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RoschmannFebruary 8, 2018
Dorothea Röschmann
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Christoph Prégardien
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Theo Hoffman
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Brian Mulligan
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Andrei Bondarenko
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Tara Erraught
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Vocal Arts DC
PO Box 42423
Washington, DC 20015



The George Washington University Department of Music
Goethe-Institut Washington
Levine Music
University of Maryland Opera Studio
Wagner Society DC

"My Favorite Song"

Guest contributors select one song that has a special, personal meaning for them, sharing specific reasons about why they find the music and lyrics irresistible, and choosing a performance that they feel ideally captures the spirit of that song.

Archive of Past Selections

"My Favorite Song"
April, 2014

Welcome to the monthly feature of the Vocal Arts DC web site in which guest contributors select one song that has a special, personal meaning for them, sharing specific reasons about why they find the music and lyrics irresistible, and choosing a performance that they feel ideally captures the spirit of that song.

This month's 'My Favorite Song' entry is from Eugene Karl Montoya, a graduate student who is as passionate about "all things vocal" as he is knowledgeable, and who has availed himself with great appreciation of our complimentary tickets for students.

Cécile Chaminade (music) and Edouard Auguste Louis (libretto): "Ah, Chantez, Chantez" (Ah, Sing, Sing)

Immediately following freshman year at Vanderbilt University, I decided to learn German as a complete beginner at a language school in Munich where I would first foray into the ancestral language of my paternal grandmother. It did not take long to find atop the prestigious Bavarian department store, Ludwig Beck, the most incomparable classical music CD shop I'd ever seen. I would spend hours in the store listening for free to the rarest opera or a historical live symphonic performance as the store's custom was to open any item for preview before purchase. One of the first purchases I did make that summer was a Deutsche Grammophon sampler composed of tracks from the latest albums of their big name artists. The sampler included Ah, chantez, chantez from Cecile Chaminade's L'été which has since become one of my favorite pieces for voice and pianoforte and neatly captures the spirit of that summer's cultural immersion. Once you listen to it, it will likewise whisk your mind away not in particular to Munich but to the salons and parlors of artistic sophisticates living in late Victorian Paris such as Georges Bizet, Jacques Offenbach and Ambroise Thomas.

Structurally, the song's melody follows a clear, repetitive stanza format analogous to the cheery poem about summer that it's based upon. The monochromaticism of the song lends itself to a single mood direction throughout the piece where the danceable tune (almost reminding one of a Bach Allemande based on French medieval dances) builds up excitement and resolves with exuberant top notes. I tend to enjoy this song most when it's dark and stormy outside and I have a nice cup of tea and something to read at hand. The most enjoyable listening element is knowing that this music belongs to a specialist variety that satisfied the composers' own creative pursuits. In those days (as now), composers would write opuses by commission from monarchs and theatrical producers, but they would write parlor songs like this for their own enjoyment and/or the delight of their salons, guilds, and small music appreciation societies. While it's unlikely that famous French Romantic composer Georges Bizet would have heard this exact song, which was written one year before his death, it is conceivable that he would have heard similar songs played by Chaminade herself throughout her early career. In many ways these kinds of songs are part of another sub-genre of Romantic that could be dubbed a 'composer's composer song' much like a Soirées Musicales by Gioacchino Rossini, which is rarely performed in its entirety.

Chaminade is fairly unknown today and her works have not stood the test of time as well as her contemporaries. She is a remarkable figure who warrants further study; her training was heavily vested in Baroque and Classical, but she herself composed Romantic chamber works as refined as those of the eminent Gabriel Fauré. Perhaps she is not well known because of her gender or because she did not write transnationally successful operas or even larger-scale symphonic works like Hector Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique. Ambroise Thomas commensurately remarked of her that "This is not a woman who composes, but a composer who is a woman." Ultimately, chamber artists like this one become the footnotes of musicologists and deep lovers of song cycles, but like Franz Schubert's Erlkönig, her songs can be interpreted as mini opera's. I'm particularly impressed with the theatrical profundity conveyed here by Anne Sofie von Otter's timbre and technique; the word painting of this ballad is not superficial and it conveys the same level of messaging that any opera air could. The vocal pyrotechnics sound simple to the ear but are incredibly demanding on the vocalist; if done well they sound almost mathematical as they do here with perfect calculation, pitch, and breath but not compromising on tonal or human warmth. The balance between the voice and the whirlwind piano line makes this a true duet and highlights the virtuosity of both instruments making it a delightful addition to any vocal enthusiast's collection.

"Ah, Chantez, Chantez" (Ah, Sing, Sing)
Performers: Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo-soprano), Bengt Forsberg (pianoforte)

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"My Favorite Song"

Archive of Past Selections