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Track(s) taken from CDA67922

Trois Rhapsodies sur des cantiques bretons, Op 7

composer
August 1866, Daurmeny; subtitled Pèlerinage au Pardon de Sainte-Anne-La-Palud; dedicated to Fauré

Andrew-John Smith (organ)
Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
CD-Quality:
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CD-Quality:
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Recording details: June 2011
La Madeleine, Paris, France
Produced by Daniel Moult
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: July 2012
Total duration: 19 minutes 21 seconds

Cover artwork: Leaving La Madeleine by Jean Beraud (1849-1935)
Private Collection / Photo © Christie's Images / Bridgeman Art Library, London
 
1
D major  [6'06]
2
E major  [5'18]
3

Reviews

'The mighty Fantaisie pour orgue-Aeolian, complete with tubular bells, written for the new American Aeolian organ in 1906, sounds epic on this vast, brooding instrument, so splendidly tamed by the dextrous Smith' (The Observer)

'Saint-Saëns described the Fantaisie as 'unplayable by the hands and feet' but Andrew-John Smith proves otherwise … in the more conventional repertoire, Smith capitalises on the colours that the La Madeleine instrument so richly offers' (The Daily Telegraph)

'The variety of colour explored by Smith on this fabulous instrument contributes to the joyous experience of listening to his performance. The use of orchestral tubular bells … is successful and Smith's dextrous virtuosity thrills us though to the conclusion … the enthusiasm with which Smith talks about these pieces in his notes … is amply reflected in his playing, which is in turn commanding, sensitive, robust and lyrical, as the music requires' (International Record Review)
When Saint-Saëns took over the piano class at the École Niedermeyer in 1861 he was no less innovative in the teaching of Wagner, Schumann and Liszt to the pupils he inherited there. Among their number were Eugène Gigout, Albert Périlhou and, most notably, Gabriel Fauré. Whilst he was to enjoy lifelong friendship with each of them, it was Fauré with whom he formed a particularly special bond. Although only ten years stood between them the relationship was both filial and that of teacher/pupil. Just as Saint-Saëns was never quite able or willing to relinquish his position of authority, Fauré seems, on the whole, to have accepted it with gratitude. Saint-Saëns did much behind the scenes to secure positions for his protégé and it was not by chance that Fauré later succeeded him as organist of La Madeleine. Following the tragic deaths of his own sons in 1878 Saint-Saëns treated Fauré’s boys, Emmanuel and Philippe, as nephews and Marie Fauré accepted the older man as a member of her family. The Trois Rhapsodies sur des cantiques bretons (Pèlerinage au Pardon de Sainte- Anne-La-Palud), Op 7, to give the work its full title, were written at Daurmeny in August 1866 and are dedicated to Fauré. Earlier that year Fauré had taken up his first position as organist of St Sauveur in the Breton town of Rennes and was not enjoying life. Saint-Saëns and his friends Henri Regnault, Georges Clarin, Emmanuel Jadin and Ulysse Butin visited the area and were joined by Fauré on a pilgrimage to Sainte-Anne-La-Palud. It was during a boat trip that the ‘thin rustic sound’ of the captain playing local folk tunes on an oboe suggested the Rhapsodies to their composer.

The theme of the first Rhapsodie has been identified as a ‘Cantique des missionaires’ and the secondary theme of the second as a Breton Noël. In post-Revolution organ repertoire only the fugue retained its status as art music and just as the Te Deum became a vehicle for hunting and battle pieces the Noël was appropriated for patriotic songs. The tradition of organ Noëls in France can, however, be traced back to the seventeenth century, arguably reaching its zenith in the works of Daquin. It is this pre-Revolutionary tradition that Saint-Saëns reflects in his Op 7, and whilst the thematic material for the third of the set has not been identified, both the first theme in A minor and the musette in F major owe something to Daquin. Saint-Saëns was evidently pleased with the work and he was quick to transcribe it in versions for piano four hands and harmonium. Having performed the work himself on numerous occasions he returned to it in 1891 when he orchestrated the outer movements under the new title of Rapsodie bretonne (Op 7 bis). It is probable that having lived with the work Saint-Saëns felt that these movements belonged together. Aesthetically they share much in common and despite the two sections of the orchestral score it is clearly conceived as one work. It is possible that the composer considered the second movement of Op 7 less suitable for orchestration, although given the size of the orchestra he deployed this seems unlikely. Less likely still is that he didn’t think the piece worthy of further attention; it is a fabulous work, quite disarming in its musical honesty. Although published together under a single opus number, the collection does not form a unified musical entity.

