Composer: Henri Duparc (b. 1848 - d. 1933)
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Composer: Henri Duparc (b. 1848 - d. 1933)

Performance date: 03/07/2019

Venue: St. Brendan’s Church

Composition Year: 1848 - 1933

Duration: 00:38:32

Recording Engineer: Gar Duffy, RTÉ

Instrumentation: S-solo, pf

Instrumentation Category:Duo

Artists: Anna Devin - [soprano]
Joseph Middleton - [piano]

Entends, ma chère, entends la douce Nuit qui marche (Listen, my dear, listen to the gentle Night advancing) Charles Baudelaire 

story is the strangest. His entire oeuvre consists of sixteen songs,
three of which he later disowned. He wrote all these songs between his
twentieth and thirty-sixth birthdays and after that nothing, although he
lived for almost another fifty years. The most astounding thing of all
is that these thirteen short songs are all masterpieces and essential
landmarks in the history of French music. So his life-story saw an
extraordinary outburst of creativity followed by an appalling silence,
an utter darkness and a not-so-gentle night. 

companion and carer throughout his long silence was the Irish singer,
Ellie Mc Swiney, from Macroom. When she was only seventeen she moved
with her mother to Paris to study singing and piano. She and her mother
lived in the same apartment building as Vincent d’Indy with whom she
sang and played duets at his salon. In the early years of her marriage
to Duparc, their home was frequented by luminaries such as Saint-Saëns,
Massener, Franck, Bizet, Chabrier and Fauré. They had two sons and her
career was cut short by Duparc’s illness, which aggravated his nascent
self-criticism. He burnt the manuscript of his opera Russalka that he
had worked on for twenty years. 

His life has been
described as a dolorous and radiant journey towards an increasingly
abstract and immaterial form of self-denial. His method of writing
involved painstakingly revising the same songs time and time again. He
suffered a progression of illnesses and became almost totally blind. He
saw everything in terms absence, expectancy, elsewhere. 

we have been left is an alchemical distillation, a miraculous
quintessence of impossible purity which he desired both desperately and
despairingly. There are of course varying degrees of excellence.
Baudelaire undoubtedly inspired the composer’s greatest achievements,
but while Lahor and Prudhomme are emphatically not Baudelaire, their
mediocre lyrics inspired great music, as has been the case throughout
the history of art-song. When Duparc sets out to express what cannot be
expressed, he reaches summits that few other song composers have
attained. Listen for the refrain Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté in
L’invitation au voyage; and the repeated supplication in Phidylé. Then
there is the denial of the person of the beloved in Soupir – Ne jamais
la voir ni l’entendre, Ne jamais tout haut la nommer – where desire
itself becomes the object of desire (here in a song written for his wife
but dedicated to his mother). And then there is Tristan’s dream in the
word-by-word setting of Lahor’s Extase, the line Mort exquise, mort
parfumée has a degree of distilled perfection that one can imagine
taking years to achieve. Above all he brings us his extraordinary
setting of Baudelaire’s La Vie antérieur, where, after the majestic
vision of vastes portiques and grottes basaltiques – Les tout puissants
accords de leur riche musique – all that is left is the l’unique soin
d’approfondir, (the sole intent to make profound). Duparc’s make profound
is absolute, without an object and leads to silence.