With conductor Federico Santi, Soprano Sílvia Sequeira, Symphonic Orchestra and Choir of Conservatorium Maastricht. With music by Fauré, Chausson and Poulenc.
G. Fauré (1845 – 1924) Pavane Op. 50 (1887) with choir
E. Chausson (1855 –1899) Poème de l'amour et la mer Op. 19 (1882-1892)
Soloist, Silvia Ferreira Sequeira
F. Poulenc (1899 – 1963) Sinfonietta, FP 141, (1947)
About the programme
From Piano Piece to Ballet Music
Gabriël Fauré considered his Pavane to be “elegant, certainly, but not particularly important”. Nowadays it is one of his most popular works. In that sense, the Pavane belongs in the same category as Beethoven's Mondscheinsonate and the Carnaval des Animaux by Saint-Saëns: popular pieces that the composers themselves were not particularly proud of. Fauré did not initially envisage his short Pavane becoming a big project, and wrote it for piano. It was only when he decided to dedicate it to his patron, Countess Élisabeth Greffulhe (1860-1952), that he felt compelled to make it a grander affair. In fact, it was the Countess herself who suggested creating a version for chorus and orchestra. The chorus sing verses by Robert de Montesquiou (1855-1921), the Countess's cousin. De Montesquiou was given the job of setting words to the already existing music. As illustrated by the last sentence of the piece, he opted for the romantic topic of the helplessness of man: “Adieu donc et bons jours aux tyrans de nos coeurs!” (“Farewell and good days for the tyrants of our hearts!”). Fauré also created a version with dancers which, with the Countess's help, premiered in 1891. The chorus and orchestra were placed behind the stage, hidden from the audience's view. In 1917, the piece was picked up by Sergei Diaghilev of the Ballets Russes, a Russian ballet company based in Paris, who commissioned Fauré to create an extensive ballet score for the Pavane. Performed in tonight's concert is the version for orchestra and chorus. Listening to the well-known opening flute theme, it is hard to image fact that Fauré himself played the piece rather briskly on the piano. He probably wanted to avoid it becoming too romantic, too 'German'. These days, the tempo usually chosen is considerably slower than Fauré envisaged.
Love in Nature
“L’air est plain d’une odeur exquise de lilas” (“The air is full of an exquisite smell of lilacs”) is the first sentence of the song cycle Poème de l’amour et de la mer (Poem of love and the sea) by Ernest Chausson. This sentence is typical of the symbolism in the latter half of the nineteenth century: realism and naturalism were rejected, and imagination and intuition were given centre stage. Artists sparked the imagination with the extraordinary and inexplicable. The sea, the moon, the wind, the sky; everything in this cycle paints the emotions of a love story, with lyrics written by Chausson's friend Maurice Bouchor (1855-1929). Chausson set six of his poems to music, separated by orchestral interludes. The poems are divided into two sets of three; the orchestral interlude after the third poem is longer, with beautiful bassoon and violin solos. In the first three poems, with the umbrella title La fleur des eaux (The flower of the waters), the sea still reflects the sun-drenched amorous bliss. It leads to a climax, followed by a blissful vision of love (“A beautiful girl was there upon the shore, smiling with a tender wildness”). At the end of the first three poems, there is already a sense of the impending end: “Que ce soit l’heure de l’adieu” (“Let it be time to say goodbye”). After the elaborate interlude, there is a change of season in the last three poems, jointly entitled La Mort de l’amour (The Death of Love). Black skies, howling winds and dead leaves symbolise a turning point in the story; “Moi, tout mon sang se glaçait en voyant mon aimée étrangement sourire” (“All my blood froze, seeing my beloved smile strangely”). A final lament about the irretrievable time of lilacs and a melancholy cello part sound, ending in the conclusion that love is forever dead.
