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Mélodies

Henri Duparc (b. 1848 - d. 1933)

Composer
Henri Duparc (b. 1848 - d. 1933)
Composition Year
1848 - 1933
Work Movements
Chanson Triste
Soupir
Romance de Mignon
Au pays où se fait la guerre
La vie antérieure
Sérénade Florentine
L Invitation au Voyage
Elégie
Extase
Phidylé
Artists
Anna Devin [soprano], Joseph Middleton [piano]

Programme Note Writer:
© Francis Humphrys

Entends, ma chère, entends la douce Nuit qui marche (Listen, my dear, listen to the gentle Night advancing) Charles Baudelaire 

Duparc’s story is the strangest. His entire oeuvre consists of sixteen songs, three of which he later disowned. He wrote all these songs between his twentieth and thirty-sixth birthdays and after that nothing, although he lived for almost another fifty years. The most astounding thing of all is that these thirteen short songs are all masterpieces and essential landmarks in the history of French music. So his life-story saw an extraordinary outburst of creativity followed by an appalling silence, an utter darkness and a not-so-gentle night. 

Duparc’s companion and carer throughout his long silence was the Irish singer, Ellie Mc Swiney, from Macroom. When she was only seventeen she moved with her mother to Paris to study singing and piano. She and her mother lived in the same apartment building as Vincent d’Indy with whom she sang and played duets at his salon. In the early years of her marriage to Duparc, their home was frequented by luminaries such as Saint-Saëns, Massener, Franck, Bizet, Chabrier and Fauré. They had two sons and her career was cut short by Duparc’s illness, which aggravated his nascent self-criticism. He burnt the manuscript of his opera Russalka that he had worked on for twenty years. 

His life has been described as a dolorous and radiant journey towards an increasingly abstract and immaterial form of self-denial. His method of writing involved painstakingly revising the same songs time and time again. He suffered a progression of illnesses and became almost totally blind. He saw everything in terms absence, expectancy, elsewhere. 

What we have been left is an alchemical distillation, a miraculous quintessence of impossible purity which he desired both desperately and despairingly. There are of course varying degrees of excellence. Baudelaire undoubtedly inspired the composer’s greatest achievements, but while Lahor and Prudhomme are emphatically not Baudelaire, their mediocre lyrics inspired great music, as has been the case throughout the history of art-song. When Duparc sets out to express what cannot be expressed, he reaches summits that few other song composers have attained. Listen for the refrain Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté in L’invitation au voyage; and the repeated supplication in Phidylé. Then there is the denial of the person of the beloved in Soupir – Ne jamais la voir ni l’entendre, Ne jamais tout haut la nommer – where desire itself becomes the object of desire (here in a song written for his wife but dedicated to his mother). And then there is Tristan’s dream in the word-by-word setting of Lahor’s Extase, the line Mort exquise, mort parfumée has a degree of distilled perfection that one can imagine taking years to achieve. Above all he brings us his extraordinary setting of Baudelaire’s La Vie antérieur, where, after the majestic vision of vastes portiques and grottes basaltiques – Les tout puissants accords de leur riche musique – all that is left is the l’unique soin d’approfondir, (the sole intent to make profound). Duparc’s make profound is absolute, without an object and leads to silence.

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Mélodies

Composer: Henri Duparc (b. 1848 - d. 1933)
Performance date: Wednesday 3rd July 2019
Venue: St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland

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Composer Henri Duparc (b. 1848 - d. 1933)
Work Title Mélodies
Composition Year 1848 - 1933
Work Movements Chanson Triste
Soupir
Romance de Mignon
Au pays où se fait la guerre
La vie antérieure
Sérénade Florentine
L Invitation au Voyage
Elégie
Extase
Phidylé
Language French
Artist(s) Anna Devin [soprano], Joseph Middleton [piano]
Performance Date Wednesday 3rd July 2019
Performance Venue St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland
Event Late Great Show
Duration 00:38:32
Recording Engineer Gar Duffy, RTÉ
Instrumentation Category Duo
Instrumentation S-solo, pf
Other Information The lyrics are too large for our archive. Lyrics and translations can be found here >>http://www.melodietreasury.com/translationsindex.html
Programme Note Writer © Francis Humphrys

Entends, ma chère, entends la douce Nuit qui marche (Listen, my dear, listen to the gentle Night advancing) Charles Baudelaire 

Duparc’s story is the strangest. His entire oeuvre consists of sixteen songs, three of which he later disowned. He wrote all these songs between his twentieth and thirty-sixth birthdays and after that nothing, although he lived for almost another fifty years. The most astounding thing of all is that these thirteen short songs are all masterpieces and essential landmarks in the history of French music. So his life-story saw an extraordinary outburst of creativity followed by an appalling silence, an utter darkness and a not-so-gentle night. 

Duparc’s companion and carer throughout his long silence was the Irish singer, Ellie Mc Swiney, from Macroom. When she was only seventeen she moved with her mother to Paris to study singing and piano. She and her mother lived in the same apartment building as Vincent d’Indy with whom she sang and played duets at his salon. In the early years of her marriage to Duparc, their home was frequented by luminaries such as Saint-Saëns, Massener, Franck, Bizet, Chabrier and Fauré. They had two sons and her career was cut short by Duparc’s illness, which aggravated his nascent self-criticism. He burnt the manuscript of his opera Russalka that he had worked on for twenty years. 

His life has been described as a dolorous and radiant journey towards an increasingly abstract and immaterial form of self-denial. His method of writing involved painstakingly revising the same songs time and time again. He suffered a progression of illnesses and became almost totally blind. He saw everything in terms absence, expectancy, elsewhere. 

What we have been left is an alchemical distillation, a miraculous quintessence of impossible purity which he desired both desperately and despairingly. There are of course varying degrees of excellence. Baudelaire undoubtedly inspired the composer’s greatest achievements, but while Lahor and Prudhomme are emphatically not Baudelaire, their mediocre lyrics inspired great music, as has been the case throughout the history of art-song. When Duparc sets out to express what cannot be expressed, he reaches summits that few other song composers have attained. Listen for the refrain Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté in L’invitation au voyage; and the repeated supplication in Phidylé. Then there is the denial of the person of the beloved in Soupir – Ne jamais la voir ni l’entendre, Ne jamais tout haut la nommer – where desire itself becomes the object of desire (here in a song written for his wife but dedicated to his mother). And then there is Tristan’s dream in the word-by-word setting of Lahor’s Extase, the line Mort exquise, mort parfumée has a degree of distilled perfection that one can imagine taking years to achieve. Above all he brings us his extraordinary setting of Baudelaire’s La Vie antérieur, where, after the majestic vision of vastes portiques and grottes basaltiques – Les tout puissants accords de leur riche musique – all that is left is the l’unique soin d’approfondir, (the sole intent to make profound). Duparc’s make profound is absolute, without an object and leads to silence.