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ClassicsOnline Home » SAUGUET: Symphony No. 2, Allegorique
No. 2 "Allégorique" (Les saisons)
and music by Henri Sauguet)
was no particular influence that suggested that Henri Sauguet, born in the
provinces into a family of modest background, would become a famous composer
and member of the Insttitut de France. The talent was his own. Certainly, his
mother loved music and started him on the piano: he also sang plainchant in his
parish church, but none of this was enough to determine a vocation, still less
to produce a body of work. The war prevented his admission to the
Conservatoire, a concession he had won from his parents. With his father at the
front, he had to earn a living and the trivial round brings its own trivial
difficulties. Yet he did not turn his back on music. In 1916 he became organist
in the little church at Floirac, near Bordeaux, accompanying weddings and funerals. Here he
found that, unbelievably, he could invent music and would inevitably be a
the return of his father after the war, Sauguet managed to move to Montauban to
study with Joseph Canteloube, who found his first composition sketches worthy
of interest and graciously offered to teach him. In Bordeaux once more, he
established, with two friends, the musician J.M. Lizotte and the poet Louis Emie,
the Groupe des Trois. They had the ambition to become the new Groupe
des Six and presented to a relatively uncultivated public concerts of
contemporary music, with compositions by Milhaud, Poulenc, Satie and
themselves. His father already saw his name involved in the enterprise and the
young man found his mother's name more euphonious. From Henri Poupard he
changed his name to Henri Sauguet. Of voracious artistic appetite, with a ready
imagination and particular sensibility, in which all joy was tinged with
melancholy, he was ready for the future.
wrote to Milhaud, who was always ready to show an interest in new talent and
invited him to spend a few days in Paris. Inventing an excuse to his parents, and who
has not done so?, he found himself in the middle of intense artistic activity,
with the Groupe des Six, the Wiener Concerts (Schoenberg's Pierrot lunaire seemed
to him dated) and the Swedish Ballet (Milhaud's L'homme et san désir and
Les mariés de la Tour Eiffel) winning his enthusiasm.
escapade was only a prelude to Sauguet's definitive departure for Paris some months later. On
his father's recommendation he joined Paris France, where a certain Max Jacob
had shown a similar lack of ability as a salesman. As he left home, his father
made him promise no more music, which he mentally translated as no more music
a new environment, Sauguet took on and left jobs that would never suit him,
always rejecting music as a mere spare-time activity. Music had to be his
reward. He moved lodgings frequently, always attracted to Montmartre and to Milhaud.
He now composed and sometimes revised his first works, written in Bordeaux, Trois
françaises for piano, Les animaux et leurs hommes on poems by Paul Eluard
and Trois poésies de Jean Cocteau.
1923, thanks to the encouragement of Darius Milhaud, he founded with Maxime
Jacob, Cliquet-Pleyel and Roger Désormière the Ecole d'Arcueil, explicitly
under the influence of Erik Satie, a compromising choice, in view of the critical
mockery of Satie, known as the Master of Arcueil, a reference to unfashionable
suburb, where Satie had chosen to live.
first triumph came in 1924 with his comic opera Le plumet du Colonel, staged
at the Theatre des Champs-Elysées with Stravinsky's Histoire du soldat. He
had his first concerts, at the Sorbonne and the Atelier, with musicians such as
Marcelle Meyer and Ricardo Viñes, and his first important friendships, with
Christian Bérard and Max Jacob. In 1927, after barely five years in Paris
artistic circles, he won acceptance by the Ballets Russes with his score La chatte,
on a libretto by Boris Kochno. The choreographer was also making his début,
a certain Balanchine, with the young dancer who would dazzle Monte Carlo and
then Paris, Serge Lifar. Little Sauguet, however, was not in Dyagilev's good
books. He committed the crime of lèse-directeur by not dedicating the score of
the ballet he had commissioned to Dyagilev and was not invited to the
traditional dinner that followed important first performances in Paris. He went
back home alone, happy, but unhappy, on foot along the embankment. The next
morning he went back to work again as a clerk. Living among people, yet very
much alone, he established a relationship with Christian Hardouin, whose
suicide brought the first tragedy into his life. It was for him that Sauguet
wrote his Quatre poèmes de Schiller.
