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Thread: Unheralded French romantic orchestral composers

  1. #241
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    I'd never thought of Saint-Saens' symphonic poems as a deliberate cycle, but yes, I think you could be right to see them in that way.

    Roger, I just wanted to say many thanks for this invaluable and interesting thread! It's one that I plan to return to again & again in the future--since, as you know, this period tends to fascinate me. I've also admired your thoroughness and persistent dedication.

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  3. #242
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Knox View Post
    mparta,
    Your post is from a while back, but as it happens yesterday I watched a video on YT of the Thibaudet performance of the Saint-Saens 5th piano concerto with the Concertgebouw Orchestra/Nelsons. I share your enthusiasm for Thibaudet's interpretation both technically and for colour, imagination and ... life!

    Because I put Saint-Saens among the top-rated composers (a good decision I think), he didn't get the "unheralded" discussion that other composers did. But like yours my appreciation of him is climbing. Including for his orchestral tone symphonic poems Le Rouet d'Omphale, Phaeton, and La Jeunesse d'Hercule. My favorite is Phaeton -- it is wonderful music despite the uneasy sense of fate.
    Thibaudet has both the necessary technique and the insouciance. In a world dominated by Brahms and Beethoven and Mozart, i still think the St. Saens concerti stand out, especially the 5th, but they're all jewels and I think very much underappreciated. Rubenstein made a warhorse of the 2nd, and it's fine, but they're all as good and the warhorse way of seeing these works is just wrong.
    Russian style, German style. Both wrong for this. This is French.

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  5. #243
    Senior Member Radames's Avatar
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    Gounod got almost no love on his 200 birthday. He was totally overshadowed by Bernstein's 100th. Did anyone mention Louise Farrenc? Yannick Nezet-Seguin has taken her up.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Radames View Post
    Gounod got almost no love on his 200 birthday. He was totally overshadowed by Bernstein's 100th. Did anyone mention Louise Farrenc? Yannick Nezet-Seguin has taken her up.
    At one point I was thinking of starting with earlier French Romantic composers, but then I became afraid of the extra time it would take and decided to begin with the generation of Saint-Saens.

    At this point, could everyone who reads this please consider posting something about any earlier French Romantic piece and composer that seems to belong here (symphonic or concerto). A post could be the name of the piece and composer (and recording) plus what you think of it. Gounod symphonies, Farrenc symphonies or concertante works would be great. I'm happy to provide suggestions, but would request that others carry the ball on additional composers or works.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Josquin13 View Post
    I'd never thought of Saint-Saens' symphonic poems as a deliberate cycle, but yes, I think you could be right to see them in that way.

    Roger, I just wanted to say many thanks for this invaluable and interesting thread! It's one that I plan to return to again & again in the future--since, as you know, this period tends to fascinate me. I've also admired your thoroughness and persistent dedication.
    Thank you again, Josquin 13, for your invaluable contributions. Concerning Saint-Saens symphonic poems as a cycle, they weren't to my knowledge a deliberate cycle and I've backed off that idea based on some checking in Wikipedia. In brief, Smetana's Ma Vlast is a symphonic poem cycle as is Koechlin's Jungle Books cycle -- by the composer's intention. I haven't found a reference to any cycle of symphonic poems so designated without the composer's intention or approval. It would be confusing to mix the two situations under one term.

    As for thoroughness and persistence, I'm happy with the support some people give on TC. And after all, most of the music I've listened to ranges from good to superb.
    Last edited by Roger Knox; Jul-05-2021 at 19:24.

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  10. #246
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Knox View Post
    I haven't found a reference to any cycle of symphonic poems so designated without the composer's intention or approval.
    Contrast the above situation to the symphony cycles that are claimed to exist for all kinds of composers. It may be partly because of the recording industry issuing boxes of composers' complete symphonies, with the word "cycle" giving a sense of unity and development to the whole. Not asking for that to be done with symphonic poems -- but I'm trying to think of ways of giving them more weight in the world of orchestral music. I don't like to see symphonic poems as "filler" on recordings that feature symphonies or concertos either.

    Currently I'm listening to the six symphonic poems of César Franck and speculating as usual. Here's another portion of josquin13's post #12 with two of them, the first with three versions:

    César Franck:

    --Psyché (both Paul Strauss and Jean Fournet have made excellent recordings of this music):
    Strauss, Orchestre de Liège (complete): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2P_16uWMbg
    Fournet, Czech Philharmonic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3aJ46PpUco
    Not Available Now -- Fournet, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2Qzfi13qaQ [I]
    Fournet, Prague Symphony Orchestra: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45JW3gTSWQ4
    --Le Chasseur Maudit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGraYe4i3qI
    Last edited by Roger Knox; Jul-07-2021 at 03:58.

