See how clas­si­cal mu­sic has de­vel­oped in France from the time of the monas­ter­ies.

From plain­chant to Boléro, France has a rich mu­si­cal her­itage, ex­plains San­dra Hau­rant

France - - Contents -

The roots of early clas­si­cal mu­sic in France are in­ter­twined with the sa­cred chants in the Catholic church. Within the stone walls of churches and abbeys, one-voice or mono­phonic chants dom­i­nated, and were grad­u­ally joined by multi-voice or poly­phonic chants. Over time, these dis­tinc­tive mu­si­cal styles spread into sec­u­lar mu­sic.

Around the 12th cen­tury, a num­ber of mu­si­cal schools took shape, in­clud­ing one based around Notre-dame cathe­dral in Paris. Al­though the com­posers are for the most part un­known, the school pro­duced the ear­li­est reper­tory of poly­phonic or multi-part mu­sic to reach in­ter­na­tional renown.

In the 15th cen­tury, a group of com­posers main­tained by the pow­er­ful Dukes of Bur­gundy helped to de­velop sev­eral new styles. This mu­si­cal Re­nais­sance in Europe was helped by the ad­vent of print­ing, which changed the ways in which mu­si­cians ac­cessed com­po­si­tions.

Mu­sic in France saw a shift to­ward a style that em­u­lated Greek tragedies, giv­ing way, by the 17th cen­tury, to the in­flu­ence of Ital­ian opera, as France moved into its Baroque pe­riod. In­deed, Franco-ital­ian com­poser, in­stru­men­tal­ist and dancer Jean-bap­tiste Lully (born Gio­vanni Bat­tista Lulli), who worked in the court of Louis XIV, is cred­ited as the founder of French opera.

Lully col­lab­o­rated with the writer Molière on in­no­va­tive mu­si­cal the­atre pro­jects, in­clud­ing the comédie-bal­let Le Bour­geois Gen­til­homme, a play in­cor­po­rat­ing mu­sic and dance. How­ever, after an ap­par­ent fall­ing-out, Lully re­turned to writ­ing op­eras. Molière went on to work with an­other lead­ing light in French Baroque mu­sic, Mar­cAn­toine Char­p­en­tier, who com­posed the mu­sic for Le Malade Imag­i­naire.

Ma­jor force

In the midst of the French Revo­lu­tion, mu­sic was also chang­ing. The gov­ern­ment com­bined the École Royale de Chant with the In­sti­tut Na­tional de Musique to cre­ate the Con­ser­va­toire de Musique in 1795, which re­mains a ma­jor force in the mu­si­cal world as the Con­ser­va­toire Na­tional Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris.

The Con­ser­va­toire has an il­lus­tri­ous list of alumni in­clud­ing Georges Bizet, Claude De­bussy and Gabriel Fauré. Bizet’s opera Car­men pre­miered in 1875 to an in­dif­fer­ent re­cep­tion, and the com­poser died the same year, aged just 36, lit­tle know­ing the world­wide fame it would come to en­joy.

De­bussy was to have a huge in­flu­ence on French clas­si­cal mu­sic in the 20th cen­tury, with a ground­break­ing style of com­po­si­tion that seemed to align it­self with the work of the Im­pres­sion­ist painters – al­though he was not keen on us­ing the term to de­scribe his work.

Fel­low Con­ser­va­toire stu­dent Mau­rice Ravel was sim­i­larly linked with mu­si­cal Im­pres­sion­ism but also re­jected the term. Ravel is best-known for the 15-minute Boléro (1928), but the com­poser con­sid­ered it one of his least im­por­tant works, de­scrib­ing it as an “ex­per­i­ment in a spe­cial and lim­ited direction”.

The ex­per­i­men­tal ba­ton was picked up by com­posers such as Olivier Mes­si­aen and his stu­dent Pierre Boulez. Mes­si­aen cre­ated richly com­plex com­po­si­tions heav­ily in­flu­enced by Catholic the­ol­ogy and bird­song.

Boulez led a revo­lu­tion in con­tem­po­rary mu­sic, par­tic­u­larly through his lead­er­ship of the IRCAM research cen­tre in Paris, with its study of elec­tronic tech­niques.

ABOVE: The com­poser Claude De­bussy pushed mu­si­cal bound­aries at the turn of the 20th cen­tury

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.