Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique of Paris (14, rue de Madrid)
When this ‘charming rascal’ Cherubin — this is Suzanna speaking — panic-stricken, but firm of knee, jumps out ot the window of ‘Figaro House’, history does not want him to fall on the muddy pavement of Schulerstrasse in Vienna, but rather in the heart of some bed of cabbages or raspberries such as the archiduchess of Schoenbrunn, the very Lady whom this ‘rascal’Mozart (this is the sovereign of Salzburg treating him thus) found so good that he wanted to marry her, flower-bed such as Marie-Antoinette of Austria, if one prefers, had had designed in the enclosures surrounding the little houses of the Hameau de la Reine, on the edge of the ponds where the ‘Beautiful Miller’s Daughter’ (Die schöne Müllerin) of the Petit Trianon loved to watch pike and carp glide through still waters where they had been duly introduced, in the absence of the trout of her Vienna countryside; while the musicians of the Gardes Françaises underlined, with their pompompom, the jabbering of Fêtes Galantes where the Queen could be seen running a small garden-restaurant, Carlin and Dugazon playing at magpie or at turkey (hidden in wicker dummies) and where one dined on small tables: that of the Princess of Lamballe and the one of the Duchess of Polignac attracting all eyes, of course:
‘Of her maids of honour,
Jule was the most beautiful
Jule with her talents quickly taught Toinon’
(ô Fersen!), according to the snappers-up of trifles and the short-story writers of the time who, in our day and age, are sentenced to staying in the Hell of the Bibliothèque Nationale.
These same musicians of the Gardes Françaises will greet Madame Bonaparte, the Empress and Mademoiselle de Beauharnais, the Queen of Holland, assiduous attendants of the Concerts des Elèves and sometimes even the First Consul standing in the central box of the hall of the examinations theatre of the Institut National de Musique of the municipality of Paris, since Bernard Sarrette, captain of the ‘paid’ garde-nationale (and thus fulfilling the wish of the actor-orator Lekain) had been granted by the Convention a share of 45 musicians.
The last classes in Cherubini’s Vieux Conservatoire took place on 23th december 1910. Among the jury members following each other were Thomas, Got, Delaunay, Halévy, Dumas, Sardou, all listening to the ‘hopes’ and waiting for a new Director who was said to come from Pamiers (like Léonard, Marie-Antoinette’s hairdresser).
Classes start again in the new premises, rue de Madrid, on 4th january 1911, a short distance from ‘the eternal gare Saint-Lazare’ (Fauré), premises which recovered the used green carpets and the settees with their thread-bare cloth of the preceding Establishment, because harmonizing with the shades of the plaster in the new House (Die liebe Farbe, dear to Schubert?). This was followed by the library and its rich museum: there can still be found side by side the harps of Marie-Antoinette and of Mme de Lamballe and the manuscript of Don Giovanni (Mozart) presented by Pauline Viardot.
The acoustics were entrusted to government architect Blavette — in the absence of Mozart who would have liked to be an architect before succeeding as an architect of tones — Blavette who is not stingy with the cork sheeting (in the old Conservatoire, no echo was perceived!). In the Director’s office on the first floor, intrigues go at a good pace, if we believe the epistolary exchanges Fauré/Paul Viardot in respect of the Conseil Supérieur.
In the corridors, the Cherubins run towards loves kindled and as soon extinguished and do not know where to go nor what to do (‘Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio’), faced as they are with this ‘feeling which is less than love and related to it’ (Mme de Genlis) or with the bites of this strange evil that drives one mad (‘ouch!’), Cherubins who question their beautiful partners who, for their part, know (‘Voi che sapete che cosa è amor...’), an evil experienced by the little Jehan de Saintré (13 or 14 years old) or by the young equerry of Il était temps (by Rochon de Chabannes, imitated by Lessing) or by the little cousin Lindor of Heureusement, ‘a charming rascal’ according to Madame Lisban whose chambermaid Marthon notes that ‘he shows off to us his leg, his calf’, just as Constanze Weber will have her calf measured — by way of pledge — by the first ‘hat’ coming along, and this much to Wolfgang Amadeus’ resentment: ‘No woman who values her honour does it, only women who like the et cetera’. (Letter to Constanze Weber, dated 27th April 1782).
Let us also evoke the Petit Louis of the House of Choiseul, in the Touraine, whose adventure had reached Voltaire’s Switzerland and Walpole’s England and whose ‘caresses became more pressing every day’, as Mme de Choiseul admitted to the marquise du Deffand, adventure perhaps reminding Beaumarchais (who had interests in Vouvray) of his own adolescence, he who at 13 years of age dreamt of a
‘Gentle female companion
Who combined a thousand pleasures
With spirit and charming features’
and to whom Madame Beaumarchais-mother prophesied:
‘Ah, my son, my dear son
Will you not make
The women of Paris feel well’.
In memory of the ‘ardente flamme’ that, from Versailles to Vienna, from Bougival to Moscow, passing throughZwickau or Grenoble, will devour the Cherubin-Berlioz in the company of Mme Fornier, as it devoured the Cherubin-Mozart or the Cherubin-Schubert (‘I loved a woman for a long time, and she loved me, too. I still love her, and no other woman pleased me as much as she. She was not destined for me!’) or the Cherubin-Schumann of Mme Agnes Carus, or the Cherubin-Verdi of Mme Strepponi or the Cherubin-Fauré of Mme Viardot, love therefore remains the common denominator of the pieces performed in this ultimate Recital in the Salle Fauré, love mischievous, tragic, humorous, maternal, mystic, sometimes far-away (Leconte de Lisle), sometimes heretical (like in the Country of Gabriel Fauré and Armand Silvestre), a love one finds murmured or laid bare in the Lieder or the Melodies, or in the fusion of the piano/voice (Mozart, Schubert, Clara Schumann, Fauré, sang while accompanying themselves), a love which sets ablaze the young hearts or that revives the flame of anguished Fausts or Marguerites, for always in quest of the perfect essence (this Fin’amor of the great Troubadours?), a love such as radiated by the medium of a voice a hundred versts away from the ‘agile throats’ put to shame by Mozart, a hundred miles away from the ‘delicate throats’ abhorred by Fauré, a love set in the modulated arpeggi of the best-finished of all instruments of Saxony, the ‘August Foerster 1943’ of Zwickau, as opposed to these ‘sewing machines’ or to these ‘pianeuses’ (ô ! Yves Nat), copies modelled on the achievements of a Clementi who ‘doesn’t have a Kreutzer’s worth of feeling or of taste, in a word, a simple mechanicus’, according to the handsome definition of W.-A. Mozart (letter to his father, Vienna 12-01-1782) or on the prowess of a Bernasconi singing ‘a full comma too high’ on the basis of the fees as proposed by the theatre Director of the moment (Vienna on the 27-01-1781, W.-A. Mozart to his Father).
The padded doors of the Salle Fauré are half opening one last time, perhaps pushed by some intrigued Director who recognizes ‘good old things’ interpreted by a voice ‘which does not resemble any other’, unless the one which, beyond the ardent flames, rejoins the amour vrai such as it was born, one day, in Gabriel Fauré’s native Country.
Claude d’Esplas (The Music Lesson)
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The last Recital Salle Gabriel Fauré, Paris (Mozart, Fauré, Schumann, Schubert, Verdi, Berlioz)
CD ADG/Paris 1998 - n° 98001