it, and if you don't find it then the piece won't work - but if you do find it, the worst thing to do is splash it all over the place. He's hidden it for a reason. If you make it too obvious, the energy dissipates and the music loses its gravity, in every sense. Whereas if you let the gravity become big and strong as you reach the right energy level, then maybe you can see inside the extra dimensions - and my goodness, there's a galaxy in there of feelings that you never suspected could lurk within the bounds of a rather short piece for two instruments. It's chock-full of stars. (Not sure about the newspapers, though.)

Here is the piece played by Maurice Gendron and Jean Francaix, just for argument's sake. To find out my further conclusions, and my final top choice, tune in to BBC Radio 3's CD Review 'Building a Library' in a couple of weeks' time (I'll put out an alert once I've double-checked the date).



Sunday, November 04, 2012

Faure plays Faure

Ah, Monsieur Gabriel! It's the anniversary of his death, today - he left the world on 4 November 1924, aged 79. In 1913 he made this Welte Mignon recording of his own Pavane.

I have always had severe doubts about 'reproducing pianos', but the fact remains that it's all we have and it may tell us something valuable about his playing, even if not everything we would like to know. The rigour of his basic rhythm, for instance; the driving force of the harmony in the left hand; the layering of the voicing; and one instance in which it sounds suspiciously as if he's making the musical most of a slip of a finger. Pianists, take note!

His own words about the merits of the Welte-Mignon system are worth a read, too (they're on this film).


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Guest post for NORMBLOG about Turgenev and Fauré

Warmest thanks to the one and only Norman Geras for inviting me to contribute to the 'Writer's Choice' series on his site, Normblog. I've paid a return visit to Ivan Turgenev, his links with Gabriel Fauré and the masterpiece novella First Love. It's here.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The power of laughter

One thing I want to do when I have a spare mo is to go and see Sacha Baron Cohen's film The Dictator. As Channel 4's Lindsey Hilsum says in her blog post here, there's nothing that cuts down to size as efficiently as humour. "The plot was bonkers and the jokes variable, but after 18 months immersed in the horrors perpetrated by Gaddafi, it was good to see him diminished by humour," she says.

Maybe that's why comedy is, notoriously, the hardest genre of all at which to succeed - and probably why it doesn't get into music very often, as we noted not long ago when splitting our sides at Rainer Hersch's Victor Borge show in the West End.

Fauré and his one-time flatmate André Messager managed it, though. Perhaps it was with a coating of laughter that they were able to protect themselves against the great "red spectre" of Wagner that constantly haunted and intimidated their friend Chausson and many other musicians whose personalities were positively overwhelmed by that particular juggernaut. Fauré took what he needed, or wanted, from Wagner, and left the rest. You can hear plenty of Wagnerian influence in his opera Pénélope, where perhaps it was expedient for him to employ a leitmotif system, or in the twizzling, sleight-of-hand enharmonic pivoting of the harmonies in such works as the Nocturnes nos. 6 and 7. But Fauré was able to remain very much his own man. So was Messager - who, incidentally, ended up in London running the Royal Opera House.

You want perspective? Laugh. Here's Souvenirs de Bayreuth for piano duet by Fauré and Messager, played by Pierre-Alain Volondat and Patrick de Hooge.