Jules Massenet – Manon

(b. Montaud near Saint-Étienne, 12. May 1842 – d. Paris, 13. August 1912)

While Jules Massenet with his opera Manon became the leading French opera composer virtually overnight, the initial success of his stage work was short-lived: nine years after its premiere at the Opéra comique on 19. January 1884, Giacomo Puccini finished his Manon Lescaut, another setting of the same literary model, thereby banishing Massenet’s work almost completely from the stage. Set to music in five acts and six scenes, and inspired by Abbé Prévost’s L’Histoire du Chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut from 1731, the opera is unmistakably written in the spirit of La Belle Époque, a late pinnacle of the Tragédie lyrique. However, by choosing Prévost’s novel, which Henri Meilhac and Philippe Gillein made into a libretto, Massenet went against the moral stereotypes of his époque: the description of female sexuality and its power to dismantle the social rules was a scandal in those days.  […]

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Ion Dumitrescu – The Third Suite (1944)

(b. 1913, Oteşani – d. 1996, Bucharest)

In the landscape of Romanian musical creation, Ion Dumitrescu is a prominent figure, representing the second post-Enescu generation. He was born in 1913 in Oteşani, a rural area with an idyllic and ancestral appearance in South-West Romania. He studied at the Theological Seminary in Râmnicu Vâlcea, the county seat of the area, between 1925 and 1933. He finished his musical studies at the Bucharest Conservatory, being taught by some of the most important musicians of the time: Mihail Jora, Dimitrie Cuclin, Constantin Brăiloiu, George Breazul, Ionel Perlea. With Mihail Jora (1891–1971)1 he specialized in the study of composition. After graduating, he was a music teacher at two prestigious high schools in Bucharest, where he taught theory-solfège at the academy of Religious Music and the Jazz Conservatory, as well as harmony at the Military High School, between 1940 and 1944. He worked as conductor and composer at the National Theatre in Bucharest between 1940 and 1947. Since 1944 he was professor of theory-solfège and subsequently of harmony at the Bucharest Conservatory until his retirement in 1979. He was the chair of the composition department between 1956 and 1979. He enthusiastically fulfilled his pedagogical duties, being a creative professor, endowed with an irresistible personal charm. For his numerous series of pupils and students he constantly composed harmony themes that he spontaneously created, at the blackboard, in front of his disciples, demonstrating an exceptional melodic inventiveness. Also for pedagogical purposes, he composed the collection 120 Superior Solfèges, which benefited from a long-term popularity in the world of musical schools, precisely because of his amazing abilities to create melodies. He possessed numerous and varied artistic gifts. He had a strong passion for visual arts, being one of the most important painting collectors, especially interested in the works of great Romanian artists. He was a talented literary author, particularly gifted in the genre of autobiographical writing, in the last period of his life publishing a remarkable diary in feuilleton, entitled My Calendar Pages. He also wrote a booklet about old Bucharest, articles, studies and press commentaries. He passed away in 1996, in Bucharest…

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 Alfredo Casella – La Giara

(b. Turin, 25 July 1883 – d. Rome, 5 March 1947)

In the spring of 1924, the New York socialite Mary Hoyt Wiborg (1888-1964) boarded a train in Paris bound for Rome to meet with Alfredo Casella. She was delivering a request from Erik Satie for Casella to consider writing a ballet score for the 1924-25 season of the Ballets Suédois.1 The impresario of the ballet company, Rolf de Maré had originally intended to approach Poulenc for the 1924-25 season, given his tremendous success of the ballet Les Biches for Diaghilev and the Ballet Russe, which had been premiered in Monte Carlo in Jan 1924 (then being performed in Paris in May 1924). However, the acrimonious nature of the relationship that existed between Satie and Poulenc after Poulenc and the music critic Louis Laloy (1874-1944) became friends resulted in Satie, who detested Laloy, promoting Casella for the ballet commission.

A few days after Wiborg had met with Casella in Rome and discussed Satie’s request, Casella departed to meet with de Maré in Paris. The meeting was a success and it was agreed that Casella would write a ballet for the upcoming season that would fully embrace an Italian cultural flavour in the manner of Manuel de Falla’s Spanish flavoured ballet El sombrero de tres picos that had been such a success for Diaghilev and the Ballet Russe in 1919 …

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Rimsky-Korsakov, Nicolai

Majskaja notsch / «May Night» (Vocal Score with Russian & German libretto)

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