Classics with a French Accent

in Daily Programme

by Elrik Merlin on Saturday, 18 October, 2014

Today we present a selection of varied French pieces from the Baroque period to the early 20th century, including a good many famous names — and some not quite so well known who also have a place in the French classical pantheon.

Some of those lesser‐known composers include Jean‐Joseph Mouret, whose dramatic works made him very popular in the Baroque period, although he has now largely faded from view, with the possible exception of one piece you’ll recognise at once; and Marc‐Antoine Charpentier, another French Baroque composer we’ll be hearing from today — and we’ll start the show with the Prelude to his Te Deum, which many European listeners will recognise as the European Broadcasting Union theme.

We’ll also be featuring the music of Francis Jean Marcel Poulenc (1899–1963), a member of the French group Les six. He composed in a wide range of styles, from solo piano music to full orchestral music, both sacred and secular. Listen out in particular for the music from his ballet Les Biches. Poulenc, unknown in the early 1920s when it was written, was asked by Serge Diaghilev to write a piece for the Ballet Russes based on Glazunov’s Les Sylphides, written seventeen years earlier. Poulenc instead based his work on paintings by Watteau that showed Louis XV and various women in his “Parc aux biches” - the word biche usually meaning a female deer. Poulenc described his work as a “contemporary drawing room party suffused with an atmosphere of wantonness, which you sense if you are corrupted, but of which an innocent‐minded girl would not be conscious.”

We’ll also be playing the melodic and tuneful work of Gabriel Faure — regarded very much as a “pop” composer at the time, much as we might regard Andrew Lloyd‐Webber or Karl Jenkins today — including some of his pieces for two pianos such the Dolly Suite, and his utterly beautiful Requiem.

Plus you’ll hear Joseph Canteloube’s beautiful Chants d’Auvergne… and did you know that Sir William Walton got sued for copyright infringement for including the best‐known tune in his music for Olivier’s film of Henry V (1944)?

The image shows the Eiffel Tower being struck by lightning on June 3, 1902. Some content based on Wikipedia material.

Today’s programme is presented by Elrik Merlin. If you are in the United States or Canada, please click here to launch the Stream Licensing player. To listen from outside North America, click here to start your player .

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