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  12. #247
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Knox View Post
    I haven't found a reference to any cycle of symphonic poems so designated without the composer's intention or approval. It would be confusing to mix the two situations under one term.
    Back to Saint-Saëns, things have changed again. From a YT upload of Le Rouet d’Omphale by Bartje Bartman: “Le Rouet d'Omphale is part of four symphonic poems in a mythological series by Saint-Saëns. The other three in the series are Danse macabre, Phaëton, and La jeunesse d'Hercule.”
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fe9-MztANKQ
    This is the first time I've seen a reference to the Saint-Saëns symphonic poems as a group. No citation given, so I don't know if the composer saw them that way.

    In the meantime I've also seen Liszt's 12 symphonic poems referred to as a cycle envisioned by Liszt himself as a whole. And I've seen Richard Strauss's first three tone poems referred to as a cycle. The word just keeps cycling back.

    Finally, I've found a way to keep the Saint-Saëns symphonic poems in chronological order, both for memory and for listening purposes. The first and last ones are about Hercules. Le Rouet d'Omphale opens pleasantly before getting into the main action. Then I imagine him having nightmares about Phaëton (death of a son of the Sun-God) and the Danse macabre (a devilish night vision). But the close of La jeunesse d'Hercule has a happy ending. At less than 38' the group is convenient for one sitting:

    Le Rouet d’Omphale (1869)
    Danse macabre (1873)
    Phaëton (1875)
    La jeunesse d’Hercule (1877)
    Last edited by Roger Knox; Jul-07-2021 at 23:34.

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  14. #248
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Knox View Post
    Smetana's Ma Vlast is a symphonic poem cycle as is Koechlin's Jungle Books cycle -- by the composer's intention.
    Besides the Koechlin cycle, another symphonic poem cycle by the composer's intention that is relevant to this thread is Vincent d'Indy's symphonic trilogy Wallenstein, op. 12. It is made up of three symphonic poems: Le Piccolonini (1880); Le Mort de Wallenstein (1874); and Le Camp de Wallenstein (1884).
    Last edited by Roger Knox; Jul-08-2021 at 19:50.

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  16. #249
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Knox View Post
    In the meantime I've also seen Liszt's 12 symphonic poems referred to as a cycle envisioned by Liszt himself as a whole. And I've seen Richard Strauss's first three tone poems referred to as a cycle.
    Here is the reference for Richard Strauss's tone poems: The Cambridge Companion to Richard Strauss, ed. Charles Youmans, 2010. In a chapter by David Larkin, the First Cycle of tone poems (3) consists of:
    - Macbeth
    - Don Juan
    - Tod und Verklärung (Death and Transfiguration)
    The earlier Aus Italien is considered to have some characteristics of a symphonic poem.

    In a later chapter by James Hepokoski, the Second Cycle of tone poems (4) is identified as:
    - Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche (Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks)
    - Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spake Zarathustra)
    - Don Quixote
    - Ein Heldenleben (A Hero's Life)
    No cycle is identified for Symfonia Domestica or Eine Alpensinfonie (the latter being deemed a symphonic poem).

    Some readers may wonder about the set of tone poems by Sibelius. According to Wikipedia: "The Swan of Tuonela (Tuonelan joutsen) is an 1895 tone poem by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. It is part of the Lemminkäinen Suite (Four Legends from the Kalevala), Op. 22, based on the Finnish mythological epic the Kalevala." In such a suite the linkage is based on the source material alone.

    At this point I'm leaving off research about the term "symphonic poem cycle." If anyone has more information or comments please let us know.
    Last edited by Roger Knox; Jul-08-2021 at 22:17.

