On May 6, 2017 at 4:00 and 7:30 PM in Biemesderfer Concert Hall (WVPAC), MU Choirs presented a concert entitled The French Choral Connection. The featured selection performed in the second half by the full Choral Union (all choirs combined) was Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem in D Minor, Op. 48 (1888/1893 version). The performance was accompanied by a predominantly professional string orchestra, harp and organ. The first half of the program included a variety of works to delight the audience and set the stage for the major choral-orchestral masterwork. Here is a draft of the final printed program:

The French Choral Connection

Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)

gabriel-faure

Gabriel Fauré was a French Romantic composer, organist, pianist, and teacher. One of the foremost composers of his generation, his musical style influenced many 20th-century composers. Among his best-known works are his Pavane, Requiem, Nocturnes for piano and the songs Apres un rêve and Clair de Lune.

Fauré was born into a cultured, but not especially musical family. His talent became clear when he was a small boy. At the age of nine, he was sent to music college in Paris, where he was trained to be a church organist and choirmaster. Among his teacher was Camille Saint-Saens, who became a life-long friend. After graduating from college in 1865, he earned a modest living as an organist and teacher, leaving him little time for composition.

gabriel_faure_1864
Gabriel Fauré in 1864, at the time he composed Cantique de Jean Racine (1864-65)

When he became successful in his middle age, holding the important posts of organist at Église de la Madeleine and director of the Paris Convervatoire, he still lacked time for composing; he retreated to the country side in the summer holidays to concentrate on composition. By his last years, Fauré was recognized in France as the leading composer of his day. An unprecedented national musical tribute was held for him in Paris in 1922, headed by the President of the French Republic. Outside France, Fauré’s music took decades to become widely accepted, except in Britain, where he had many admirers during his lifetime.

Fauré’s music has been described as linking the end of Romanticism with the modernism of the second quarter of the 20th century. [Source: Wikipedia, “Gabriel Fauré.]

For more information on Gabriel Fauré and listen to more of his music, check out this BBC Music page: http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/fa19a8b6-e7f4-40d4-af15-7a7c41ac7d8f

Fauré: Requiem in D Minor, Op. 48

PDF of the CPDL edition of the piano-vocal score we’re using:

faure_requiem_vs_pml

My favorite recording performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus; Judith Blegan, Soprano; James Morris, Bass; Robert Shaw, conductor. [Telarc CD, 1987]

I. Introït and Kyrie

Grant them eternal rest, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them. Thou, O God, are praised in Zion, and unto Thee shall the vow be performed in Jerusalem. Hear my prayer, unto Thee shall all flesh come. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.

II. Offertoire

Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory, deliver the souls of all the faithful departed from the pains of hells and from the bottomless pit. Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory, deliver them from the lion’s mouth, nor let them fall into darkness, neither let the black abyss swallow them up. 

Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory,We offer unto Thee this sacrifice of prayer and praise. Receive it for those souls whom today we commemorate. Allow them, O Lord, to cross from death into the life which once Thou didst promise to Abraham and his seed. 

Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory, deliver the souls of all the faithful departed from the pains of hells and from the bottomless pit. Nor let them fall into darkness. Amen.

III. Sanctus

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth. Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory. Hosanna in the highest.

IV. Pie Jesu

Merciful Jesus, Lord, grant them rest grant them rest, eternal rest.

V. Agnus Dei

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, grant them rest. O Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, grant them rest. O Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, grant them rest, everlasting rest. May eternal light shine on them, O Lord, with Thy saints for ever, because Thou are merciful. Grant them eternal rest, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine on them.

VI. Libera Me

Deliver me, O Lord, from everlasting death on that dreadful day when the heavens and the earth shall be moved when thou shalt come to judge the world by fire. I quake with fear and I tremble awaiting the day of account and the wrath to come. That day, the day of anger, of calamity, of misery, that day, the great day, and most bitter. Grant them eternal rest, O Lord, and may perpertual light shine upon them. Deliver me, O Lord, from everlasting death on that dreadful day when the heavens and the earth shall be moved
when thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.

VII. In paradisum

May the angels receive them in Paradise, at thy coming may the martyrs receive thee and bring thee into the holy city Jerusalem. There may the chorus of angels receive thee, and with Lazarus, once a beggar, may thou have eternal rest. May thou have eternal rest.

