• Charles Osborne


Solosongwas slow to develop in France during the 18th century. The hundred or so romances of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778), so popular in their day, are now completely unknown; and, although one or two celebrated French recitalists of our own time, most notably the baritone Gérard souzay, have included French airs of the 18th century and earlier in their programmes, there is no individual composer whose music can be said to be familiar to modern audiences, with the exception of the German, Schwartzendorf (1741–1816), who changed his name to Giovanni Martini, made his career in France, and is remembered today for one charming and plaintive song, ‘Plaisir d’amour’. In the 19th century, the earliest composers of merit are Louis Niedermeyer (1802–1861) and Hippolyte Monpou (1804–1841). Niedermeyer’s reputation rests almost entirely upon one song, ‘Le Lac’, his setting of a poem by Lamartine, although he wrote a number of other songs which are equally attractive, among them ‘L’Automne’, ‘La Voix humaine’ and ‘Le Cinq Mai’. Saint-Saëns was later to write of him: ‘Niedermeyer was above all a precursor. He was the first to break the mould of the antiquated and insipid French romance; taking his inspiration from the beautiful poems of Lamartine and Victor Hugo, he created a new type of song of a superior artistry, analagous to the German Lied. The resounding success of “Le Lac” paved the way for Gounod and all those who followed this path.’*


Folk Song Solo Song Love Song Melodic Line Chamber Music 
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© Charles Osborne 1974

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  • Charles Osborne

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