RAVEL – PAVANE FOR A DEAD PRINCESS

Πλησιάζοντας στο τέλος του 19ου αιώνα το Παρίσι άλλαζε δραματικά και η φράση ‘Fin de siècle’ που χρησιμοποιήθηκε ευρέως αντικατοπτρίζει αυτή την αλλαγή. Σε πολλούς καλλιτέχνες και συνθέτες δόθηκε ο χαρακτηρισμός του Ιμπρεσιονιστή, μεταξύ των οποίων ο Maurice Ravel. Ο όρος Ιμπρεσιονιστής χρησιμοποιήθηκε για πρώτη φορά στην Γαλλική ζωγραφική την δεκαετία του 1870.  

Το 1874 ο κριτικός τέχνης Louis Leroy επινόησε τον όρο αυτό σε άρθρο του που δημοσιεύτηκε στις 23 Απριλίου, από το έργο του Κλόντ Μονέ Impression, Sunrise , που πρωτοπαρουσιάστηκε την ίδια χρονιά σε έκθεση που διοργανώθηκε από τον Εντγκάρ Ντεγκά στο εργαστήριο του διάσημου φωτογράφου Φελίξ Ναντάρ. (1873, Musée Marmottan, Paris). Οι ιμπρεσιονιστές θέλησαν να αποτυπώσουν την άμεση εντύπωση που προκαλεί ένα αντικείμενο ή μια καθημερινή εικόνα. 
‘Instead of painting an ideal of beauty that earlier artists had defined, the impressionists tried to depict what they saw at a given moment, capturing a fresh, original vision that was hard for some people to accept as beautiful. ‘

Συνηθίζουμε να αποκαλούμε μουσικό Ιμπρεσιονισμό μια συγκεκριμένη μουσική τάση που εκδηλώθηκε στη Γαλλία στις αρχές του 20ού αιώνα με κύριο άξονα και σημείο αναφοράς το έργο του Κλοντ Ντεμπισί (1862-1918). Η ονομασία αυτή δόθηκε κατ’ αντιστοιχία του ομώνυμου εικαστικού κινήματος των ετών 1860-1870, ενώ γύρω από το όνομα του Ντεμπισί συγκεντρώνεται μια πλειάδα σύγχρονών του συνθετών, που επηρεάστηκαν, σε μεγαλύτερο ή μικρότερο βαθμό, από το έργο του μεγάλου Γάλλου συνθέτη. Από την άτυπη αυτή «ομάδα» των ιμπρεσιονιστών συνθετών δεν λείπουν και αρκετοί Eλληνες που, λόγω της διαμονής τους στο Παρίσι την εποχή εκείνη, ήρθαν σε άμεση επαφή με αυτό το καινούργιο αισθητικό ρεύμα. Ο μουσικός Ιμπρεσιονισμός ακολουθεί χρονικά κατά μερικές δεκαετίες τον εικαστικό και ταυτίζεται με τις πρώτες δεκαετίες του εικοστού αιώνα, την περίφημη Μπελ Επόκ. Το 1918 ο Ζαν Κοκτώ δημοσιεύει ένα διαβόητο άρθρο με τίτλο Ο Κόκορας και ο Αρλεκίνος, όπου επιτίθεται βίαια στον Ιμπρεσιονισμό και στην αισθητική των προπολεμικών χρόνων. Την ίδια χρονιά ο Ντεμπισί πεθαίνει κι έτσι μπορούμε να πούμε ότι κλείνει επίσημα η ιμπρεσιονιστική περίοδος στη μουσική.

Με τον Ιμπρεσιονισμό ταυτίζεται και ο Maurice Ravel στην μουσική του οποίου απεικονίζεται το παρελθόν του στην ανατολική μουσική που γνώρισε δεκατεσσάρων ετών με την ‘the Russian five and the Javanese gamelan orchestra’. ‘I consider Japanese music the most sophisticated music of the Far East and I frequently derive themes from it, both harmonically and melodically’.

