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CD coverSONGS OF LOVE, WAR & MELANCHOLY

The operatic fantasias of Jacques-François GALLAY.

 

 

Anneke Scott - natural horn
Steven Devine - piano
with
Lucy Crowe - soprano

 

Fantaisie brillante sur l’opéra Les Martyrs de Donizetti (Op. 49)
Fantaisie sur une cavatine de Belisario de Donizetti (Op. 42)
‘Fuis, laisse-moi’ de Roberto Devereux de Donizetti
Fantasia sopra un motivo dell’opera Bianca e Fernando di Bellini (Op. 47/2)
Troisième Mélodie sur une cavatine de La Sonnambula de Bellini (Op. 28)
‘Une Larme Furtive’ de L’Elisir d’amore de Donizetti
Fantaisie sur l’opéra L’Elisir d’amore de Donizetti (Op. 46)
Fantaisie brillante sur un motif de Norma de Bellini (Op. 40)
‘L’Appel du Chasseur’ des Soirées Italiennes de Mercadante

Available from www.resonusclassics.com from 16th of May, 2015

Download the full sleeve notes (in English, French and German) here.

 

Read reviews of the SONGS OF LOVE disc here.

Read more about the SONGS OF LOVE concert tour here.

 

 

 

 

EXTRACT FROM SLEEVE NOTES:

“Listen to Rubini, Thalberg or Damoreau,
Or Gallay’s horn which in turn combines
The songs of love, war and melancholy;
You will know that their arts are the most beautiful.”

from “A Smile – Sonnet” Revue et gazette musicale du Paris, 1835.

 

Extract from Fantaisie brillante sur l’opéra Les Martyrs de Donizetti (Op. 49

 

 

Paris in the mid-nineteenth-century boasted a musical scene with an abundance of riches. There was a great appetite for instrumental and vocal virtuosi with huge audiences thronging to concert halls, or packed into more intimate soirées, to hear the leading instrumentalists and singers of their day. The violinist Niccolò Paganini, the pianist Franz Liszt and the soprano Maria Malibran pushed the boundaries of their art and wowed their audiences. Among them was a horn player, Jacques-François Gallay, whose name was mentioned in the same breath as these leading musicians. Admired for his virtuosity and beautiful singing tone, Gallay was in great demand.

Like many other instrumentalists from this time Gallay was also a prolific composer, writing over sixty works mainly for his instrument. In addition to his high-profile solo career he held the position of principal horn in the Théâtre Italien in Paris and, through this job, he would have had contact with many of the great Italian composers of the age, such as Rossini, to whom he dedicated his Grand Quartet for four horns.

 

Extract from Fantaisie sur une cavatine de Belisario de Donizetti (Op. 42)

 

 

Gallay joined the Théâtre Italien in 1825, around the time that the opera house entered its most exciting and influential period. Originally known as the Opéra Buffa, it had opened in 1801, performing solely Italian repertoire in its original language. This was at a time when the Napoleonic Empire occupied much of Italy, and Napoleon, an Italian music enthusiast, was keen to promote the genre. The first two decades of its existence were troublesome: it often needed to change venue or suspend performances for periods of time. However, it quickly became one of the most fashionable places to be seen. “Our Opéra Buffa,” enthused the Courrier de l’Europe in 1807, “has become the rendezvous of the most delicate ears and most distinguished society in the capital.” This was to the detriment of the older, more established Opéra which, by 1824, was compared to “a poor invalid, who raises himself from the bed, makes an effort to speak, falls back, struggles, tries to get up again, languishing between life and death” (La Pandore).

Gallay was born in Perpignan in 1795. His earliest musical training was with a local musician, Artus, with whom the ten-year-old Gallay studied solfège. Perhaps Gallay had been born with a disposition towards Italian music as the Statistique des beaux-arts en France of 1834 cited him as an example of the excellent musicians who came from the Pyrénnes Orientales, a region described as “the only [region] that could be compared to Italy for the natural disposition of its inhabitants in favour of music”. Two years later he began to learn the horn with his father, an amateur horn player; his early progress is thought to have been due more to the student’s disposition than to the teacher’s talent. Gallay first came to public attention when, at the precocious age of fourteen, he stepped into the shoes of the indisposed cor solo (principal horn) of the local theatre orchestra. This was all the more remarkable as the work in question was Devienne’s Les Visitandines, which contains a demanding obbligato horn solo in the aria ‘Ô toi dont ma mémoire’.

 

 

 

Extract from Fantasia sopra un motivo dell’opera Bianca e Fernando di Bellini
(Op. 47/2)

 

 

For a time Perpignan offered Gallay sufficient musical opportunities both as a horn player and as a composer, but eventually, encouraged by visiting musical dignitaries, Gallay made the decision to travel to Paris with a view to enrolling at the Conservatoire. From its early days the Paris Conservatoire placed the training of wind and brass students at the centre of its curriculum, attracting several important teachers. The calibre of hand-horn players in France helped prevent the new valve-horn gaining acceptance during the nineteenth century, and led instead to the development of a hand technique that pushed the instrument almost to its limits. Gallay was to epitomise this level of musicality and virtuosity. His career was, however, almost thwarted from the start as, despite being accepted as a student by Dauprat, Gallay, now aged twenty-four, was technically too old to enrol. But dispensation was eventually granted and Gallay was accepted on both the horn and the composition courses.
Upon graduation Gallay quickly established himself in the Parisian musical scene. He initially joined the orchestra of the Odéon, but this position was soon superseded by his appointment as cor solo of the Théâtre Italien, a position that would bring him into contact with a number of important musicians, notably Gioacchino Rossini. Whilst this was not the only position Gallay was to hold – he was a member of the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, the Chapelle Royale, the Musique du Roi, the Cercle Musical (also known as the Société Musicale) and professor at the Paris Conservatoire – this was a role that greatly influenced his compositions, which are highly dramatic works, redolent of Italian Grand Opera. In recognition of the high regard in which he was held, Gallay was made Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in 1845.

