ANNOUNCER: This is a production of Cornell University.
LAURENT FERRI: Friends, good evening. It is my pleasure to introduce briefly the concert in conjunction with the exhibition "Lafayette: Citizen of Two Worlds" that will be on view in Kroch Library through April, 2008. I would like to thank again both the benevolent performers, Damien, pianist, Marie-Claire, and Annette-- Marie-Claire Vallois and Annette Richards-- and our co-sponsors, Cornell Library, the Society for the Humanities, and the French Studies program.
When it comes to Lafayette in music, there are two ways, in my view, to tackle the topic. One is to see what place music held in Lafayette's private and public life as the years proceed, and what kind of music. I'm afraid the answer is not like all music, as they say in French. As a matter of fact, Lafayette didn't get any musical education, and he never pretended to connoisseurship. He never knew musicians personally. In his correspondence, you will find letters to and from painters like Ary Scheffer, sculptors like Houdon and David d'Angers, writers like Madame de Stael, Mary Shelley, or Fennimore Cooper, but not from composers.
His only personal connection with the music world was very indirect indeed. It was his friendship with John Jacob Astor, the wealthiest man of his time, who had worked in London for his brother George manufacturing musical instruments before coming to America in 1784. Now, in James Ivory's film Jefferson in Paris, 1995, you can hear Lafayette singing in tune a lovely hymn celebrating the advent of virtue in 1789. But it is most likely because the actor playing Lafayette, Lambert Wilson, has himself a very nice voice.
In reality, as far as we know, Lafayette did not have a remarkable voice. And his favorite music was most likely military music-- as for many French politicians with links to the military, up to President Jacques Chirac. Former President Chirac. Excuse me.
As a general at age 21, Lafayette was good at using this particular genre of music when circumstances involved music to be played, especially during formal ceremonies like parades or renditions. In his Cultural History of the American Revolution, published in 1976, Kenneth Silverman mentions, for example, that during the ceremony of rendition in Yorktown in 1781, the British forces marched to the fife tune of an English ballad, "When the King Enjoys his Own Again," ironically performed by the Americans. As the British marched out between parallel columns of the victors, they deliberately turned their heads to the French and ignored the Americans. In reprisal, Lafayette is said to have ordered a light infantry band to strike up "Yankee Doodle."
A shrewd manager of his public relations and an expert in theatrics, Lafayette also knew how to use music as a politician. In July 1789, he became head of the National Guard, the militia of citizen soldiers aimed at crowd control. In this capacity, he orchestrated, so to speak, patriotic ceremonies involving music. For example, during a ceremony of the blessing of the guard's flags on August 13, 1789, patriotic songs were sung in his honor. The celebration of the first anniversary of the taking of the Bastille in July 1790 marked his apotheosis. Not a few saw in him the savior of constitutional monarchy and the vested rights of the bourgoisie against anarchy.
Musicians performed hymns written especially by Joseph Gossec to celebrate national unity. Combining old and new, Gossec set the traditional Latin text of Te Deum to music scored for wind instruments and male chorus, which carried well at the patriotic mass on the Champs du Mars. Decades later, when Lafayette launched a fundraising campaign for the Polish refugees in the cause of free independent Poland-- it was in 1831-- music was also an important component. Citizens went to concerts performed either by military bands or by disposes of guards, and they went to the pockets. In the Cornell collection, we have several letters from officials of [INAUDIBLE] de la musique, from Bourgoine, Grenoble, [INAUDIBLE], Lyon, and other places, informing Lafayette of the mixed results of the efforts.
What about the private sphere? First of all, I would not draw a line in the sand between the public and the private when it comes to figures like Lafayette. The distinction can be very deceptive. For instance, la Grange, the chateau near Paris, where Lafayette lived after 1800, was under Napoleon a subversive if discrete political salon where liberal opponents gathered around him. Music was part of the sociability of these people, a mean to relax after political discussions.
