by ARTHUR F. EDWARDS
"Planning a program is like planning a good meal ... You don't end a meal with a roast. You finish with a light dessert."- Roger Wagner, 1972.
French music, like French cuisine, is unique. From the time of Charlemagne, who imported musicians from Rome and proceeded to transform the Roman liturgy, France has played an important, if occasionally insular role in the development of Western music.
In her periods of greatest influence (particularly during the middle Baroque and the early years of this century) France has produced a highly stylized, extremely cultured, sometimes artificial body of music. Spontaneity has seldom (except in folksongs and provincial cuisine) been considered a desirable trait. Haut cuisine and musique classique tend to improve upon nature. Unskilled efforts produce a desiccated, stylized vapidity, but in the right hands the result is exquisite perfection.
Inspired by remarks of Le Grand Roger, we offer the following pleasant conceit for your delectation. May the effect be worthy of the music and the food of La Belle France.
UN REPAS DE MUSIQUE
Deux Motets: Duruflé. These exquisitely honed adaptations of chant hymns (two of a group of four), like a mild paté, prepare one for the repast to follow.
Soupe a I'Ognion gratinee
L'Adieu des Bergers: Berlioz. Distinctively flavored, little substance - not filling.
(Montrachet, 1964--a white Burgundy from Cote de Beaune)
Deux Motets: Poulenc. A peculiarly French delicacy - "with plenty of garlic." (R.W.)
Musiques Royales: Lully. Lully, the father of French opera, the developer of the French overture, the architect of the Baroque orchestra, protégé of Louis XIV who elevated him to the nobility, was born Giovanni Baptista Lulli in Florence, Italy! It may reassure those shocked by the above to know that his entire adult life was spent in close proximity to le Roi Soleil. His early demise was brought about by an overly vigorous downbeat causing a fatal abscess in his foot (they pounded the floor with large batons in those days).
Medaillons de Saumon en Aspic
De Profundis: de La Lande. A small portion (four out of eleven sections). It was the privilege of the Chorale to meet Cardinal Tisserant in Rome during their 1966 tour. Dean of the College of Cardinals, prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Churches, administrator of the Vatican library, linguist, and paleographer, Tisserant had been honored by France as a hero during the First World War. (La Romanee Conti, 7967-the greatest and scarcest Burgundy.)
Faisan a Ia Perigueux
Trois Chansons: Ravel. The composer, serving as his own lyricist, has created a rich and complex concoction aptly matched by pheasant with truffles.
Noisette d' Agneau garniture
Concerto da Camera: Honegger. After the fantasy of the entree, one is ready for subdued complexities. The flûte and cor anglais garnish the main body of strings. The melancholy second movement is evocative of the sacrificial role of lamb.
Salade Endive au Noix
Trois Chansons: Debussy. Like Duruflé, Debussy creates an air of simplicity masking great intricacy of technique in these settings of poems by Charles d'Orleans. A crisp salad spiced by the crunch of walnuts.
Fromage de Brie
Cantique de jean Racine: Fauré. Simple and lovely: a melody by Fauré, a cheese after a banquet.
Framboises aux Kirsch
Trois Chansons de Ia Renaissance: le Jeune, Sermisy, Passereau. Raspberries in a cherry distillate from the Vosges -a delicate but heady conclusion. (Cafe Filtre et Remy Martin Napoleon - a great cognac from the heart of the Champagne district and coffee) Au Revoir.