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Monday, September 27, 2010

Les Mélodies Françaises
(French Art Songs)

Presented by
The Auckland Lieder Group,
Inc. Sun 26 Sept 2010, 7:30 p.m.

Chez Valerie Muir,
Remuera, Auckland.

The Art of French Mélodie: Programme Notes

The tradition of French art song (mélodie) developed in the mid  19th century distinctly separate from the German Lied that had peaked much earlier in the century.

The text of a mélodie was more likely to be taken from contem-porary, serious poetry and the music was also generally more profound than that of the earlier genre of French 'romance' songs. Note that the term ‘chanson’ is used to to distinguish a folk or popular song.

Hector Berlioz was the first to use the term mélodie to describe his own compositions. An example is his song cycle Les nuits d'été (1841). However, Charles Gounod is often viewed as the first distinct composer of mélodie. His compositional style evolved imperceptibly and illustratively from romance to mélodie. His 200 mélodies drew on texts by poets such as as Hugo and Lamartine.

Gabriel Fauré wrote over 100 mélodies. He has been called the French Schumann, though their styles and essential temperaments were very different.

Proper performance of mélodies tends to require far less in the way of extreme emotion and blatant "acting" than many Lieder. Bernac (1970) notes that "the art of the greatest French composers is an art of suggestion" rather than explicit statement of feelings.

Mélodie is particularly noted for its deliberate and close relationship between text and melody. To compose or interpret mélodies, one must have a sensitive knowledge of the French language, French poetry, and French poetic diction.

According to Pierre Bernac (1970), Debussy writes that 'Clarity of expression, precision and concentration of form are qualities peculiar to the French genius.' These qualities are indeed most noticeable when compared with the German genius, excelling as it does in long, uninhibited outpourings, directly opposed to the French taste, which abhors overstatement and venerates concision and diversity."

Mélodies continue to be composed today. Perhaps the last uncontestedly great composer of them was Francis Poulenc, who died in 1963. He wrote nearly 150 mélodies of all sorts.

Abridged from
Pierre Bernac, (1970) The Interpretation of French Song, New York: Praeger.

The Auckland Lieder Group Inc. aims to promote education and performance of art songs and lieder. Performance meetings are held monthly in private homes in the Auckland region.

Membership inquiries, contact William Green, wegreenpiano@hotmail.com, or The Secretary, Valerie Muir, 09 520 1981.

Concert organisation, programme design and notes by Peter Mellalieu. http://mynstrel.blogspot.com, 02142 0118, petermellalieu@me.com
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