What better day to post this than on his birthday? Joseph-Maurice Ravel (March 7, 1875 – December 28, 1937) was a French composer a too frequently associated with impressionist music (I think that it’s a bit more complicated than this…), and he is the next installment in our French Composers’ Names series.
Since joining the I Care if You Listen team, I have been privileged to have the opportunity to review some great CDs. Often times these are CDs that I wouldn’t have otherwise encountered, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be exposed to a variety of music. Of course, and I do hope that this comes as no surprise, the other great advantage is that I receive these CDs for free.
Let me say that I do take this responsibility quite seriously, and I’m lucky that our editor, Thomas Deneuville, allows us ample time to get reviews written. Rather than working on tight deadlines, I’ve had the opportunity to listen to each CD I’ve reviewed several times, and I hope that this experience of living with the CD has improved my output. Moreover, having had three of my own recordings released to date, I know very well the effort it takes for these discs to reach my mailbox.
Photo (some rights reserved) by chriszak - Flickr
There is, however, a downside, in that most of the music that has been recently added to my library has come from these CDs. It would be very easy for me to sort of kick back and see what is available for review (there is plenty, even for our relatively small number of writers), but then my collection would be self-selected. As we are all aware, there is an incredible amount of fantastic music being produced, and I for one am anxious to continue the hunt for gems. Moreover, and this is what has really bothered me, I am quite hesitant to simply stop supporting artists because their producers are sending me their material for free.
I’ve had an idea for a while, then, of reviewing on a monthly basis music that I’ve purchased. What the idea needed in order to come to life, though, was all the great discussion there has been aboutpurchasingmusicandsupportingartists. With so many people talking about an issue that is important to me, I had lost any excuses for not moving forward with this idea.
So I’m putting my money where my mouth is, and I promise to do my best to make these “Music I’m Buying” reviews a monthly occurrence. Hopefully, this will help me accomplish two things. First, and most obviously, I hope to bring to attention some great artists that deserve greater recognition. Second, and perhaps more importantly, I hope that I can, in my own small way, encourage people to buy more music.
Let me leave you with this quote from David D. McIntire, who, you should know, produces my own CDs. I hesitate to quote him as it may seem a bit self-serving, but I truly couldn’t have said it better myself.
So here is one more heart-felt plea from some artists who do not care to get rich, do not want anything more than to be able to continue: If you hear a stunning original recording, a performer that intrigues you, that moves you, perhaps even irritates you; take note. If you truly respect their work, the highest compliment that you can pay them is to spend your own money on their efforts. Go hear them perform, buy their stuff. Give it to others for birthday and Christmas gifts (the only kind of “sharing” that really counts). It will do more than help keep those artists going. You may find that their work will keep you going, too.
This week’s composer is Hugues Dufourt, another clever chap. Born in 1943 in Lyons, Dufourt trained both in Philosophy and Music at the highest levels. He was one of the directors of Ensemble L’Itinéraire in 1975 and founded the Collectif de recherche instrumentale et de synthèse sonore (CRISS) with Alain Bancquart and Tristan Murail.
His last name features a pure ü and a pure oo sound next to each other. The French u sound, that I often write ü for people who might be familiar with German, is pronounced by saying ee while one’s mouth is in an o shape. Try it, it’s fun. The final consonant (t here), as often in French, is not pronounced. It’s just to score higher at Scrabble.
Charles Koechlin is, without a doubt, one of the most important (and influential) French composers of the 19th and 20th centuries with quite a unique path. His Traité de l’orchestration is still a reference to this day, even if its 4 volumes (and consequent price) make it hard to own. He orchestrated for Fauré and Debussy, and created the Société Musicale Indépendante with Ravel and Schmitt in 1909. He made a living as a music educator, and I’m happy to own a couple of his books that I love (Étude sur les notes de passage (1922), Précis des règles de contrepoint (1927), etc.)
Charles Koechlin (1867-1950)
His name tends to puzzle a lot of French speaking people, myself included. Is the o+e combination a misspelled œ (e dans l’o, a letter that does not technically exist in the English alphabet)? What about that [ch]? Is it a [sh] sound or a [k] sound? I got it all wrong until I heard one of my composition teachers (a fellow Frenchman) pronounce it correctly. I later found a great article in French about the pronunciation of this patronymic of German origin where people argue a lot. I chose one that I give here, that makes sense to me and sounds really nice…
Two years ago, the first time I went to Music with a View in TriBeCa, Geoffrey Burleson (with whom I was lucky to study piano) and Mary Rowell performed a Marc Mellits piece called Spin. I immediately really loved the piece and wanted to know more about it, buy the CD, the score, the mug, etc. Naturally I went to Mellits’s website and started looking for a recording of the piece. What did I find? An excerpt.
Just an excerpt.
I went straigt to Amazon MP3. Nothing. iTunes? Nothing. YouTube? Nothing. Bummer. What was I supposed to do?
Listen to Marc Mellit’s album, “Tight Sweater”
I contacted Dacia Music, the company that publishes his music, and got a copy of the score, that I can now follow along the 3 minutes and 28 seconds of the excerpt. To this day, there is no commercial recording of Spin. It is frustrating, but isn’t it for the best?
This French composer’s name is extremely easy to pronounce for English speakers. Apart from the soft-palate-rolled R endemic to my people (and some Italian people around Torino with a strong erre moscia), this should not be a problem for anybody in the US. Have you guessed it? Gabriel Fauré.
If you can pronounce 4-A, you can then pronounce the name of the composer of the famous Requiem, some beautiful piano quintets, and memorable melodies. So, just in case it still represents an issue for you, here’s the MP3:
Gabriel Faure’s “Agnus Dei” from Requiem in D Minor Op.48 Written between 1887 and 1890
I have to admit that I’m quite fond of his music, even though I still don’t understand, to this day, his comment on Ravel’s string quartet (that Ravel respectfully dedicated to his “cher maître”, dear master): “stunted, badly balanced, in fact a failure.” Well, I’d love to write this kind of failures every day Gaby. Word.
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