Η Παβάνα για μια νεκρή ινφάντα (σε μετάφραση), γράφτηκε το 1899 και περιέχει αρκετά Ισπανικά στοιχεία, τα οποία ίσως προέρχονται από την επίδραση που είχε επάνω του η Ισπανική μουσική εξαιτίας της μητέρας του. Είναι ένα πρώιμο δείγμα της ιμπρεσσιονιστικής του γραφής, καθώς ανάγεται στην περίοδο της μαθητείας του στο Ωδείο του Παρισιού, υπό τον Gabriel Faure. Στην πρωτότυπη πιανιστική εκδοχή του 1899 -η οποία δεν είχε μεγάλη απήχηση- το σύντομο αυτό κομμάτι παρουσιάστηκε σε πρώτη δημόσια εκτέλεση στις 5 Απριλίου του 1902 από τον διάσημο ισπανό πιανίστα και συμφοιτητή του συνθέτη Ricardo Viñes και από τότε άρχισε να γίνεται εξαιρετικά δημοφιλές. Η λεπταίσθητη ενορχήστρωσή του υλοποιήθηκε από τον Ravel πολλά χρόνια αργότερα, το 1910. Όταν ο Ravel παρουσίασε την  ορχηστρική έκδοση του κομματιού, έδωσε την κύρια μελωδία στο κόρνο. Η πρεμιέρα έγινε στις 27 February 1911 στο Μάντσεστερ υπό τον  Sir Henry Wood. Τότε γράφτηκε από τον κριτικό Samuel Langford: «The piece is hardly representative of the composer, with whom elusive harmonies woven in rapid figuration are the usual medium of expression. In the Pavane we get normal, almost archaic harmonies, subdued expression, and a somewhat remote beauty of melody.»
Ozawa Conucts Pavane pour une Infante Defunte (Ravel) 

Ο ίδιος ο Ravel χρησιμοποιούσε ένα πάρα πολύ αργό τέμπο για το έργο του σύμφωνα με τον βιογράφο του Benjamin Ivry. Ο κριτικός Emile Vuillermoz χαρακτήρισε την ερμηνεία του «unutterably slow.» Μετά από μια παρουσίαση του έργου από τον Charles Oulmont, ο οποίος έπαιξε το κομμάτι  υπερβολικά αργόσυρτα ο Ravel έκανε την σκωπτική παρατήρηση: «Την επόμενη φορά ελπίζω να θυμηθείτε ότι έγραψα μία παβάνα για μια νεκρή πριγκήπισσα, όχι μία νεκρή παβάνα για μια πριγκήπισσα…» Όταν ρωτήθηκε από τον συνθέτη Manoah Leide-Tedesco πως κατέληξε σε αυτόν τον τίτλο είπε: «Do not be surprised, that title has nothing to do with the composition. I simply liked the sound of those words and I put them there, c’est tout». Δηλαδή υποστήριζε ότι είχε επιλέξει τον συγκεκριμένο τίτλο πρωτίστως διότι του άρεσε ο ήχος των λέξεων σε αυτήν την φράση και δευτερευόντως επειδή θα μπορούσε ίσως να φανταστεί μια μικρή ισπανίδα πριγκήπισσα να χορεύει μιαν αργή παβάνα της αναγεννησιακής περιόδου.

Ο αξιοπερίεργος τίτλος του έργου ελάχιστα σχετίζεται με τα περιεχόμενα ενός απλούστατου πενταμερούς ρόντο σαν και αυτό, το βασικό θέμα του οποίου εμφανίζεται τρεις φορές στην Σολ-μείζονα διατηρώντας απαράλλακτη την νοσταλγική μελωδία του, ενώ και τα δύο επεισόδια που εναλλάσσονται με αυτό – στην Ρε-μείζονα και την σολ-ελάσσονα, αντιστοίχως – χαρακτηρίζονται από ήπιο λυρισμό μάλλον παρά ελεγειακή διάθεση. Παρ’ όλα αυτά, στην όλη ιστορία ενεπλέχθη τελικά και μία (ζωντανή) πριγκήπισσα, αφού ο συνθέτης αφιέρωσε την μικρή αυτή Παβάνα στην πριγκήπισσα de Polignac, μια σημαντική προστάτιδα των γραμμάτων, των τεχνών και των επιστημών στο Παρίσι των αρχών του 20ού αιώνος.