There was however something strictly private, namely the education of Lafayette's children. Music was part of it, especially for the girls. And in the correspondence kept in Cornell, we can find several mentions of Lafayette making efforts in interceding to get good seats for them at Les Italiens, the opera house where Cherubini, Spontini, and Rossini triumphed in the 1820s. When he learned in 1825 that he would become very rich again due to the generosity of the American Congress, Lafayette wrote in substance to "mes amies," as he called the girls-- daughters and granddaughters-- we won't change anything in our lifestyle. However, I want the best possible piano for you at la Grange.
Then the second possibility is to see how Lafayette's legend inspired composers, musicians, and songwriters from Baumbach to Berlioz to Pierre-Jean de Beranger, who wrote a song for Lafayette in 1824 entitled [INAUDIBLE], where Lafayette was raising money again for the Greeks this time in the United States. Annette will tell you more about pieces composed for Lafayette during his remarkable career.
But before I turn to her, here is a last story. Perhaps I was too fast when I said that Lafayette's favorite music was military music. After all, he accepted in 1831, at age 74, to help [INAUDIBLE], who was la Callas of that time, to divorce from her Franco-American husband. Women then had no legal status, so they needed legal guardian. I'm inclined to think that Lafayette accepted to serve as a mediator for free not only because he was, which is little now, a supporter of women's rights, including the right to divorce, or only because it added to his prestige, but rather because for all his vanity, this old man was able, after so many half achievements and disillusions, to discern that artists are the real architects of profound change in the world, not warlords or political legislators.
ANNETTE RICHARDS: Well, many writers of the late 18th and 19th centuries would certainly have agreed that music at its most elevated and intellectual stood at the center of the arts-- or perhaps we could say stands at the center of the arts. Music could profoundly affect those who heard and understood it, and it could contribute vitally to moral and social good.
But I have to admit that that's not the kind of music that we're going to be listening to this evening. Our music for Lafayette consists of marches and dances, musical depictions of battle, and an extended musical fantasy. Tonight, prospective listeners, you might allow the connoisseur in you to make just a little bit of room for the early 19th century music-loving member of the audience in Augusta, Georgia, described in this contemporary account. And I quote, "Waltzes and quadrilles were the favorites of the public who were not refined enough to comprehend the conceptions of the great masters."
This is John Hill Hewitt writing, who is the son of the first composer on tonight's program, James Hewitt. He goes on, "An overture was rather beyond their comprehension, but dance music they understood thoroughly. And Washington's march was sure to be greeted by the denizens of the pit with a rhythmic stamp of the foot, which also kept pace with the quick measure of 'Yankee Doodle,' which usually followed." And I think you'll be allowed to stamp your foot, if you feel it appropriate, in the course of tonight's program.
We shouldn't, of course, be too snooty about marches or dance music, nor indeed about overtly pictorial music-- program music, to use the later 19th century term, or musical painting, to use the 18th century one. Music that describes, replays, and celebrates famous events and heroic acts, the deeds of great men. For this music was to be heard resounding across Europe and in America from the stages of concert halls, as well as, and perhaps more so, in the salon, the domestic drawing room, just like this one, where so much music was listened to, performed, and danced to in the late 18th and 19th centuries.
The piano was the instrument of the bourgois drawing room, and a great deal of piano music was published for domestic consumption. This music was especially directed at women, just like the daughters of Lafayette, who would have been expected as a matter of course to have been able to sit down at the keyboard and play not only a sonata by a great master but also something more current, or more immediately entertaining. In the early 18th century, the keyboard player might have sat down at her clavichord and worked her way through one of Johann Kuhnau's biblical sonatas, published in 1700, perhaps "The Battle of David and Goliath." And this is a piece in which you hear, first of all, the stompings and snorting of the giant, the defiant bravery of David, the laments of the people, the tossing of the stone, the pathetic fall of Goliath, and the mass dancing and celebration that follow, each of them described in vivid musical detail.
In the last decades of the 18th century, Kuhnau had given way to Frantisek Kotzwara's immensely popular "The Battle of Prague" of 1788, a sonata that did for this famously traumatic and bloody clash of the Seven Years' War-- it had taken place in 1757-- what Kuhnau had done for David and Goliath. "The Battle of Prague" made its way to America, and it features hilariously in Mark Twain's A Tramp Abroad. Describing the polite entertainment at the piano provided by a nice respectable young woman, Twain writes, and I quote, "She turned on all the horrors of the Battle of Prague, that venerable chivalry, and waded chin deep in the blood of the slain. This girl's music was perfection, in a way. It was the worst music that had ever been achieved on our planet by a mere human being."
