7. Advocating the Poetics of Sound in the Cycle Les Nuits D'été by Hector Berlioz

By Iaţeşen, Loredana Viorica | Review of Artistic Education, January 1, 2018 | Go to article overview

7. Advocating the Poetics of Sound in the Cycle Les Nuits D'été by Hector Berlioz


Iaţeşen, Loredana Viorica, Review of Artistic Education


1.Introduction

1.1.Les Nuits ďété, Possible Meanings of the Title

Unlike other works by Hector Berlioz, there is little documentary information about this ensemble of six poems on music entitled Les Nuits d'été, on the lyrics of Théophile Gautier. There is no such information either in the composer's well-known Memoirs, or in his correspondence, as there is no piece of contemporary criticism about it. The only sources of information and documentation are the different editions of the musical score and especially the references to the personalities of the musicians to whom they were dedicated. Therefore, its subsequent reception makes it difficult to analyze the meanings and the significances of this opus. It is only natural to ask ourselves today whether this work, which escapes the grandiose life of Berlioz, who was at the same time composer, concert organizer, musical critic and librettist, could not be a more special way to his heart, to his most intimate thoughts. In other words, this composition invites us to address the source of inspiration of the opus, most often masked behind a musician appreciated mainly for the force of his orchestration. A work that was long considered minor in the evolution of an exceptional career of the nineteenth-century romantic musician Hector Berlioz, who was recognized by his ostentatiously displayed grandiloquence. This was the beginning of a piece of criticism Enquete sur un titre published in 2015 by Élisabeth Brisson in an online pedagogical journal. The quoted piece is part of a wide exegesis (monographs, volumes of studies, reviews, essays signed by professional musicians or music lovers, men of letters), which was built around the preoccupations of the emblematic figure of artist Hector Berlioz.

2.Mistery of the silence surrounding a valuable opus.

2.1.Possible explanations depending on the manner of reception

The first publication of the first version of the Les Nuits ď été score for voice and piano opus 7 (H 81 A) dates back to 1841 and it is the work of Adolphe Catelin, an editor with whom Berlioz cooperated between 1838 and 1843. Between 1837 and 1843, he also edited six other opuses by Hector Berlioz, which were republished in 1843 by another important editor of that time, Simon Richault, and who also handled the publication of the second edition, only for voice and piano (H 81 A) in 1855.

In the Les Nuits d'été cycle or collection study (Rushton, 2016, pp. 112135), musicologist Julian Rushton argues whether the group of melodies published by Berlioz as Les Nuits "constitutes a collection of melodies belonging to a poet and composer, or it should be called a cycle, with all that this term implies for our understanding it as a whole" (Rushton, 2016, p. 112). Moreover, the researcher debates extensively on the two distinct versions of the musical score: the first, composed in 1840 and published the following year, is for voice and piano, whereas the second, the orchestration of which was performed at different times, was published in 1856 for voice and orchestra. "Although in 1841 the arias were designed for mezzo-soprano or tenor, with the exception of the 5th aria, which is for tenor, in 1856, in order to be suitable for the performers to whom they were dedicated, Berlioz transposed the second and third arias at different times and indicated a preference for male voices for the second and penultimate arias" (Rushton, 2016, p. 112). The same author questions the timbre parameter that is different in each aria. "Although Berlioz expressed his preference for the publication of all six arias in a single cycle, his compositional conception suggests little concern for a cyclical vision", argues the musicologist in the quoted study (Rushton, 2016, p. 113).

Surprisingly enough, in another study, In the shadows of Les Nuits d'été, (Bloom, 2016, pp. 80-111), comprising six sections, (1. the issue of the year of creation of the Les Nuits d'éte cycle; 2. …

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