composed and composed. For the stage he wrote the comic opera La contrebasse,
for the ballet of Ida Rubinstein David, with another, La nuit for
the Cochran Review. The latter brought fruitful artistic contact with Christian
Bérard and La nuit was soon heard again in concert. For the piano he
wrote a sonata, a Romance in C and two collections of Pièces poétiques.
Les jeux de l¡¦amour et du hasard for two pianos was first performed by Sauguet
and Poulenc at the house of the Princess de Polignac, with Six sonnets de
Louise Labé and a cantata, La voyante performed at Hyères at the
house of the Comte de Noailles. In 1934 his first Piano Concerto was
given, with Clara Haskill as soloist, followed in 1938 by his Six mélodies
des poètes symbolistes.
a period of ten years, from 1927 to 1937, he wrote his opera La Chartreuse
de Parme, returning time and again to the work, as time allowed. He
exercised his craft as a composer in every field, without any condescension,
going from Jean Cocteau's Chanson de marin to his Petite messe pastorale.
For him it was all music, not a question of good or bad kinds of music. In
1939 La Chartreuse de Parme was mounted at the Paris Opéra with décor by
Jacques Dupont, marking the beginning of their long collaboration and unfailing
found Sauguet called up, as he had not been before because of what was
classified as "incurable weakness". The soldier Poupard, alias Sauguet,
had his training, while the composer Sauguet, alias Poupard, despaired, not
because of discomforts, the inevitable joking, the absurd fatigues, but as a
man. It was in this perception of the folly of war that, without his knowing
it, the first symphony, his Symphony of Expiation, was born. At Auch Sauguet
saw the last days of the republic:
This morning, 14th July, before going to church to play
the organ, a sergeant who did not like me angrily told me to carry out latrine
fatigues, something I had up to then avoided thanks to the colonel who had
promoted me to be head of music. Transfigured by the misfortunes of my country
over which I was soon going to pour forth torrents of noble and serious chords,
I carried out this horrible duty in due form, with broom and floor-cloth,
wearing military overalls over my freshly ironed uniform. Life had already
taught me that everything must be paid for in advance.
by Radio Paris, Sauguet at first refused then accepted, since a friend had
warned him that it was dangerous to refuse any longer. He wrote stage music and
songs, among them the setting of an unsigned poem that seemed the work of Paul Eluard,
Force et faiblesse. In 1944 he set for the first time texts by Max Jacob
in Les pénitents en maillots roses, at the time when the poet was
held in the camp at Drancy, where, unknown to Sauguet, he died. In 1945 he
finished his Symphonie expiatoire that had occupied him for some five
years, and, since he shared with Cocteau the ability to change register without
making any concessions, wrote the incidenta1 music for La folle de Chaillot of
love of the theatre and of the comic persuaded him to undertake, for Marcel Herrand,
the rôle of Madame Pernelle in Moliere's Tartuffe and it was in his
dressing-room that he received Boris Kochno and Roland Petit, who brought him
the subject of Les forains, a score he completed in a fortnight,
including the orchestration, the masterpiece that, like its own characters, travellers,
made its own world tour.