The thing that made such music especially appealing was the way it turned ears, if you like, into eyes-- vividly conjuring pictures of those heroic events and using as many familiar musical signs as possible to tell its stories. Here marches and dances appear alongside imitations of cannon shot, the cries of the routed, and the cheers and singing of the victorious. In its vividness, this music not only brings the listener into the action, but it persuades us to feel what the protagonists of its stories felt, whether it be the ebb and flow of battle experienced by the Americans in their Revolutionary War, the despair of Lafayette in his dungeon, or the elation of the revolutionary citizens of Paris.
One can well imagine that Lafayette's daughters would have played "The Battle of Prague." But perhaps they might have been more inclined to perform its American spin-off, James Hewitt's own "The Battle of Trenton," the first piece on tonight's program, as they displayed their fine new piano. Hewitt's piece was composed some 20 years after the battle itself, yet as we will hear, it dramatically recounts the events of that turning point in the Revolutionary War when on Christmas night, 1777, George Washington crossed the Delaware River to rout the Garrison of Hessian troops fighting for the British-- ahem-- at Trenton, New Jersey.
Hewitt was himself a British musician who emigrated to the US in 1792. A band master who carried the military title of Colonel, he was deeply familiar with the soundscapes of army life. This piece, which you'll hear keeps the pianist quite busy, is a mosaic of sound effects interlaced with familiar tunes. Not exactly complex or intellectual, it makes sense not as an abstract form but more as the score to a silent film whose moving images are conjured in our minds. And just as Hewitt's audiences were treated to music, I quote, interspersed with recitations by several amateurs who have kindly volunteered their services, as his newspaper notices advertised, so we will be fortunate enough this evening to be led through Hewitt's battle, engaged at the keyboard by Monsieur Damien Mahiet, by a narration of the events of that terrible and glorious night by Madame Marie-Claire Vallois.
MARIE-CLAIRE VALLOIS: "The Battle of Trenton." Army in Motion, General Orders, Acclamation of the Americans.
[MUSIC - JAMES HEWITT, "THE BATTLE OF TRENTON"]
MARIE-CLAIRE VALLOIS: Drum Beats to Arms, Washington's March.
Crossing the Delaware.
Ardor of the Americans at Landing.
Trumpets Sound the Charge, Attack.
Flight of the Hessians.
Hessians surrender themselves prisoners of war.
Grief of the Americans for the Loss of their Comrades Killed in the Engagement.
Yankee Doodle, Drums and Fifes, Quick Step for the Band.
Trumpets of Victory, General Rejoicing.
ANNETTE RICHARDS: Well, having been declared a traitor by the Jacobin Assembly in 1792, Lafayette fled France to neutral Liege. Thanks to the machinations of the British, he was taken prisoner and held in Prussian and then Austrian prisons between 1794 and 1797. Lafayette was eventually released through Napoleon's efforts and returned to France in 1799, not least thanks to popular pressure generated across Europe by poems and music, drawing attention to his unjust incarceration.
One of these was the extended poetic rumination "Lafayette's Traum," "Lafayette's Dream," by the German Baron Friedrich von Oertel, published in 1794. Oertel gives a moving picture of Lafayette's despair in his dank dungeon. The hero, I quote, "emasculated by the poison of loneliness," unquote. Unable to sleep, Lafayette is plagued by dark scenes of angry mobs and heads rolling at the guillotine when suddenly a vision of another kind appears. It is the guardian spirit of America, a spirit who takes the dreaming Lafayette through scenes that seem to be a mixture of past, present, and future-- a street celebration in Boston in Lafayette's honor, ringing with the music of trumpets, oboes, and clarinets, a scene in a vast temple where the mighty organ resounds and a great congregation sings hymns of praise to Franklin, Washington, and Lafayette. At last, there is a scene of moving reunion with Washington himself-- Lafayette's close friend and father figure. Lafayette eventually awakens, newly invigorated by self-esteem and a sense of purpose.