Η πρώτη ηχογράφηση έγινε στο Παρίσι το 1912 και αργότερα μια άλλη το 1932 υπό τον μαέστρο Pedro de Freitas-Branco, με την καθοδήγηση του ίδιου του Ravel, που ήταν παρόν τόσο στις πρόβες, όσο και στην ηχογράφηση. 

http://youtu.be/dX_5CFS7ojQ 

Σχετικά με την πριγκίπισσα de Polignac o Bruno Monsaingeon, στο βιβλίο του Mademoiselle: Conversations with Nadia Boulanger παρουσιάζει τα λόγια της ίδιας της Boulanger για την πριγκίπισσα:


“Princess de Polignac’s salon was one of the centres of artistic and musical life in Paris between the wars. Princess Edmond was an American and adored the arts. The birthday present she wanted as a girl of fifteen was a performance of a Beethoven quartet. Her collection of paintings was fabulous, and it was while arguing over the purchase of a painting that she met the man who was to become her husband, Prince Edmond de Polignac. It was even said that he finally decided to marry her in order to gain Monet’s Turkeys, which was part of his future wife’s collection.


She must have been at least thirty and he twice her age. As he himself was the son of elderly parents, she claimed that her father-in-law was born under Louis XV. Living in Paris, London or Venice, passionate about music, she had made the pilgrimage to Bayreuth in company with Chabrier and Fauré, and became one of the last great patrons in history. Everywhere she went, Greek was translated, Latin was translated, music was made. She’d arrive in London and an hour later, you’d be playing music or reading poems. How many soirées we all went to or helped with, where we played lots of Monteverdi, Schutz’s Resurrection, Carissimi’s Jephte, and then all the works she commissioned!

Much ill was said of her; but I only know her great generosity; she was not blind—she would discriminate. And with discrimination, she gave a great deal and is owed a great deal. There was the famous evening when her butler entered, appalled, «Madame la Princesse, four pianos have arrived. . . «. Stravinsky’s Les Noces was to be played for the first time”.
H Sylvia Kahan στα βιβλία της In Search of New Scales: Prince Edmond de Polignac, Octantonic Explorer και Music’s Modern Muse: A Life of Winnaretta Singer, Princesse de Polignac αναφέρει για την Winnaretta Singer-Polignac, η οποία ήταν το εικοστό (από τα εικοσιτέσσερα) παιδιά του γνωστού Isaac Merritt Singer που γενήθηκε πάμφτωχος και πέθανε ως ένας από τους πλουσιότερους βιομήχανους του κόσμου:

“At the time of Winnaretta’s birth, her father was busy renovating The Castle, intent on filling his house with the most up-to-date appliances and sumptuous furnishings that money could buy. A new coal furnace was installed to stave off the winter cold. The rooms were filled with costly and elegant furniture. Behind the main house, a hothouse was constructed in the form of a palace, with four separate wings for the different varieties of exotic flowers and plants. “We have just picked a bushel of oranges,” Isabella wrote to her mother, “and we have the most rare flowers all winter.” But oranges in winter could not replace the lively bustle of New York City. Twenty-three-year-old Isabella keenly felt the solitude of country life. 

The Singers’ home on Fifth Avenue had always been filled with Isaac’s business associates and friends, but in Yonkers the Singers were isolated, ignored by the local population. The only people her own age that Isabella saw were Isaac’s older children. In addition to caring for two infants, she had to minister to the needs of a fifty-three-year-old husband who was beginning to suffer from rheumatism and the other encroaching discomforts of middle age. Isaac’s ailments had no effect on his virility, however: only a few months after Winnaretta’s birth, Isabella found, to her dismay, that she was pregnant once more. She suffered a miscarriage in June, but was pregnant again by September. Finally, Isabella insisted that she could no longer endure the rural existence: if she must continue to bear children, she wished them to be born in Europe. This time her husband acceded. In November 1865, Singer sold The Castle and its possessions—including the canary-yellow carriage—to a hat manufacturer, and sailed for London with his growing brood. 

http://youtu.be/xJUtHptJM0M 
Early photographs of Winnaretta posed with her mother and three brothers when she was about three years old show a very serious-looking little girl. In these family portraits, Winnaretta’s chin juts out and the corners of her mouth turn downward, taking the shape of an upside-down “U.” This unfortunate configuration of features became a cause for comment by contemporary chroniclers in her adult life; one wonders therefore what sort of reaction Winnaretta’s seemingly “negative” demeanor may have evoked in those close to her during her formative years. The pretty and vain Isabella may have rejected a daughter who was not fashioned sufficiently in her own lovely image. The extant letters from Isabella to her own mother, which extend through Winnaretta’s fifteenth year, lend credence to this theory: after writing in March 1865 that her two-month-old daughter “is getting on very well,” Winnaretta is never again mentioned in her mother’s letters”.

http://youtu.be/8cinHj6sqlc 

O πρώτος της γάμος με τον πρίγκιπα Louis de Scey-Montbéliard ήταν αποτυχημένος και έτσι επιλέγει την λεσβιακή σεξουαλική συμπεριφορά. Κερδίζει την Παριζιάνικη αριστοκρατία και καθιερώνεται στους μουσικούς κύκλους του Παρισιού.  


