Music and Poetry in fin-de-siècle Paris: a study day

31 October 2009, 11:00am

Poets, musicians, artists, philosophers (not to mention dandies!) all intermingled in the famous salons of Paris at the end of the nineteenth century. Today’s study day introduces some of the musical-poetic collaborations that made this era so famous.

The day consists of two lectures either side of a lunchtime recital. We welcome Dr Helen Abbott (Lecturer in French and specialist in French poetry and music 1850-1950) and Dr Chris Collins (Lecturer in Music and specialist in French and Spanish music 1880-1950) from Bangor University, who will jointly present both lectures. This project forms the culmination of a 10-month residency at Bangor University, funded by The Leverhulme Trust, for Oxford Lieder’s artistic director, Sholto Kynoch, working alongside the University's “Words and Music” Research Group. Bangor University is one of the UK’s first universities to run interdisciplinary “Words and Music” modules for students of both modern languages and music.

Whether you are a seasoned lover of Debussy, Fauré et al, or a complete newcomer to this repertoire, this will be a stimulating day of exploration.

11.00am – Coffee and welcome

11.20am – “Baudelaire and his composers”

The morning lecture sets the scene and addresses questions as to why certain collaborations came to be, why others were unexpected, what made some poems especially suitable for setting to music, and the mixing of “high” and “low” art forms. Settings of the poet Charles Baudelaire will form the basis of the discussion, with music by Fauré, Debussy and the now little-known Gustave Charpentier.

12.20pm – Lunch

Sandwiches and other refreshments will be on sale in the atrium of the Music Building. Please also feel free to bring your own packed lunch.

1.10pm – Recital

Mary Bevan – soprano

Sholto Kynoch – piano

Debussy – Cinq Poèmes de Baudelaire, and songs by Fauré and Charpentier

This delightful recital programme complements the day’s lectures perfectly. Debussy’s five settings of Baudelaire are one of the pinnacles of the mélodie repertoire; five of his most impressive and ambitious songs. The songs of Fauré are, by comparison, miniatures, but they are full of subtle nuance and gentle surprises that take them beyond being merely charming. Gustave Charpentier won the famed Prix de Rome in 1887, but is now virtually unknown (except to some for his opera Louise). Today we hear four settings of Baudelaire that show him to be a composer of great imagination and skill, unjustly neglected.

Soprano Mary Bevan is already making an impressive reputation for herself whilst still at the Royal Academy of Music Opera Course.  

This recital is supported by The Nicholas John Charitable Trust.

2.30pm – “Harmonising poetry and music: a case study”

The second lecture that concludes the day looks in detail at Baudelaire’s beautiful poem Harmonie du Soir, and some of its musical settings. Why is Baudelaire sometimes considered an “impossible” poet to set? To what extent is this poem about music, and what bearing does that have on composers, especially Debussy? Whilst avoiding any specialist language, analysis of both poem and song will reveal some of the inner workings and inter-relations of music and poetry.

Tickets £10 (students £5) for all the study day events, including coffee

Today's event will coincide with the launch of Dr Helen Abbott's new book, Between Baudelaire and Mallarmé: Voice, Conversation and Music, pubished by Ashgate.

2009 Festoival

16 October 2009 | 9:00am

2009 Festival

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