CANTELOUBE: Chants d'Auvergne
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Joseph Canteloube (1879-1957): Chants d'Auvergne
The mountainous province of Auvergne, its namederived from the Gallic tribe of the Arverni, victoriousunder Vercingetorix in resistance to Julius Caesar, hasheld an important position in the history of France, fromits conquest in 1190 by Philippe Auguste. In the MiddleAges there remained a careful balance of power betweenlocal feudal lords, until Auvergne became crown territoryin the sixteenth century. The region has its own patoisand its own cultural traditions. It was from Auvergne thatthe family of Marie-Joseph Canteloube de Malaretstemmed. He himself was born in 1879 at Annonay andspent his childhood in the countryside of Malaret, in thesouth of Auvergne. It was there that he found his firstinterest in folk-song. As he later wrote 'Les chantspaysans s'el?¿vent bien souvent au niveau de l'art le pluspur, par le sentiment et l'expression, sinon par la forme'(The songs of the peasants very often reach the level ofthe purest art in feeling and expression, if not in form).
In 1900, after the death of his mother, he went to Paris,where he had piano lessons with Amelie Daetzer, apupil of Chopin. Two years later he began his study ofcounterpoint with Cesar Franck's pupil Vincent d'Indy,later entering the Schola Cantorum that d'Indy hadestablished, an institution of sound musical principles,but one that deliberately avoided the regulations andformalities of the Conservatoire. The Schola Cantorumgave particular encouragement to the development ofregional musical traditions, an aim that was to suit verywell the views of the monarchist Charles Maurras andAction fran?ºaise. Here Canteloube studied fugue,composition and orchestration, meeting another discipleof Franck, Charles Bordes, whose mismanagement ofthe affairs of the Schola later led to his own bankruptcyand resignation, and the composer Deodat de Severac, aregional composer of similar ambitions to his own. He waslater to write biographies of both Vincent d'Indy andDeodat de Severac.
Joseph Canteloube never won any great outstandingsuccess as a composer, although his music was heard inParis. Among his first compositions was a setting ofVerlaine's Colloque sentimental, for voice and stringquartet, followed by other works for voice and instrumentalensemble. His opera Le Mas, largely written by 1913,was staged in Paris only in 1929, a second stage workremained incomplete, and a third, Vercingetorix, had aprompter staging in Paris in 1933. He wrote a relativelysmall number of orchestral works and chamber music,devoting time increasingly to his folk-song researches.
During the Occupation he was in Vichy, working for thePetain Government on the revival of interest in folkmusic,an aim that had, for him, and for others associatedwith Action fran?ºaise, an ethical, social and politicalimportance.
Since his death in 1957 Canteloube has becomewidely known for his folk-song arrangements, in particularhis Chants d'Auvergne for voice and instrumental ensemble,a series of five publications, the first two written in 1924,the third and fourth in 1927 and 1930, respectively, and thelast in 1955. These settings, which have won increasingpopularity, aptly present the original songs, with orchestralaccompaniments that often suggest the instruments of thecountryside. The songs, enhanced rather than damaged bytheir setting, speak for themselves.Keith Anderson