“That summer, the Scey-Montbéliards made the round of villégiatures, or country house visits, an obligatory part of the aristocratic calendar. They traveled with Winnaretta’s brothers down to the Château de Tencin, the Grenoble estate of the Marquise Joséphine (“Mina”) de Monteynard, where Winnaretta and the Marquise spent their days painting and playing through the latest songs by Fauré. From there the Sceys continued on to Bayreuth to attend performances of Parsifal and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. That summer Meg Baugnies had arranged a mysterious “lottery,” whose proceeds allowed the impoverished Fauré and fellow composer André Messager to fulfill their unrealized dream of traveling to Bayreuth. Fauré was ecstatic to be in attendance, but he was puzzled by some unspecified behavior of Winnaretta’s, which prompted him to write to Meg, “Madame de Scey-Montbéliard is three parts mad!!!” It was a madness that clearly appealed to the composer, however. Upon his return to Paris he gave Winnaretta a gift of a little piece of music, a one page manuscript in his own hand bearing the comical title Pensée fugitive mais définitive—“Fugitive but Definitive Thought, by Roger Jourdain, transcribed for three hands and one foot by G. Fauré.”

In November 1888 the Scey-Montbéliards traveled to Paignton for a series of balls and festivities given in honor of the coming-of-age of Paris Singer, who had married in 1887, and was now a family man and the new proprietor of the family estate. Other than brief mentions in newspaper articles, there is not much indication of how the Prince de Scey spent his time during his marriage. But it is clear that while Winnaretta may have paid obeisance to social convention on the surface, privately she did what pleased her, with or without her husband. She continued to entertain her avant-garde friends. An anecdote concerning Chabrier recounted by Francis Poulenc, who had had the story confirmed by Winnaretta herself, reveals the extent to which the composer felt free to speak “in the vernacular” in front of his hostess. One evening after the performance of Gwendoline, Chabrier dined with the Princesse de Scey. When his hostess had passed him asparagus, he leaned over to her, and said in an easily audible stage whisper, “You eat that, Madame, and it will make your urine stink!”

Ένας δεύτερος γάμος με τον πρίγκιπα Edmond de Polignac, συνθέτη και ομοφυλόφιλο αποδεικνύεται περισσότερο επιτυχής. Η κοινή τους αγάπη και το πάθος για την μουσική  ενώνει την Winnaretta και τον  Edmond:


“With Edmond at her side, Winnaretta began her second career as an aristocratic musical hostess in Paris. Despite the fact that the Carriès and Fauré commissions had not been completed, Winnaretta decided nonetheless to “open” her atelier in early 1894, albeit without the intended fanfare. By day, the newly renovated atelier was Winnaretta’s painting studio; by night it became a recital hall. Measuring ten by twelve-and-a-half meters (roughly thirty-three by forty-one feet), the room was large enough to seat comfortably one hundred people. The vaulted ceiling was two stories high; a narrow balcony, built around the upper story’s west and south walls, housed the magnificent Cavaillé-Coll organ, whose pipes rose impressively to ceiling height. Below, the room was decorated in Louis XVI style, with Winnaretta’s favorite colors of blue and green predominating. Two grand pianos dominated one wall. Despite the formal décor, the wood-panelled walls gave the room a warm, homey atmosphere.

On Tuesday nights during that first winter of their marriage, the Polignacs hosted a series of “organ soirees,” where the great organists of the capital —Gigout, Widor, Vierne, Guilmant, Fauré—performed on the Cavaillé- Coll. Le Figaro reported on Winnaretta’s “organ evenings, so highly sought after in Parisian high society,” helping to add luster to her growing reputation as a musical hostess. On other evenings, chamber music was played. Still other gatherings featured Edmond’s music, often accompanied by Winnaretta or Fauré. Not all those who frequented the Polignac salon were there to hear the music, however, nor were they prepared to respect the musical interests of those who were. Some of the guests were there simply to see and be seen in the newest salon in the Parisian social landscape. Many of them had no qualms about jostling their spoons against their teacups, concentrating their attentions on their neighbors’ garb, or, worse, chattering to their neighbor through the course of the performance. Some of the husbands, required to accompany their wives on their social rounds, simply slept through the sonatas or the arias. But for the true mélomanes in the crowd, those who had come expressly for the performances, the seriousness of purpose surrounding the execution of the music must have been a welcome surprise.”

