The Sakura Bellefleurs website is up!

We have a site that gives the history and purpose of Sakura Bellefleurs, and a history for each of our Blossoms!  Let me know if you have any suggestions or comments.

Sakura Bellefleurs






Sakura Salon 2/15/15 – Early Choral Music

Thanks to Diamanda Gustaffson for her guest presentation at our last Salon on early music!  Tonight we continue our look at early music.

Tonight I am going to give a quick overview of Renaissance choral composers.  I was going to get into some more detail, at first, but there is too much to cover in one Salon – and I am also not the expert Diamanda is in early music.  So, instead we will simply go with an overview of some of the important composers and pieces that are generally ones I like.  Hopefully, if you hear something you like, you will have the information to follow up..

First, however we will start with two pieces from the Medieval period, where you can hear that Western tonality and harmonies have not yet settled into what we now culturally feel is ‘normal’.  In some ways, this may remind you of 20th century music when composers were trying to break away from those same tonalities and aural expectations.


Playlist (translations at the end of post):

  1. Musica Nova – Machaut: Messe de Nostre Dame: Agnus Dei (4:46)
  2. Musica Nova – Andrieu: Armes, amours / O flour des flours (10:10)
  3. Blue Heron – Dufay: Flos florum (3:54)
  4. The Tallis Scholars – Josquin: Missa Pange lingua: Kyrie (2:55)
  5. Hilliard Ensemble/Paul Hillier – Josquin: Mille regretz (2:02)
  6. Hilliard Ensemble/Paul Hillier – Josquin: Petite camusette (1:01)
  7. Hilliard Ensemble/Paul Hillier – Josquin: El grillo (1:49)
  8. Hilliard Ensemble/Paul Hillier/David James/Paul Elliott/Leigh Nixon/Michael George – Josquin: La déploration sur la mort de Jehan Ockeghem (5:46)
  9. Dennis Keene: Voices Of Ascension – Lassus: Justorum Animae (2:05)
  10. Dennis Keene: Voices Of Ascension – Byrd: Ave Verum Corpus (4:23)
  11. Dennis Keene: Voices Of Ascension – Victoria: O Magnum Mysterium (3:40)
  12. Dennis Keene: Voices Of Ascension – Sweelinck: Psalm 96, “Chantez A Dieu Chanson Nouvelle” (1:57)
  13. The Tallis Scholars – Palestrina: Missa Papae Marcelli: Kyrie (4:49)
  14. Dennis Keene: Voices Of Ascension – Viadana: Exultate Justi (1:59)
  15. Robert King: The King’s Consort – Gabrieli (G): Kyrie A 12 (7:10)


Guillaume de Machaut (1300-1377)  – The French composer and poet Guillaume de Machaut is indisputably one of the most prominent figures of 14th-century music. In his numerous poetical and musical works we can recognize an ultimately cultured, educated artist, endowed with refined sense of noble beauty. His personality is a fascinating combination of the culturally and politically influential ecclesiastical elite and a vanishing world of medieval chivalry, embodying the conquest trips across Europe, heroic deeds, but also the warm tones of the love songs intended for noble and beautiful ladies.

Today his four-voice Mass of Notre Dame is a textbook example for medieval counterpoint, and has served sufficiently to maintain his reputation across shifts in fashion.   Although two other cyclical masses predate this one, this is the first existing by a single composer.

Machaut is also considered the last of the line of Trouveres, the musician poets of the “Court of Love”


Franciscus Andrieu (late 14th centrury) – a composer, most likely French, of the late 14th century. Nothing is known about him except that he wrote an elegy on the death of Guillaume de Machaut (1377), a four-voice ballade Armes amours / O flour des flours, which is contained in the Chantilly Codex. He also may be tentatively identified as the Magister Franciscus, composer of two other ballades from approximately the same time, though the link can only be made by stylistic similarities.

His music belongs to that portion of late medieval musical practice known as the ars nova.


Next we get to our Renaissance composers.

Guillaume Dufay (1397-1474) was one of the most highly regarded composers of his generation, and one of those principally responsible for inaugurating the Renaissance in music.  Dufay was one of the most cosmopolitan composers of his or any age, and his large musical output contains masterpieces in every genre from cyclic masses to isorhythmic motets to simply ornamented hymns and dramatic cycles.

Dufay’s music flows more smoothly than the characteristically complex rhythmic textures of the late Medieval period, and is marked by graceful melodies and a compelling sense of direction.  Today, we value Dufay’s music not only for its grace and invention, but also for its significant historical position in the quickly evolving style of the early Renaissance.


Josquin Des Prez  (1450-1521) was one of the most influential and widely regarded composers in the history of Western music, so famous that he is known merely by his first name.  Josquin’s surviving musical output is very large, comprising masses, motets, and secular songs in both French and Italian. His style is marked by the technique of pervasive imitation, in which different vocal lines share material in a subtle interlocking manner. Most of his compositions are for four voices, though larger textures are not uncommon. Typically, Josquin utilizes pair-wise imitation between voices – such that the texture is divided into pairs of voices which interchange material in canon. This technique deliberately eschews the longer lines of the previous generation to concentrate on shorter motifs which lend themselves to various combinations of melody and harmony. This technique was to have direct consequence for the later Renaissance, and for the Baroque and Classical periods as well.

His influential contrapuntal experimentation and structural refinement lead many people to consider Josquin the greatest composer in the history of Western music, and indeed composers would be studying and utilizing his material directly for more than a century.


