Friday, 2 March 2012

En Massenet

Whilst still a young man (aged 23), Jules Massenet - the centenary of whose death is being remembered this year - wrote a set of character pieces for piano, his Op.10. The fifth was called Élégie and hits the spot with a memorable, mournful melody (an opening rising octave followed by a falling chromatic scale and other shapely phrases) set against off-beat chords. Massenet must have known he was onto a winner as he went on to arrange this piano miniature for cello and piano as part of some incidental music he wrote for a play. He wasn't yet done with it, as he then proceeded to set this most singable of melody to words as a song called O doux printemps d'autrefois (a setting of Louis Gallet). As far as I can gather, Massenet wrote it for voice and piano, but you often hear it arranged for voice, cello and piano or for voice, viola and piano or for cello and orchestra.   There are other arrangements for different combinations and further instruments. Musicians seem to relish 'singing' Massenet's great melody, regardless of whether they are singers or instrumentalists. Who can blame them? 

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