http://youtu.be/Kr9tZqPcvZ0 

Το μουσικό σαλόνι των Polignacs γίνεται ο κόμβος της Παριζιάνικης μουσικής avant-garde. Το “νέο κύμα” που περιλαμβάνει τον Debussy και τον  Ravel, έρχεται για να ακούσει πρωτοπόρες νέες συνθέσεις σε ένα ακουστικά ιδανικό περιβάλλον. Συγγραφείς όπως ο  Marcel Proust, ο  Jean Cocteau και η Colette γράφουν τις εντυπώσεις τους από τις επισκέψεις τους στο σαλόνι των Polignac. Μετά τον θάνατο του Edmond  το 1901, η Winnaretta αφιέρωσε την υπόλοιπη ζωή της στο να προωθήσει την μνήμη του, υποστηρίζοντας νέα έργα μοντέρνων συνθετών όπως : οι Fauré, Stravinsky, Satie, Falla, Poulenc, Germaine Tailleferre και Kurt Weill, μεταξύ άλλων. Η αρχική ιδέα της Winnaretta ήταν να δημιουργήσει ένα κύριο repertoire που θα ταίριαζε ειδικά στον μικρό χώρο. Ο Stravinsky ήταν πρώτος που έλαβε  την χορηγία της:


“Listening to Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, Winnaretta experienced something of an epiphany, setting her on a path that would define the rest of her life as a patron. She was struck by the opera’s small dramatic proportions and play-within-a-play format, which included comic elements and characters drawn from the Italian commedia dell’arte. The music too was written for small ensemble, a chamber orchestra of thirty-six players. In short, Ariadne was a work that might fit comfortably into a sufficiently capacious home space like the Polignac salon…She started to imagine her salon as the ideal place to launch a new repertoire reflecting this new style, and she decided “to ask different composers to write short works for me for small orchestra of about twenty performers.” And the first composer who came to mind was the one that most represented to her the future of musical modernism: Stravinsky. By the time she returned to Paris Winnaretta’s plan was fully formulated. She wrote to Stravinsky on 20 November.


You know my very great admiration for your talent. You will not be surprised then that I thought of you in asking you to write for me a pantomime, or a symphonic work, which would belong to me and which I would have played in my music room which you are familiar with. It would obviously have to be a short work and for a small orchestra—maybe 30 to 36 musicians. Will you permit me to propose that you accept for this work a sum of 3000 francs—and to ask you if it could be finished around the 8th of April so that I can have it performed at my house around the end of April or the beginning of May. 

Stravinsky apparently responded to the plan with enthusiasm, offering Winnaretta the exclusive rights of performance until such time that the part would be published. She jumped into the details of the plan with fervor:


Does the following orchestra suit you? 5 1st violins, 5 2nd violins, 3 violas, 2 cellos (or 3), 1 bass, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 1 harp, 1 percussion. The performance date could be put off until the month of November next if your work prevents you from being ready earlier. I had thought of a piece which could last around 15 minutes.

And two days later: 

To my list of yesterday there could be added perhaps a piano and a celesta—but do what will suit you best. Do you have something for 2 pianos or 4 hands that I could play?
It is astonishing to read these words, in which Winnaretta essentially dictates the orchestration of the proposed work to the composer, but Stravinsky did not seem to take offense; on the contrary, he got into the spirit of things:

Now having thought about my future work I have decided to compose a Concerto for Piano and Orchestra. So here are the instruments that I would need: 2 Flutes (the 1st changing to the piccolo), 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets (the 2nd changing to the Bass Clarinet), 2 Bassoons (and the Contrabassoon if that would be possible), 2 Horns in F, 2 Trumpets in C, 2 Tympani, a Grand Piano (of course), a Harp, 2 Quartets (2 First Violins, 2 Second Violins, 2 Violas, 2 Cellos) and a Double Bass. . . . Unfortunately I have nothing to offer you in the way of 2- or 4-hand music except an old thing (4 Études pour piano—rather difficult besides) that you wouldn’t like, I’m certain”.

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