Symphonie expiatoire and Les forains both in the same year? The
proponents of the ivory tower, who keep up their position, may be surprised. Sauguet
is multi-faceted and always completely free: Whatever kind of music I compose,
whether frivolous or profound, I only seek to make use of everything I feel,
everything I try to make felt. I write what I am asked to write, and I declare
that I am one of those composers who have always sought - even as a young man -
to be more themselves than they could. I have never sought a place in the
avant-garde except insofaras I consider the avant-garde as being freedom ... I
have tried to hold the position of a free man. It is for that reason that I
have liked so much to follow the steps of Erik Satie and that I have listened
so much to the advice of Debussy who, above all, gave musicians and the men of
his time a great lesson in freedom.
was an extraordinarily fruitful year, with a ballet, La rencontre, a
second piano concerto, a second string quartet, one of the most beautiful
song-cycles, Visions infernales, on poems by Max Jacob, Stèle symphonique,
two film-scores, Les amoureux sont seuls au monde and Clochemerle.
Nevertheless 1949 brought his second symphony, the Symphonie allegorique,
three sets of incidental music, three film-scores, two works for radio. Add
to this, in 1950, La cornette, for bass and orchestra.
opened the period of dominance of twelve-note music, with its pronouncements, judgements
and decisions. Condemned for his authenticity and truth to himself, Sauguet
questioned his position and thought for a moment of keeping silent. In his
ship's log he ¡§forgets¡¨ 1953. Luckily, music carried him forward, turning his
attention to the radio and the stage. He continued his career unreservedly,
without any illusion about the ephemeral nature of these scores:
...When the curtain goes down on the last performance,
they are no more than a little pile of music in a cupboard full of unpublished
pieces...it is rather as if I found again, crumpled and stained, things once
used to celebrate a holiday...gone with the wind, isn't it? There remain our
symphonies with claims to immortality.
bitter-sweet smile of Sauguet as he utters these words maybe imagined. In 1953
came the Concerto d'Orphée for violin and orchestra, and in 1954 the
opera Les caprices de Marianne. In 1955 the third symphony was
performed at the Venice Festival of Contemporary Music. Up to 1970 there were
more than 150 opus numbers, ballets such as La dame aux camélias, La
solitude, the As de coeur, the third piano concerto, the oratorio Chant
pour une vieille meurtrie, the cantata L'oiseau a vu tout cela, music
for the stage, for the cinema, for radio, for television and, of course, songs.
1971, at the age of seventy, Sauguet wrote his fourth symphony, which he
called, with melancholy irony, a symphony "of the third age", a third
age that was not sterile, far from it, but serenely fruitful. He wrote an
opera, "my posthumous opera", Le pain d'autrui, in 1973, with
a libretto by E. Kinds after Turgenev, a musical comedy Boule de suif, based
on Maupassant, and a children's opera Tistou-les-pouces-verts in 1981,
with a libretto by J.L. Tardieu after the story by Maurice Druon.
final period, in which he saw the coming life as a life that was going, began
with chamber music that reflected his thoughts, Oraisons for organ and
saxophones, a third string quartet in 1978, piano pieces, the cantata Elisabeth
la reine aux cheveux d'or, sonatas, the Sonate crépusculaire in
1981, Cantilène pastorale, Sonatine en deux chants et un intermède and Sonate
d'église. Faithful as he always had been to the poets that he loved,
understood and set, whether famous or unknown, he wrote his last songs.
In 1976 the under-rated composer was recognised. The
composer reproached as self-taught, who had never made the Conservatoire, was
elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts, taking the chair of his life-long
friend Darius Milhaud.
Sauguet died during the night of 21st June 1989, during a
music festival: since childhood he had never done anything without music.
(English translation by Keith Anderson)
No. 2 (Symphonie allégorique ou Les saisons)
Symphony No. 2, which carries the additional explanatory titles of Allegorical
Symphony or The Seasons, was written in 1949 in a radiophonic
version to represent France at the Prix Italia, using natural sounds and under
the direction of Roger Désormière. It was staged in 1951 during the Mai de
Bordeaux at the Bordeaux Grand Théâtre, with the Marquis de Cuevas Ballet.