from notes by Andrew-John Smith © 2012

Lorsque Saint-Saëns reprit la classe de piano à l’École Niedermeyer, en 1861, il se montra tout aussi novateur en enseignant Wagner, Schumann et Liszt à ses élèves, parmi lesquels figurèrent Eugène Gigout, Albert Périlhou et, remarquable entre tous, Gabriel Fauré. Toute sa vie durant, il resta ami avec chacun d’eux, mais le lien qui l’unit à Fauré avait quelque chose de très spécial. Seules dix années les séparaient et pourtant, leur relation tenait ensemble de la filiation et du rapport maître/élève. Jamais Saint-Saëns ne put, ni ne voulut, renoncer à sa position d’autorité, position que Fauré, de son côté, semble avoir globalement acceptée avec gratitude. Saint-Saëns œuvra beaucoup en coulisses pour garantir des postes à son protégé et ce ne fut pas un hasard si Fauré lui succéda à la tribune de La Madeleine. Après la disparition tragique de ses fils, en 1878, il considéra les garçons de Fauré, Emmanuel et Philippe, comme ses neveux, et Marie Fauré l’accepta comme un membre de la famille. Les Trois Rhapsodies sur des cantiques bretons (Pèlerinage au Pardon de Sainte-Anne-La-Palud) op. 7, pour donner leur titre complet, furent écrites à Daurmeny en août 1866 et sont dédiées à Fauré. Plus tôt cette année-là, celui-ci avait pris ses fonctions d’organiste en l’église Saint-Sauveur de Rennes—c’était son premier poste—mais sa vie ne lui plaisait pas. Saint-Saëns et ses amis (Henri Regnault, Georges Clarin, Emmanuel Jadin et Ulysse Butin) vinrent visiter la région et Fauré se joignit à eux pour un pèlerinage à Sainte-Anne-La-Palud. Ce fut lors d’une excursion en bateau que la «grêle sonorité rustique» du capitaine jouant au hautbois des airs du folklore local inspira à Saint-Saëns ses Rhapsodies.

Le thème de la première Rhapsodie a été identifié comme étant un «Cantique des missionnaires» et le thème secondaire de la deuxième comme un noël breton. Dans le répertoire organistique postrévolutionnaire, seule la fugue conserva son statut, en tant que musique savante, et, tout comme le Te Deum se prêtait bien à la musique de chasse et à la bataille, le noël convenait aux chants patriotiques. En France, la tradition des noëls organistiques remonte cependant au XVIIe siècle pour culminer, en un sens, dans les œuvres de Daquin. C’est cette tradition prérévolutionnaire que Saint-Saëns reflète dans son op. 7 et, si le matériau thématique de sa troisième Rhapsodie reste à identifier, le premier thème en la mineur et la musette en fa majeur doivent un peu à Daquin. Manifestement satisfait de son œuvre, Saint-Saëns fut prompt à la transcrire pour piano à quatre mains et pour harmonium. Après l’avoir souvent jouée, il y revint en 1891 pour en orchestrer les mouvements extrêmes sous le titre de Rapsodie bretonne (op. 7 bis)—le temps aidant, il avait probablement senti que ces mouvements allaient ensemble. Esthétiquement, ils ont beaucoup en commun et, malgré les deux sections de la partition orchestrale, il s’agit bien là d’une seule et même œuvre. Peut-être Saint-Saëns a-t-il jugé que le deuxième mouvement de l’op. 7 se prêtait moins à l’orchestration mais, vu la taille de l’orchestre déployé, cela semble improbable. Et il est encore plus improbable qu’il n’ait pas trouvé cette œuvre digne d’attention: elle est fabuleuse, d’une sincérité musicale absolument désarmante. Avoir été publiée sous un seul numéro d’opus ne fait pas d’elle une entité musicale unifiée et l’ordre des morceaux reflète ici la pensée du compositeur en 1891.

extrait des notes rédigées par Andrew-John Smith © 2012
Français: Hypérion

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