By using the name Sinfonietta, the diminutive form of symphony, Francis Poulenc adopted a humble attitude. He was keenly aware of the fact that he had never had any formal music training. His wealthy parents preferred him to study business, so he could join the family's pharmaceutical company. When, at the age of eighteen, he had lost both parents, he dared to devote all of his attention to music. This was short-lived, as he was soon conscripted into the French army for the final months of the First World War and a few post-war years. Returning from this harsh environment to civil society in the early 1920s, he was even more convinced that should live life the way he wanted: in music. He asked Erik Satie (1866-1925) if he could join the group of creative spirits he had formed. Under Satie's wing, in the so-called Groupe des Six, he developed into a composer of light, charming music. He was fortunate in having an audience that was turning against the traditional Late Romantic style, a genre that would certainly have required more schooling from Poulenc. With the Sinfonietta, Poulenc intended to compose a work full of character with a colourful orchestration. The four-movement Sinfonietta indeed has an abundance of characters, dance rhythms and catchy melodies. The folk themes of the fourth movement are reminiscent of Haydn's symphony finales. The sudden mood changes in the Sinfonietta, from melancholy to energetic, may have been inspired by Poulenc's bipolar disorder. He never had the ambition to develop the Sinfonietta into a large symphony, and the work has been criticised for the weakness of its structure. The composer's response was: "don't analyse my music - love it!".
About Federico Santi
Born in Turin, where he has studied composition, orchestra conducting, piano and chamber music, Federico Santi is a musician to wide spectrum today, with a notable repertoire to his asset.
He won the first prize and special prize of the Theater of the Opéra de Nice during the IV International Competition for conductors of Orvieto in 2008. As a conductor he has been in prestigious music centers and as young conductor he conducted Manon Lescaut in the “Het Concertgebouw” of Amsterdam, La traviata in the Theater Bunkakaican of Tokyo, Il trovatore in the Opera Bellas Artes of Mexico City, Lucia di Lammermoor, Lucrezia Borgia, Anna Bolena, La favorita, Linda di Chamounix, Gemma di Vergy, La sonnambula, Il Pirata, Beatrice di Tenda at Mariinsky Theater of St. Petersburg and I Capuleti e i Montecchi during the prestigious Festival “Stars of the White Nights”.
He has debuted and conducted more than 50 operas. His many accomplishments include the first execution of Le sabotage amoureux/D. Schell on a novel of Amélie Nothomb and La bohème for the Opéra Royal de Wallonie, I Capuleti e Montecchi, Il barbiere di Siviglia to Teatro Comunale di Bologna and a tour in Japan, W la mamma/Donizetti and Die Entführung aus dem Serail to the Opéra of Rouen, Nabucco to the Forest National of Bruxelles, Madama Butterfly to Teatro del Bicentenario of León, Mexico, Peter Grimes to the Opéra Grand Avignon, Une education manquée/ Chabrier and La voix humain/Poulenc to Montpellier, Cavalleria rusticana/ Pagliacci for the Ente Luglio Musicale Trapanese, Il cappello di paglia di Firenze/Rota for the Ente concerti”M. de Carolis” Sassari, Don Carlo for the Festival of Alexandria, Petite Messe Solennelle/Rossini, Requiem/Mozart and Faurè in the Cathedral in Turin, Le nozze di Figaro and Tosca for the National Opera of Timisoara, the Stabat Mater/Haydn for the Accademia Stefano Tempia of Turin, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Manon Lescaut and Die lustige Witwe/Lehar to the Festival of Alden Biesen, L’Elisir d’amore at Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Theatre Moscow.
He has also dedicated himself to the study and deepening of a vast symphonic repertoire, conducting numerous symphonic concerts, from Haydn to contemporary composers, with particular regard to German, Russian and French romanticism and post-romanticism.
Federico is guest conductor at Mariinsky Theater of St. Petersburg. He is currently working on numerous recitals and concerts in collaboration with the soprano Barbara Haveman and he teaches orchestration, playing from score and knowledge of instruments and he is coordinator opera at Conservatorium Maastricht.