Great French singers of the past

Last night’s presentation by Stephen Tucker was a wonderful selection of recordings, both of French song but also of French singers.  Several of the recordings were of some vintage: for example a 1907 version of Emma Calvé singing L’amour est une oiseau rebelle from Bizet’s Carmen.  Also from Carmen, there was a 1911 recording of Paul Franz singing La Fleur que tu m’as jeté.  Franz started life as a labourer working on the roads – from roads to riches you might say.

Another example was Emile Vanni Marcoux singing Une grande innocence from Pelléas et Mélisande: the interesting point here is that the recording was made in 1910 during the composer Debussy’s lifetime.

Some of the recordings were scratchy of course reflecting the technology available at the time, but we heard a number of now largely forgotten singers in their full glory.

Stephen played a total of 20 songs and they included Meyerbeer – hugely popular in the middle of the nineteenth century – Gounod’s Faust, Berlioz and in particular Le Spectre de la rose from Nuits d’Ete.  Berlioz also composed a version of the Faust legend, Le Damnation de Faust was a failure and was eclipsed by Gounod.

We also heard pieces by Massenet, Delibes, Lalo and Duparc.  The evening was entitled Cette chanson est pour vous and the evening ended with a version of Madame, cette chanson est pour vous with Django Reinhardt.

A most enjoyable and informative evening listening to tracks and recordings one would not normally ever come across.

Peter Curbishley

Music of the saxophone

Two hundred years ago this month, Adolphe Sax was born in Dinant, Belgium.  The son of a music maker, he went on to invent an instrument which is the only one to bear the name of its inventor: the #saxophone.  Last Monday, the Recorded Music Society, to mark the anniversary of his birth, listened to a programme of orchestral music using this instrument.  It is a standard feature of jazz ensembles but it is only occasionally heard in orchestras and the repertoire for it is not large.
The presenter of the evenings programme was Ed Tinline – joint chair of the Society – who provided a fascinating history of the inventor himself and played examples of music from soon after its invention to the present day.   One of the first composers to use it was the now unknown Jean-Baptiste Singelée who composed Premier Quatour from which we heard the andante played using four instruments actually made by Sax himself
 
Strangely, it was the Russian composers who were keenest to compose work for the instrument and Ed played excerpts from Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and also compositions by Glazunov: Concerto for alto saxophone and string orchestra, Jazz Suite No 1 by Shostakovich and Rachmaninov’s Symphonic DancesGeorges Bizet was a fan and the intermezzo from L’Arlésienne features the instrument.  Despite attempts by composers such as Walton, Britten and Vaughan Williams to include it into their music, it remains an ‘affiliate’ rather than a permanent feature of orchestras.
It has gained an odd reputation for itself and some feel there is an element of sleaze to it possibly because of its jazz connections.  This was sufficient for the ecclesiastical authorities in Worcester Cathedral to ask for a section of a Vaughan Williams composition not to be played because it contained some music for the instrument!

The next meeting is a members evening and is on December 1st.