CULTURE: MUSIC. THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY
In the first half of the eighteenth century J.-Ph. Rameau represented the synthesis of the great Baroque music of France. His lyrical tragedies (Hippolyte et Aricie, Les Indes galantes, Castor et Pollux) grafted on to Lulli’s models, renewing the splendors of the scenic representation and amplifying the commitment of the musical structure and the expressive range. His contribution to instrumental music and musical theory was also fundamental. After Rameau, French music failed to express an autonomous language for a long time. The opera was eclipsed by the new Italian comic opera, which was imported to Paris by the Babini company (among other things with memorable representations of the Servant mistress of Pergolesi) and also supported by J.-J. Rousseau and the encyclopedists, as opposed to nostalgics of the old national style. The so-called “polemic of the buffs” arose, from which the opéra-comique was born, cultivated by Rousseau, by F.-A. Philidor and A.-E.-M. Grétry. In the following years many of the greatest composers of the time worked in Paris (C.-W. Gluck, N. Piccinni, G. Spontini, L. Cherubini, G. Rossini, V. Bellini, G. Donizetti, J. Meyerbeer among the operas; F. Chopinand F. Liszt among the pianists-composers), while French music was represented by less important figures such as E.-N. Méhul, F.-A. Boïeldieu, D. Auber, JFE Halevy, A. Ch. Adam, Ch.-L.-A. Thomas. Tenaciously misunderstood at home remained the revolutionary novelty of the language of H. Berlioz, the most representative French musician of the first half of the nineteenth century. In that period the musical life was very lively: opera houses of great prestige functioned; at the Concerts du Conservatoire (founded by DOES. Habeneck in 1828) the greatest masterpieces of symphonic literature were performed; musical practice was widespread in bourgeois homes.
CULTURE: MUSIC. THE BIRTH OF THE NATIONAL SCHOOL
Great prestige also had musical institutes such as the Paris Conservatory (directed for a long time by Cherubini) and the École Niedermeyer (derived from the one founded in 1817 by A.-É. Choron), from which the musicians who in the second half of the nineteenth century they renewed the national musical tradition. In the field of opera Ch. Gounod, C. Saint-Saëns, G. Bizet and in part also J. Massenet expressed themselves in an original language; in the operatic and funny one dominated by J. Offenbach and Hervé; J. Offenbach and Hervé; in the ballet L. Delibes; in the instrumental sector they gave important contributions C.-A. Franck, again C. Saint-Saëns and É. Lalo, finally taking into account the work of Berlioz and also of the Germanic Romantic symphonism. Franck also gave birth to the short season of the romantic organ and partly resumed the trend of sacred music, which had remained neglected for over a century; in the same period Wagnerian operatic solutions penetrated into France, finding prompt echo in the works of A.-E. Chabrier and V. d’Indy. Close to realism and sentimentality was the work of G. Charpentier, while in a crepuscular late romanticism were placed M.-E.-HF Duparc, P. Dukas, E. Chausson and, in part, also G. Fauré, although his style foreshadowed impressionistic sweetness. While a whole circle of composers, gathered around the Schola Cantorum (musical institute founded in 1894) and its founder V. d’Indy, attempted a recovery of polyphonic and generically academic values (G. Pierné, G. Lekeu, G. Ropartz), C. Debussy developed the new impressionist musical taste, derived from the parallel pictorial experiences and deeply imbued with exotic references, hextonal scales, delicate and suffused timbres, in search of a particular suggestion, close to the decadent taste of contemporary European literature. The happiest moment of this new poetics, to which also M. Ravel adhered, albeit on more mediated and essential positions, was the work Pelléas et Mélisande, later widely imitated.
CULTURE: MUSIC. THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
The dispute sophisticated and intellectualized experiences of Impressionism, already in the bud by the arrival in Paris of the Ballets Russes of Diaghilev and the music of Stravinsky, came on after the end of World War I through the work of the Group of Six (G. Auric, F. Poulenc, D. Milhaud, A. Honegger, G. Tailleferre, LE Durey), by E. Satie and H. Sauguet. After a very happy season, however, the group broke up and the personal contributions of its most prestigious members remained. In the years between the two wars, A. Roussel and J. Ibert are still to be remembered, in balance between neoclassical formalism and Impressionism. In the Thirties the Jeune France group, formed by A. Jolivet, D. Lesur, O. Messiaen and Y. Baudrier, gave a further shake to the musical life and open to the newest experiences. Messiaen, the exponent endowed with greater personality, knew how to create an autonomous language and above all a valid school from which, among others, P. Boulez emerged, with works that however use very different languages. Refer, for example, to Turangalîla of the first or to the Pli selon pli of the second. Also active at the same time were the moderates C. Delvincourt, JR Françai, J. Rivière and H. Barraud. Nadia Boulanger’s school of composition also acquired growing importance, while the twelve-tone techniques developed by the Vienna School found in France a strenuous defender in R. Leibowitz; from the collaboration between his pupil P. Schaeffer and P. Boulez began, shortly after the end of the Second World War, the first experiments in concrete music and the foundations of electronic music were born. In avant-garde music, which is experiencing a period of great vivacity, P. Boulez occupies a position of absolute pre-eminence and is present with his compositions in all contemporary music reviews. In addition, Boulez founded (1976), and directed until 1992, the IRCAM: an important musical institution where a new generation of composers was formed, including G. Grisey, T. Murail, H. Dufourt.