 

Extract from Fantaisie sur l’opéra L’Elisir d’amore de Donizetti (Op. 46).

 

 

In accounts of Parisian musical life we often see Gallay identified as one of the leading performers of the time. An 1832 review commented:

M. Gallay, M. Tulou, M. Labarre: here are three names who provide the idea of perfection for their three instruments. Each of these artists would seem to be born for his instrument: I cannot conceive of the harp without M. Labarre, the horn without M. Gallay, or the flute without M. Tulou.

Anonymous, Revue Musicale, 21 January 1832.

Solo instrumentalists were, by default, composers as well and charged with creating much of their own repertoire. This was especially the case with wind and brass instrumentalists, who saw rapid development of their instruments during the century. This made them best placed to understand both the risks and the potential of emerging designs and techniques. Gallay was a prolific composer, writing over sixty works and contributing to every genre of horn repertoire, from solo caprices and preludes through to large works for horn and orchestra.

 

Extract from Troisième Mélodie sur une cavatine de La Sonnambula de Bellini
(Op. 28)

 

Like many composers of the 1830s–50s, a significant proportion of Gallay’s works clearly show the influence of opera and, in particular, the Théâtre Italien and its repertoire. Gallay chooses themes from the leading Italian composers – figures such as Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini, Paër, Blangini and Romagnesi – whilst the French operatic repertoire is represented by composers including Halévy, Bérat and Berton. The opera world was not the only source of inspiration for Gallay. Some of his simplest, yet most effective, works are the set of Schubert song transcriptions entitled Les chants du cœur (Op. 51).

During this period the opera fantasia offered virtuoso musicians the opportunity to demonstrate a number of aspects of their playing that were viewed as highly desirable by their audiences. The choice of themes, especially if Italian in origin, was à la mode and their settings offered the musician the opportunity to demonstrate his amazing skills both in performing a melody in a vocal style as well as showing off with spectacular embellishments. Fundamentally though, the trend for opera fantasias could be seen as a reflection of the deeply held philosophic belief dominating the French cultural scene of this time which deemed music to be an imitative art with vocal music the most efficient at awaking sentiments in the audience and instrumental music viewed as perilously close to lacking this capacity. Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie explains in an article on song that “It is natural to believe that the song of birds, the different sounds of the voices of animals, the noises in the air excited by the winds, the agitation of the leaves of the trees, the murmur of water; all served as a model…The sounds were in man: he heard the singing; he was struck by the noise; all his sensations and his instinct led him to imitate these sounds. Therefore the first concerts were for the voice. Instruments came afterwards and were a second imitations because with all instruments it is the voice that we want to imitate.” D’Alembert went on to condemn “all this purely instrumental music, without intention or purpose. It speaks neither to the spirit nor to the soul.” After attending a concert at the Théâtre Italien in 1812, the critic Géoffroy summed up the situation thus: “We often forget that a concert is a celebration, and that those who come to the party want to gratify their senses… The symphonies concertante of wind instruments are preferable to violin concertos, which almost always bore the audience; all concertos should be short, melodic, varied…Most listeners will judge the beauty of music only by its flexible and brilliant ornamentation.”

 

Extract from Fantaisie brillante sur un motif de Norma de Bellini (Op. 40)

 

 

Despite the huge popularity of opera fantasias some notable critics bemoaned the ubiquity of the genre:

“M. Gallay came next and played for us a pot-pourri on Bellini themes, for solo horn. The talent of this virtuoso has been known and valued for a long time; the opinion of artists and amateurs is unanimous on this subject. Excellent embouchure, surety of intonation, accuracy, a pure sound, good taste in ornaments, he has all that constitutes a horn player of the first order. We would have much preferred, however, to hear him play a piece composed for him, rather than this collection of cavatines, the principal fault of which is being overplayed. Chanteurs, opera singers, instrumentalists of all kinds thrive only on the themes of Bellini. In salons, at concerts great and small, in the very streets as well…one hears only the duo from Il Puritans or the cavatine from La Straniera”.

Hector Berlioz ,“Second Concert du Conservatoire”, La Revue et Gazette musicale de Paris, 14 February, 1836.

Such comments were few and far between with the majority of commentators enchanted by Gallay both as a performer and a composer:

“At the last concert for the king, where the artists of the Théâtre Italien performed several pieces from Norma, we remarked particularly on a fantasia composed and performed by M. Gallay, which brilliantly displays both his execution and his composition.”

Revue et gazette musicale de Paris, 17th of January, 1836.

 

 

Session photos by John Charlton

 

 

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