That same year a musical version of Oertel's poem appeared, composed by the Leipzig-based composer Friedrich Baumbach. I say version, as what we're about to hear is indeed not a setting of Oertel's poem. It's rather an extended musical fantasy based on the poem. It's a patchwork of sections sewn together with interspersed short passages of prose. It's a mixture of speaking and music that's quite familiar from the tradition of German and also French 18th century melodrama. In melodrama, which is equally at home on the stage and also in the living room, music alternates with the spoken word-- or sometimes accompanies it as a sort of background music. And it's often used as a vehicle for dramatic monologues often of a kind of dark and spooky tinge.
But Baumbach's piece is also what he calls [GERMAN]-- that is to say, a musical painting. Vivid and programmatic, this piece has its roots in the old German tradition of the picture ballad-- gory proto-Gothic tales told in a series of paintings or engravings that were hung up in the marketplaces of small towns and then elaborated on in speech or song by the balladeer. As a musical painting of this sort, Baumbach's piece isn't structured around a kind of architecture of musical themes that return, or some kind of harmonic logic. Instead, the individual events of the tale structure the music. Considered without a text, in fact, the music could be heard as a kind of musical potpourri fantasy of the sort that traveling pianists use to display their virtuosity-- though not always, one should admit, their tastes, or at least not the finest taste.
Baumbach explains this himself in an introduction to the work. And he suggests that the music provides only a general overview of the tale whose spoken words specify its details. The words you're going to hear are not the poem, nor are they particularly poetic. They're a sort of boiled down version, presumably Baumbach's own paraphrase, and they act as signposts, indicating the progress of the poem in the music. As such, while the music is overtly theatrical and dramatic-- and you'll even here some operatic recitative in places, if you listen carefully-- Baumbach asks that the recitation of the text be somewhat less so. The prose should be simply narrated rather than dramatically proclaimed, as it takes us through the fantasy landscape. So we're going to hear Friedrich Baumbach, "Lafayette's Traum, [GERMAN]."
MARIE-CLAIRE VALLOIS: In jail, Lafayette is worn out by these sufferings. There is no longer any hope for him.
[MUSIC - BAUMBACH, "LAFAYETTE'S DREAM"]
He is unable to find peace of mind, even in sleep, because frightening nightmares torture him.
He eventually manages to fall asleep. An apparition takes his pain away, and he forgets he's imprisoned.
Standing in front of him is a guardian spirit of America, comforting him.
Lafayette finds himself revived with a new energy. And once again, he recognizes his joy.
Using its magical powers, the spirit transports him into that part of the world that owes him so much. There, a group of young American countrymen and women celebrate his coming by dancing to the sound of flutes.
The gates of Boston open up, giving way to warriors marching in perfect step to the sound of trumpets and oboes. He sees part of their military training in peacetime, so they will be ready when the country needs them.
The guardian spirit escorts Lafayette into a temple, where the people assembled praise the Almighty for the sacred gift of freedom.
Lafayette finds himself back in the arms of his beloved Washington, one of the happiest moments in his domestic life.
He's then able to press his family against his heart.
In order to calm Lafayette's concern about his country, the guardian spirit of America paints him a picture of how order shall triumph over chaos, and how France shall be reborn.
Lafayette wakes up. His new optimism makes it easier for him to deal with difficult times.
LAURENT FERRI: Eventually Lafayette was released from jail and allowed to return to France, where he started his political career. Defeated in the 1824 French elections, he gratified his long-held wish to revisit the United States, with his son and his secretary Levasseur, he boarded at Le Havre on July 12 and arrived in New York on August 15. His tour was a personal triumph. Lafayette's itinerary took him throughout the East Coast, the Midwest, and the South, where he was uniformly welcomed and celebrated as a returning hero. In his account of the journey, Levasseur describes it as an uninterrupted succession of balls, concerts, chorales. Music was absolutely everywhere. People in the street or on the shores where Lafayette arrived somewhere on the boat often expressed their welcome by singing a few strokes of "La Marseillaise" or of [INAUDIBLE] famous opera, [INAUDIBLE], "Where Can One Be Better than Within His Family?" Lafayette and his companions answer with "Yankee Doodle."