Décor was by Jacques Dupont and choreography by Leonid Massin. The symphonic
version of the work, with real sounds now replaced by percussion, was first
given in 1951 under Manuel Rosenthal with the Orchestra National de la Radiodiffusion
symphony has a multiple identity, as oratorio and symphony and as ballet and
symphony. The work makes use of five choral movements and four corresponding
instrumental sections, the choruses having the daunting privilege of starting
and ending, while the instrumental sections suggest a new idea of the seasons.
first chorus announces winter in music that is homophonic and very pure. Sauguet
described the first movement, marked Andante moderato quasi lento as a
kind of lullaby for the sleeping earth. The second chorus makes use, in
succession, of canon and chromaticism.
second movement, Spring, becomes progressively livelier, allowing the
mixed chorus to interject the joyful cry le printemps estne (Spring is
born), a kind of call to a general resurrection.
third chorus opens the Nuit du Tossignol (Night of the Nightingale) with
motifs suggesting folk-music. Sauguet explains that the movement seeks to
evoke, in the purity of the atmosphere of poetic, scented nights, all the
nostalgic dreaming that the song of the nightingale excites. The movement
continues with a representation of summer, in the form of a scherzo.
fourth chorus sings of summer passing and the approach of autumn, with the
words Ainsi s'accomplit l'union du soleil et de la terre (Thus is
brought about the union of sun and earth). The fourth movement dreams sadly of
autumn, a season marked by the appearance of animals and their shadows,
silhouettes of hunters, the song of harvesters, before the announcement of the
start of winter, the orchestra ending on a chord suggesting the half-light.
fifth chorus ends the music and the seasons. The earth is ready to sleep once
more, and the orchestra returns to the introduction that had followed the first
(English adaptation by Keith Anderson)
in 1963, the French soprano Geneviève Ruscica had her musical training in
various institutions at home and abroad. She won distinction in contests that
include the 1991 Rio de Janeiro XVth Singing Competition, the Marseilles Vth
International Competition in 1995 and in earlier competitions at Béziers, with
a significant victory in a first prize for lyric singing at Boulogne-Billancourt.
In opera she has appeared in Paris at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées and at the
Bastille Opera House. She has had similar experience in oratorio and in
concerts and recitals, particularly in France and other countries of Europe,
including Great Britain.
Frum The Moscow Capella was founded in 1991 by Sergey Krivobokov and is the
official choir of the Patriarch's Krutitskoye town residence in Moscow. The
choir performs religious and secular repertoire and has made a number of
Moscow symphony Orchestra was established in 1989 and is under the direction of
the distinguished French musician Antonio de Almeida. The members of the
orchestra include prize-winners and laureates of International and Russian
music competitions, graduates of the conservatories of Moscow, Leningrad and
Kiev, who have played under conductors such as Svetlanov, Rozhdestvensky, Mravinsky
and Ozawa, in Russia and throughout the world. The orchestra toured in 1991 to
Finland and to England, where collaboration with a well known rock band
demonstrated readiness for experiment. A British and Japanese commission has
brought a series of twelve television programmes for international distribution
and in 1993 there was a highly successful tour of Spain. The Moscow symphony
Orchestra has a wide repertoire, with particular expertise in the performance
of contemporary works.
de Almeida enjoys a distinguished career as a conductor, having appeared with
the Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco orchestras in America, and the
Berlin Philharmonic, and the London and Royal Philharmonic Orchestras. He has
to his credit a number of award-winning recordings, including a recent release
of the major orchestral works of Joaquín Turina and an earlier recording of
original unedited overtures and ballet music by Offenbach, a composer on whom
he is acknowledged to be the leading authority today. His work on behalf of
French music has brought him, among other distinctions, the award of the Légion
d'honneur. Born in France, Antonio de Almeida studied with Paul Hindemith at
Yale University and started his career as a conductor with the Oporto symphony
Orchestra in Portugal, later making his London début at the invitation of Sir
Thomas Beecham with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. For Marco Polo he has
recorded works by Glazunov, Malipiero, Sauguet and Tournemire.
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SAUGUET: Symphony No. 2, Allegorique