Scènes alsaciennes (Souvenirs), Suite for orchestra No.7
ules Massenet – Scènes alsaciennes (Souvenirs)
(Montaud, Saint-Étienne, 12 May 1842 – Paris, 13 August 1912)
Suite for orchestra No.7
Dimanche matin (Allegretto moderato) p.1
Au cabaret (Allegro) p.24
Sous les tilleuls (Adagio sostenuto) p.62
Dimanche soir (Allegro moderato) p.75
Premiered: Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, 19 March 1882, Concerts Colonne
Published: Georges Hartmann, Paris, 1882
As well as operatic music, Jules Massenet most widely known as the composer of Manon, Werther and Thaïs, wrote seven suites for orchestra which (unjustly) are nowadays not often performed. One of the better known of these is Scènes alsaciennes (Suite n. 7). In this piece, Massenet offers an unfettered outpouring of the nostalgia he feels for the now lost Alsace, a region he had discovered whilst serving in the Garde Nationale during the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871. French defeat led to the painful loss of Alsace and Lorraine, causing the population to desire revanche, of a cultural kind too; this prompted the French to create a series of products representing the spirit of their nation, in contrast, first and foremost, to the German repertoire.
One of the areas ‘overlooked’ by French musicians over the course of the Nineteenth Century was that of purely instrumental music; concert programmes often referred to the ‘exemplary’ German Romantic tradition, while local composers were concerned with satisfying the needs of the various Parisian theatres with their operatic products. After 1871, the cultural revanche expressed itself in music through the creation of indigenous instrumental pieces: made in France.
One of the ways in which a distinctive French footprint was added to a piece was by referencing a specific region and its intrinsic characteristics. It was largely the landscapes and melodies of the Midi which caught the French composers’ imagination, but there were also homages to Celtic Brittany, the mountains of Auvergne and to regions on the border, such as Alsace.
For his seventh and final suite, Massenet took inspiration from one of the Contes du lundi by the writer Alphonse Daudet, entitled Alsace ! Alsace !. It was published as part of the collection in 1873, but had already appeared on the pages of ‘L’Événement’ on 26 August 1872. When the piece was first performed by Concerts Colonne on 19 March 1882 at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, each of the four episodes through which the suite progresses was preceded in the programme by a nostalgic comment from Daudet: …
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210 x 297 mm