Fauré: Cantique de Jean Racine, Op. 11

Fauré wrote this composition when he was only 19 (!), and it won him 1st place prize for a composition competition at the École Niedermeyer de Paris. It was first performed the following year (1866) in a version with accompaniment of strings and organ. Style is similar to the Requiem. French words are a paraphrase translation of a Latin hymn (Consors pattern luminis) by Jean Racine during the 17th century. An English translation/version is:

Word of God, one with the Most High,
in Whom alone we have our hope,
Eternal Day of heaven and earth,
We break the silence of the peaceful night;
Saviour Divine, cast your eyes upon us!

Pour on us the fire of your powerful grace,
That all hell may flee at the sound of your voice;
Banish the slumber of a weary soul,
That brings forgetfulness of your laws!

O Christ, look with favour upon your faithful people
Now gathered here to praise you;
Receive their hymns offered to your immortal glory;
May they go forth filled with your gifts.

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

debussy

Achille-Claude Debussy, known since the 1890s as Claude-Achille Debussy or Claude Debussy, was a French composer. He and Maurice Ravel were the most prominent figures associated with the Impressionist music, though Debussy disliked the term when applied to his compositions. He was made Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1903. He was among the most influential composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and his use of non-traditional scales and chromaticism influenced many composers who followed.

Debussy’s music is noted for its sensory content and frequent usage of nontraditional tonalities. The prominent French literary style of the his period was known as Sympolism, and this movement directly inspired Debussy as both a composer and as an active cultural participant. [Source: Wikipedia, “Claude Debussy”]

claude-monet-water-lillies-1908
An example of Impressionism: Claude Monet’s Water-Lillies (1908)

Debussy’s Chansons de Charles d’Orléans

According to Robert Cummings [http://www.allmusic.com]:

The Trois Chansons de Charles d’Orléans (Three Songs of Charles d’Orléans) falls into a sparsely populated category of Debussy’s output — that of unaccompanied choral music. In fact, discounting unpublished and unfinished works, it is the only such piece he composed. For that reason alone, these songs are valuable in the study and understanding of the composer’s works; apart from such academic and personal considerations, this music has broad appeal as well.

The three songs are settings of poems by Charles Duc d’Orléans (1394-1465). The first is entitled “Dieu! qu’il la fait bon regarder!” (God! but she is fair!). The music is ethereal and subdued, and features at times a religiosity of mood, the whole offering a mixture of Renaissance and modern sounds and putting an interesting and rare retrospective spin on the composer’s harmonic thinking. The next song, “Quand j’ai ouy le tambourin” (When I heard the tambourine), is also somewhat ethereal, but the music is livelier and a bit more colorful, too. The contrapuntal writing here — and in fact throughout the set — is quite effective. The last song, “Yver, vous n’estes qu’un villain” (Winter, You’re Naught but a Rogue), is also colorful and quite spirited. In the end, the three pieces in this collection are all worthwhile and must be ranked as important efforts in Debussy’s output. The first and last songs date from 1898, and the middle from 1908, the year the collection was published.

The performance below is by the Stockholmer Kammerchor, Eric Ericson, conductor. [CD Warner Classics #2564626150]

I. Dieu! qu’il la fait bon regarder!

God, what a vision she is; one imbued with grace, true and beautiful! For all the virtues that are hers everyone is quick to praise her. Who could tire of her? Her beauty constantly renews itself;
On neither side of the ocean do I know any girl or woman who is in all virtues so perfect; it’s a dream even to think of her; God, what a vision she is.

II. Quand j’ai ouy le tambourin

When I hear the tambourine sound, calling us to May, in my bed I remain calm, not lifting my head from the pillow saying, “It is too early, I’ll fall asleep again.” When I hear the tambourine sound calling us to May, the young jump from partner to partner not even bothering to remember you. From him, I’ll move on, finding a lover that’s conveniently close by. When I hear the tambourine  sound, calling us to May, in my bed I remain calm, not lifting my  head from the pillow.

III. Yver, vous n’este qu’un villain

Winter, you’re nothing but a villain! Summer is pleasant and nice, joined to May and April, who go hand in hand. Summer dreams of fields, woods, and flowers, covered with green and many other colors, by nature’s command. But you, Winter, are too full of snow, wind, rain, and hail. You should be banished! Without exaggerating, I speak plainly – Winter, you’re nothing but a villain!

