1868, 1869, 1870, 1871, 1874, 1879, 1882, 1883, 1884, 1989, Music

The Songs of Henri Duparc (1989) by Sarah Walker, Thomas Allen, Roger Vignoles

For reasons I can’t quite articulate, I find lieder tough to get into. My first reaction is to be a little surprised that this guy’s status in the canon rests on this.

But after a few listens, I can kind of see why. Kind of. I think I need to give it more time as I am tempted to think these are just not up to par with Schubert. But what do I know?


“L’Invitation Au Voyage” (1870)

This is a slow, pretty song that makes you feel as though the modern listener is in another time, maybe in a rich theatre somewhere in Paris, or maybe idling the days away on some slow river (given the title).

I have such a hard time writing about songs individually, because I just haven’t listened to enough of them.

Duparc’s music is so mellow – sometimes melancholy – and so deliberately paced. It feels like it is from a different time, almost completely unimaginable for a world with cars, planes and phones on which you can browse the internet. This song feels impossibly slow at times.

“Testament” (1883)

This is downright lively compared to some of Duparc’s music, with soaring high notes, a bit of a faster tempo, and cascading piano.

Another deliberate song by Duparc; the pace does pick up at times, which makes it a little more interesting.

“Extase” (1874)

A very sedate, deliberate song, which you could practically fall asleep to at times. “Dreamy” is the best I can come up with, despite its title. (I guess it’s a different type of “ecstasy” we’re talking about here.)

“La Vague Et La Cloche” (1871)

This is a rumbling, dramatic piece, quite unlike most of the other Duparc songs I’ve heard previously.

“Chanson Triste” (1868)

This is a pretty one, perhaps one of Duparc’s prettiest songs. Still slowly paced, but so much less laconic than some of his stuff.

“Le Galop” (1869)

Though I don’t hear what I would expect from the title, this is the liveliest Duparc song I’ve yet heard. Even if the notes just descend over and over again in the opening, I find this more compelling than most of his music.

“Romance de Mignon” (1869)

This is a delicate piece but something about it makes more of an impression on me than a lot of his other pieces that are at this tempo.

Much like a number of his pieces for men, this piece has some appealing movement to it, in addition to a faster tempo.

“La Fuite” (1871)

This duet is more like it; full of drama from both the piano and the voices, this is so much more compelling than his idylls.

“Lamento” (1883, though one source says 1868)

As you might expect from the title, this is a plodding piece in terms of tempo. But the mood is suitably funereal. It picks up at the end.

A little more sprightly than the “Lament” but still sedate and perhaps a little wistful. The climax feels earned.

Le manoir de Rosemonde (1879)

Full of trembling, dramatic piano, I think Duparc wrote more interesting, or at least more exciting, songs for men.

I don’t know what the lyrics mean, as I don’t speak French, but it seems odd to me that a song about war would be so sedate. I guess it’s because this is a lament for the dead, or for those affected by the war, or something like that, rather than a musical depiction of war itself. I should probably look up a translation of the lyrics to see if the music really fits the lyrics because seeing “guerre” in the title would normally make me assume we were getting some action, except that this is Duparc writing for women.

I guess the climax feels appropriate.

Soupir (1869)

Another slow piece, which is practically laconic except for the conviction in the singer’s voice. The tempo does improve as the piece moves along.

For a piece about reincarnation there is at least some forward momentum to the beginning of this. Honestly, I was kind of dreading this given its title, but it’s got more drama than most of Duparc’s songs for women.

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