  17. #250
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Knox View Post
    I've found a way to keep the Saint-Saëns symphonic poems in chronological order, both for memory and for listening purposes. ... At less than 38' the group is convenient for one sitting:

    Le Rouet d’Omphale (1869)
    Danse macabre (1873)
    Phaëton (1875)
    La jeunesse d’Hercule (1877)
    For consistency I'm going to use the word "group" for any arrangement of symphonic or tone poems that does not clearly represent the composer's intention. As with the above Saint-Saëns group, I've chosen the following group of César Franck's symphonic poems as an aid to memory and an enjoyable listening experience. This time I've done a little trimming, though. Franck's first symphonic poem (a term that had not yet been invented) comes from 1846 when he was only 24 years old: Ce qu'on entend sur la montagne (What One Hears on the Mountain), based on a poem by Victor Hugo. It is a slow-paced 24 minutes long and, remarkably, has repetitive affinities with the music of Philip Glass. Franck didn't publish the work, but he revised it in 1874 by which time the symphonic poem had been well established by Liszt (who incidentally composed a work with the same title and based on the same poem as Franck's). In any case I've decided to leave it off the group and consider it their "prequel." Here is a list of the remaining five, which are in chronological order:
    - Rédemption (1872 rev. 1874) - orchestral movements only
    - Les Éolides (1876)
    - Le Chasseur maudit (1882)
    - Les Djinns (1884)
    - Psyché et Eros (1888) - orchestral movements only

    No doubt controversially, I've decided to include versions of Rédemption and Psyché et Eros that do not include music for chorus or vocal soloists. This is to keep the group to a listenable length (under 79'), and makes these two longer works more proportionate to the others. Their complete vocal-orchestral versions would be better listened to separately. The recordings for orchestra alone are by the Orchestre de Paris/Daniel Barenboim, on YT.

    At this point I'd like to ask for feedback on the Saint-Saens group and on this Franck one as listening experiences.
    Last edited by Roger Knox; Jul-08-2021 at 22:15.

  18. #251
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Knox View Post
    At this point I'd like to ask for feedback on the Saint-Saëns group and on this Franck one as listening experiences.
    Concerning the Franck group of symphonic poems in the previous post:
    - nos. 1 and 5 (Redemption, Psyche and Eros) are long works of contemplative character
    - nos. 2 and 4 (The Aeolids, The Genies) portray mythological entities
    - no. 3 (The Wild Huntsman) is based on Romantic medieval-themed ballad of the same title by Gottfried August Burger

    As with the Saint-Saëns group, these symphonic poems are in chronological order. The group makes up a kind of "arch form" with the "keystone" being No. 3, the most popular and energetic one. Whether such an arrangement is of any advantage for listening and remembering purposes is what I'd like feedback on. (Notice also titles are given in English).
    Last edited by Roger Knox; Jul-11-2021 at 19:16.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Knox View Post
    For consistency I'm going to use the word "group" for any arrangement of symphonic or tone poems that does not clearly represent the composer's intention.
    Here is another type of group: four good symphonic poems by four different composers born 1825-49, with previous posts noted:

    Henri Duparc, Lenore (1875). Post #59.

    Charles Widor, Walpurgis Night, (1887). Post #48.

    Ernest Guiraud, The Fantastic Chase (1887). Post #49. Since my post an upload of the same recording with better sound has appeared on YT, by bartje bartlmans. The performance by the Louisville Symphony/Jorge Mester is very good, likely from the late 1960's or 1970's. This is a fine work, obviously related to Franck's greater The Wild Huntsman, but more compact and with a melodic "hook."

    Jules Massenet, [/I]Visions[I] (1890). Post #32.
    Last edited by Roger Knox; Jul-11-2021 at 21:01.

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    In addition to the problematic usage of "symphonic poem cycle," there is a problem with the idea of the symphonic poem itself, namely that music historians do not agree about it. For example, in the New Oxford History of Music, Vol. IX: Romanticism (1830-1890) (ed. Gerald Abraham, 1990), the editor's entry on Symphonic Poems is largely about how they were or are something else. It seems he wants the genre to be reduced greatly in size.

    Not being a professional music historian I would prefer to leave off the matter here. If a work is called a symphonic poem or tone poem in standard reference works, liner notes, or concert programs I'll do likewise.
    Last edited by Roger Knox; Jul-11-2021 at 21:02.

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    Been listening to Jean Absil (1893-1874), I don't know if he's vallon (french) or flemish, but he's strikingly similar to Hilding Rosenberg (Symphony 7 -style) who was his exact contemporary, although one might argue that his symphonies are a bit repetitive.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gargamel View Post
    Been listening to Jean Absil (1893-1874), I don't know if he's vallon (french) or flemish, but he's strikingly similar to Hilding Rosenberg (Symphony 7 -style) who was his exact contemporary, although one might argue that his symphonies are a bit repetitive.
    The only Absil I (should) know, I get side railed by the other works that I love on this disc and I think it's the finest version of Van Dam's Schumann I know.


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