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Henri Duparc: La Vie antérieure / L’invitation au voyage

It’s Tuesday and for this blog entry, it’s Twos-day. That’s my way of saying I’m cheating a little and have selected two songs to focus on instead of one. They come from one of my favorite chanson composers, Henri Duparc.

Duparc was an interesting individual. Born and raised in Paris, he studied piano at the Jesuit college with Cesar Franck. Although Duparc was more interested in law, Franck could sense his innate musical talent and encouraged him by giving him scores of Bach and Beethoven to read. Soon he began composing himself and, during his early adult life, had a flourish of creativity, including the handful of songs he would be remembered. He was terrible self-critic, destroying most of his work. At 37, he was struck with a neurological disease and stopped composing all together.

“La Vie antérieure” and “L’invitation au voyage” are my favorites of Duparc’s compositions. Both are poems by Charles Baudelaire and complement each other. “La Vie antérieure” speaks of a past life, set in a picturesque grotto of sensuous delight. “L’invitation au voyage” speaks of future life, filled with order, beauty, and calm. I especially love a moment in the latter when Duparc chooses use change the accompaniment to large chords when the poem gets to “There, all is order and beauty.” I’ve always enjoyed pairing these two songs together in this order, where one remembers a beautiful, past life and then sings of trying to a new one, with hints of the old enjoyment.


Song of the Day: March 3

Efrain-3212 croppedThis week we welcome baritone Efrain Solis to Song of the Day! He has sung with companies such as San Francisco Opera, Virginia Opera, and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. You can hear him with NYFOS on Tuesday, April 26th concert at Merkin Hall in Compositora: Songs by Latin American Women (get tickets here). 


“L’invitation au Voyage” by Charles Baudelaire is a well-known poem among singers. With settings by Henri Duparc and Emmanuel Chabrier, I’d be hard pressed to find a singer that has not read through one of these versions. A couple of years ago I was made aware of another setting of this poem while attending a recital in San Francisco, by Stephanie Blythe and Warren Jones. I was blown away by this setting and found myself sobbing by the end of the number. It was almost an uncontrollable sob – really an ugly cry. There is a balance in this setting of pure bliss and hope as well as a longing that he knows will never be fulfilled. It really struck a chord in me and made me want to explore Léo Ferré and his contemporaries further – Jacques Brel, of course being another favorite. Léo Ferré is a common name in France, but unfortunately not many other places. His poetry and compositions are regarded as true protest art and from videos of his performances he seems like quite a quirky and spontaneous character. 

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