I said music. Lafayette says actually, "an audio by noise." Quote, 'La Marseillaise' rend the air to shreds all day long. Cannon boomed again and again. And bells rang. The more enthusiasm, the more noise." Besides, Levasseur points out after a concert in St. Vincent de Paul Church in New York City, music in the US is still in its infancy. He proposes several explanations for that. First, people sing in English, and English words is hardly a musical language. Secondly, they are much too busy, these Americans, and they don't enjoy the leisure that favors the development of fine arts. The French are not like this. Finally, there are no music schools to be found in this country. Most convincing of the three.
However, what they lack in refinement, he says, Americans compensate with gracious empathy. What we will hear now is a sample of music played during dancing parties in the honor of Lafayette.
ANNETTE RICHARDS: OK. This is the bit where you get to stamp your foot if you feel like it. "The Boston Brigade March" by James Hewitt.
[MUSIC - HEWITT, "THE BOSTON BRIGADE MARCH"]
The triumphal march of General Lafayette.
The Marquis de Lafayette's military waltz for the pianoforte.
Well, Lafayette's granddaughter, Eugenie-- who was actually christened Jenny but had her name re-frenchified probably by the publisher of this piece, thinking it was more glamorous-- Eugenie must have been an accomplished pianist if she played the final piece on tonight's program, a bravura exercise in pianistic virtuosity. And it would surely have been a source of pride for her grandfather to have seen that piano put to good use. The piece is dedicated to her grandfather. But she should have been accomplished enough to have composed this set of variations on the French national hymn, "The Marseillaise."
Like the earlier pieces on our program, this one is equipped with a title as well, one that promises a story. It runs "The 27th, 28th, and 29th of July in Paris." And we might expect to hear a sonic replay of the glorious events of the July revolution of 1830, in which Lafayette himself had played a not significant part as commander of the National Guard.
In fact, though, what we get is a more straightforward piece with only a momentary nod toward narrative in the third, minor mode variation to the memory of the brave who fell for the cause of liberty. As we listen to this commemoration of an epoch-making event and enjoy this evocation of the mass singing of patriotic songs that characterized French revolutionary fervor, we might keep in mind the famous account given by Hector Berlioz in his memoirs of his own participation in one such scene in the streets of Paris on one of those July nights in 1830.
And I'll just read this. I think it's good to have in mind. I quote, "Unable to contain myself longer, I yelled, confound it all, sing. The great crowd launched into its 'aux armes, citoyens,' with the energy and precision of a trained choir. Picture it-- the arcade leading to the Rue Vivienne full of people as were the arcade that gives on the Rue Neuve-des-Petits-Champs and the central area beneath the dome and these 4,000 or 5,000 voices crammed into a reverberant space bounded to right and left by the clapboards of the shop shutters, overhead by the glass roof, and beneath by the paving stones. And most of them, moreover, men, women, and children still hot from the struggle. And then imagine the effect of that stupendous refrain. I literally sank to the floor, and our little band, aghast at the explosion, was struck dumb, silent as birds after a thunder clap." "The 27th, 28th, and 29th of July in Paris, the Marsellois Hymn which Animated so Much the Brave Citizens of Paris on the Above Memorable Days," by Mademoiselle Eugenie Lafayette.
[MUSIC - EUGENE LAFAYETTE, "THE 27TH, 28TH, AND 29TH OF JULY IN PARIS"]
LAURENT FERRI: [INAUDIBLE]
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A combination of two formats, lecture and concert, the event features pieces that were composed or arranged between 1794 and 1830, including "battle music," popular marches, and a "musical painting" with recitation composed in the honor of General Lafayette. The pieces selected are placed in the context of the time in which they were created and first performed.
Performers/speakers: Damien-Gerard Mahiet, pianist and graduate student in music and government; Marie-Claire Vallois, associate professor of romance studies; Annette Richards, professor of music; and, Laurent Ferri, curator of the exhibition "Lafayette, Citizen of Two Worlds."