Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/607

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SONG.

stands the 'Marseillaise,' which has won im- mortality for its author and composer, Rouget de Lisle. Next in merit come three songs of MeTiuFs, viz. the ' Chant du Depart,' words by Che'nier ; the 'Chant du Retour '; and the 'Chant de Victoire.' And by the side of these may be placed the 'Reveil du Peuple,' by Souriquere de S. Marc, music by Gaveaux; 1 and Desorgues' 'Pere de 1'Univers,' set by Gossec. Contemporary with the foregoing songs, but on a lower level of political importance, were 'Cadet Rousselle' ; the ' Chanson du Roi Dagobert ' ; ' Fanf an la Tulipe ' ; a the 'Chanson de Roland'; *Te souviens-tu?'; 'Le re*cit du Caporal'; and many others which it would be tedious to enumerate.

It may here be observed, parenthetically, that from the first introduction of chansons ballade'es that is, dance-songsdown to the present day, 6-8 time has predominated over every other measure in French songs. They still retain the peculiarity of giving each syllable (including the final e) a separate note ; and so long as the tune be rhythmical and piquant, and the words witty and amusing, the French taste exacts but little in respect of harmony or accompaniment, or in- deed of general musical structure. The success of these songs depends greatly on the way they are sung. These remarks, however, refer only to the lighter classes of chansons ; and are not so applicable to patriotic or lyric songs.

After the accession of Napoleon and the ac- companying revival of monarchical traditions, the demand for romances was more eager than ever, and there was no lack of composers ready to supply it. The most successful was Plantade, whose melodies were tuneful and tender, while his accompaniments exhibit a certain dramatic power. His best romances are ' Ma peine a de- yance 1'aurore ' ; ' Languir d' amour, ge"mir de ton silence'; and 'Te bien aimer, 6 ma chere Zelie': of these the last is the best. Garat, Pradher, and Lambert were Plantade's chief rivals. An- other popular contemporary was Dalvimare, who combined wit and knowledge of the world with much musical erudition: his 'Chant hdroique du Cid ' is really a fine song. For information re- specting Choron, the author of 'La Sentinelle,' and the founder of a school whence issued Duprez, Scudo, Monpou, and others who were both singers and composers the reader must turn to another page of this Dictionary. [See CHORON.] Conspicuous among the numerous Italian composers who cultivated French romances with success was Blangini ; from him the French romance caught, as M. Scudo has pointed out, some of the morbidezza of the Italian canzonetta. As a musician, however, Blangini was better known to the Parisians than to his own country- men. And in any list of the distinguished writers of romances at this period, the names of two women, Mme. Gail and Queen Hortense, should certainly be included. The former was the better

��1 This song has been called the ' Marseillaise ' of the Therm Idor re- action. ('La Lyre Fran9aise,' by G. Masson.)

2 An old song of irregular metre, set to an old tune, and extremely popular from 1792 to about 1802.

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��musician, and proofs of study are given by her romance ' Vous qui priez, priez pour moi.' About Queen Hortense there was more of the amateur composer. Having read some poem that took her fancy, she would sit down to the pianoforte and find an air that went to it ; she would then play it to her friends, and if approved by them would confide it to Drouet, or Carbonnel, or Plantade, to put the air into musical shape, and provide it with an accompaniment. Her most successful songs were 'Partant pour la Syrie'; 'Vous me quittez pour aller a la gloire,' and 'Reposez-vous, bon chevalier.' Of these the first is the most famous, and the last has most musical merit. 3

As a general reflection on the songs which have just passed under our review, it may be said that their most common fault is the en- deavour to express inflated sentiments with in- adequate means. A discrepancy is constantly felt between the commonplace simplicity of the accompaniments and modulations and the intense sentimentality or turgid pomposity of the words. The disparity can only be concealed by an amount of dramatic and expressive singing which very few singers possess. This prevalent defect cannot, however, be imputed to Romagnesi, who began as a choir-boy under Choron ; his 300 romances and chansonettes are free from it. The melodies are clearly defined and well adapted for the voice, and the accompaniments strike a mean between pretension and bald simplicity. ' L'attente,' ' La dormeuse,' 'L' Angel us,' and 'Le re"ve' may be cited as good illustrations of his merits. The same praise may be accorded to A. de Beauplan, who in freshness and piquancy was even superior to Romagnesi. And of others who wrote about the same time and in the same style, it will suffice to mention the names of Panseron, Bru- guiere, Jadin, Mengal, Dolive, Goule\ Berton, Pollet, Lis, Scudo, Mme. Malibran, the famous singer, and Mme. Duchambge. But perhaps the reputation of Mme. Duchambge was in no small degree due to the skill with which Nourrit sang her songs, such as ' L'ange gardien ' and 'Penses-tu que ce soit aimer.'

Out of the revolutionary era of 1830 there came in France a splendid burst of lyric poetry. It was the era of Victor Hugo, Lamartine, Casi- mir Delavigne, Alfred de Musset and Be"ranger ; and it was natural that the Song should be responsive to the poetic movement of the time. In 1828 Monpou published Be*ranger's 'Si j'etais petit oiseau ' for three voices, and at once at- tracted the notice of the poets of the Romantic

  • Scudo, In his ' Literature et Critique musicales,' tells the follow-

ing story of ' Keposez-vous, bon chevalier,' on the authority of Mile. Cochelet, who was for a long time attached to Queen Hortense, ' Not- withstanding a slight cough, and the doctor's prohibition, the Queen continued to sing more than was good for her. In the morning she used to compose her romance*, being then alone, and In the evening she played them in her salon, allowing her audience to criticise. BI . Alexandra de Laborde was the author whose words she generally selected to set to music. His was " Partant pour la Syrie." Such was the ease with which the Queen composed the melodies of her romances that she attached little value to them. And she was on the point of tearing up " Keposez-vous, bon chevalier," because in the evening when she gave it, several persons confessed that they did not like it. Luckily, Carbonnel was consulted, and he pronounced the air to be the very best that the Queen had as yet composed.'

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