Classics with a French Accent

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 .

This pro­gramme is also avail­able in enhanced-qual­i­ty AAC. Tune in here:  http://minor.slserver.com:9012/live

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