La Belle Epoque
La Belle Epoque refers to the age of optimism, prosperity and innovation which followed the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 until it was shattered by the start of the First World War in 1914. Although these elements were present across Europe and the USA, it was in France, particularly, that innovation and experimentation blossomed. Paris and France saw the development of Post-impressionism, Salon music, light Opera, Art Nouveau and Cubism, Modern Dance and Ballet, Literary Realism, Cafe Society and Bohemian life, Cabaret, Burlesque and Music Hall (such as at the Folies Bergère and Moulin Rouge) and even Haute Couture.
Offenbach's light opera Orpheus in the Underworld dates from the late 1850s but featured the famous Galop which came to be associated with the ubiquitous Can-Can during this period. The tuneful Overture features some of the delightful music from the somewhat light-hearted parody of Gluck's much more serious opera of 100 years earlier.
Chabrier’s popular Joyeuse Marche of 1888 does what it says on the tin!
The Pavane and Cantique de Jean Racine are, together with his Requiem, the most well-known works by Gabriel Fauré. The Cantique was composed when Fauré was just 19 but not published until the mid 1870s. It exists in various forms but most often featuring a choir and organ or orchestral accompaniment. The Pavane dates from 1887 and is often heard, as Fauré intended, as a purely orchestral piece. Fauré later added an offstage chorus to accompany dancers at an influential grande soirée held by his patron and dedicatee of the piece. The lyrics were based on verses espousing the romantic helplessness of men when presented with the beauty of young women.
Maurice Ravel was a pupil of Fauré. His Pavane pour une Infante Défunte (Pavane for a dead Infanta) dates from 1899 as a piano solo, and was published with a sumptous orchestration in 1910. Gracious and stately, the piece was described by Ravel as "an evocation of a Pavane that a little princess (Infanta) might, in former times have danced at the Spanish court
L’Arlésienne, by Georges Bizet, comprises incidental music written to accompany Alphones Daudet’s play of the same name in 1872. The play is set in Provence, and concerns a young man torn between two loves, a gentle young woman from the countryside and an infatuation with a seductive charmer from Arles. When the woman from Arles, who never actually appears on stage, proves to have been unfaithful, the young man attempts to console himself by returning to his country sweetheart. He is, however, unable to forget his other passion and so, lost in despair, he takes his own life. Our conductor Ieuan Davies has developed a concert version of the music which incorporates some of the original chorus and incidental melodramas in addition to the more usually heard orchestral Suites later extracted from the score.
The Concert was attended by a large appreciative audience.
Narrator , Alan Ponting, delivered a moving telling of the tale , both of the play and some of the regional and local customs and background utilised by Bizet in his score.
Slideshow below : photos courtesy of Alec Osborn
NOVEMBER 2017 CONCERT at ALL SAINTS CHURCH MILFORD on SEA
LYMINGTON FESTIVAL CONCERT JULY 2016
DECEMBER 2016 at ST MARY's BRANSGORE