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

Ravel

Like Debussy, Ravel is another French composer associated with Impressionism, although both composers rejected the term. In the 1920s and 1930s Ravel was internationally regarded as France’s greatest living composer. Aside from composing, he was also a pianist and conductor. Born to a music-loving family, Ravel attended France’s premier music college, the Paris Conservatoire; he was not well regarded by its conservative establishment, whose biased treatment of him caused a scandal. After leaving the conservatoire Ravel found his way as a composer, developing his own style of great clarity, incorporating elements of baroque, neoclassicism and, in his later works, jazz. He liked to experiment with musical form, as in his best-known work, Boléro (1928), in which repetition takes the place of development. He made some orchestral arrangements of other composers’ music, of which his 1922 version of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition is the best known. Ravel was among the first composers to recognize the the potential of recording to bring their music to a wider public. From the 1920s, despite limited technique as a pianist or conductor, he took part in recordings of several of his works; others were made under his supervision. [Source: Wikipedia, “Maurice Ravel”] The performance below of “Nicolette” from Trois Chansons is by the Stockholmer Kammerchor, Eric Ericson, conductor. [CD Warner Classics #2564626150]

Ravel: Nicolette 

Nicolette, at twilight, Went for a walk through the fields, To pick daisies, daffodils, and lilies of the valley. Skipping around, completely jolly, Spying here, there, and everywhere. She met an old, growling wolf, On alert, eyes a-sparkle: “Hey there! Nicolette, my dear, won’t you come to Grandmother’s house?” Out of breath, Nicolette fled, Leaving behind her cornette and white clogs. She met a cute page, Blue shoes and gray doublet: “Hey there! Nicolette dear, wouldn’t you like a sweetheart?” Wisely, she turned ’round, poor Nicolette, very slowly, with a contrite heart. She met an old gentleman, Twisted, ugly, smelly and pot-bellied: “Hey there! Nicolette dear, don’t you want all this money?” She ran straight into his arms, good Nicolette, Never to return to the fields again.

Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986)

Marcel Duruflé

Duruflé was born in Louviers, Eure. He became a chorister at the Rouen Cathedral Choir School, where he studied piano and organ. At age 17, he moved to Paris and entered the Conservatorie de Paris, eventually graduating with first prizes in organ, harmony, piano accompaniment, and composition. In 1927, Duruflé was nominated by Louis Vierne to be his assistant at Notre-Dame, where he was at his side when Vierne died at the console of the Notre-Dame organ on June 2, 1937. In 1947 he completed probably the most famous of his few pieces: the Requiem, Op. 9. He created other versions of this work for different accompanimental forces: organ (1948) and orchestra (1961). The set of Quatre motets sur des themes grégoriens, Op. 10, were composed in 1960. Two will be performed in our concert “Ubi caritas et amor” (Chorale) and “Tota pulchra es” (Cantilenta). As with the Requiem, Duruflé’s profession as a Catholic church musician is heard in these pieces based on, and composed in the style of, chant. Duruflé suffered severe injuries in a car accident on Mary 29, 1975, and as a result gave up performing; indeed, he was largely confined to his apartment. He died in Louveciennes (near Paris) in 1986 at age 84. [Source: Wikipedia, “Maurice Duruflé]

Duruflé: Ubi caritas

The performance above is by the University of Colorado Boulder University Choir (2009), Jeffrey S. Gemmell, conductor.

Where charity and love are, God is there.
Love of Christ has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice in Him and be glad.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And from a sincere heart let us love one another.

The performance below is by California State University Chorale, Chico (2004), Jeffrey S. Gemmell, conductor.

Duruflé: Tota pulchra es

The performance above is by the Cornell Women’s Chorus, Scott Tucker, conductor.

You are all beautiful, Mary, and the original stain [spot] (of sin) is not in you.
You are the glory of Jerusalem, you are the joy of Israel, you give honour to our people.
You are an advocate of sinners. O Mary, Virgin most intelligent, Mother most merciful.
Pray for us, plead for us, to the Lord Jesus Christ.

And from the Renaissance Period, Pierre Passereau (1509-1547): Il est bel et bon

He is handsome and fine, my husband is, There were two gossiping women in the village, Saying one to the other, do you have a good husband? He doesn’t scold me, or beat me either. He does the chores, he feeds the chickens, and I take pleasure. Really you have to laugh to hear the cries of the chicks and hens: Co, co, co, co, dad, little flirt, what’s this?