Orlande de  Lassus (1532-1594) was a Netherlandish or Franco-Flemish composer of the late Renaissance. He is today considered to be the chief representative of the mature polyphonic style of the Franco-Flemish school, and one of the three most famous and influential musicians in Europe at the end of the 16th century (the other two being Palestrina and Victoria).


William Byrd (1540-1623) was the leading English composer of his generation, and together with his continental colleagues Giovanni Palestrina (c.1525-1594) and Orlando de Lassus (1532-1594), one of the acknowledged great masters of the late Renaissance. Byrd is considered by many the greatest English composer of any age.  He wrote both Catholic and Protestant pieces, in his religious output.


Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611) studied the music of Italian and Iberian masters, including Palestrina, Morales, and Guerrero, becoming a leading composer of the Roman School.

Victoria published his first book of motets in 1572, followed by the Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae in 1585, a collection of motets and lamentations for Holy Week Catholic services. These works established Victoria as the most significant composer of the Counter-Reformation in Spain, and one of the most highly-regarded composers of sacred music in the late Renaissance.


Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562- 1621) was a Dutch organist, teacher, and composer. He is widely considered to be the greatest of Dutch composers.

Sweelinck was extremely influential as a teacher, especially of German students (including Scheidemann, Scheidt, Praetorius, and Hasse) who would propagate his compositional techniques far into eastern Europe. He is one of the major figures in the transition from Renaissance to Baroque compositional styles.


Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594) was an Italian Renaissance composer of sacred music and the best-known 16th-century representative of the Roman School of musical composition.  He has had a lasting influence on the development of church music, and his work has often been seen as the culmination of Renaissance polyphony.


Giovanni Gabrieli (1556-1612) is an important transitional figure between the Renaissance and Baroque eras and their associated musical styles. The distinctive sound of his music derived in part from his association with St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice, long one of the most important churches in Europe, and for which he wrote both vocal and instrumental works.


Some other terms to know:

Chanson,  (French: “song”)  – French art song of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Motet,  (French mot: “word”)  – style of vocal composition that has undergone numerous transformations through many centuries. Typically (but not always), it is a Latin religious choral composition.

Madrigal – A madrigal is a secular vocal music composition, usually a partsong, of the Renaissance and early Baroque eras. Traditionally, polyphonic madrigals are unaccompanied; the number of voices varies from two to eight, and most frequently from three to six.



 Agnus Dei

Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.

Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.

Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.


Armes Amours / O flour des flours

I dont have this at this time.  😦


Flos Florum

Flower of flowers, fount of gardens, queen of the heavens,

hope of pardon, light of joy, remedy of sorrows. 

fresh branch and seemly virgin, model of goodness:

spare the guilty and bring them a reward in the peace of the righteous,

feed your own, succour your own, have mercy upon your own.



Lord have mercy

Christ have mercy

Lord have mercy


Petite Camusette

Little Camusette (you little minx), you will be the death of me.

Robin and Marion, they went off to the pretty (green) woods.

They went off, they went off arm in arm.

They fell asleep.

Little minx, you will be the death of me.


Mille Regretz

A thousand regrets at deserting you

and leaving behind your loving face,

I feel so much sadness and such painful distress,

that it seems to me my days will soon dwindle away.


EL Grillo

The cricket is a good singer

He can sing very long

He sings all the time.

But he isn’t like the other birds.

If they’ve sung a little bit

They go somewhere else

The cricket remains where he is

When the heat is very fierce

Then he sings only for love.


La deploration sur la mort de Jehan Ockegham

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,

and let perpetual light shine upon them.

Wood-nymphs, goddesses of the fountains,

Skilled singers of every nation,

Turn your voices, so clear and lofty,

To piercing cries and lamentation

Because Atropos*, terrible satrap,

Has caught your Ockeghem in her trap,

The true treasurer of music and master,

Learned, handsome and by no means stout.

It is a source of great sorrow that the earth must cover him.


Put on the clothes of mourning,

Josquin, Pierre de la Rue, Brumel, Compère,

And weep great tears from your eyes,

For you have lost your good father.

May they rest in peace.



Justorum animae

The souls of the just are in the hand of God,

and the torment of death shall not touch them.

In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die;

but they are in peace.


Ave Verum Corpus

Hail, true Body, born

of the Virgin Mary,

who having truly suffered, was sacrificed

on the cross for mankind,

whose pierced side

flowed with water and blood:

May it be for us a foretaste [of the Heavenly banquet]

in the trial of death.

O sweet Jesus, O pious Jesus,

O Jesus, son of Mary,

have mercy on me. Amen.


O Magnum Mysterium

O great mystery,

and wonderful sacrament,

that animals should see the new-born Lord,

lying in a manger!

Blessed is the Virgin whose womb

was worthy to bear

Christ the Lord.



Psalm 96: Chantez a Dieu

Sing unto God new songs upraising, 

Sing thou, O world, His glory praising, 

Sing thou and bless His holy name. 

Yea from day to day tell His fame, 

Upon His great salvation gazing. 


Exultate Justi in Domino

Rejoice in the Lord, O ye just; praise befits the upright.

Give praise to the Lord on the harp; sing to him with the psaltery, the instrument of ten strings.

Sing to him a new canticle, sing well unto him with a loud noise.

Rejoice in the Lord


Salon 1/18/15 – van Cliburn and Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto #1

The first International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1958 was an event designed to demonstrate Soviet cultural superiority during the Cold War, on the heels of that country’s technological victory with the Sputnik launch in October 1957.

It was pretty much fore ordained that a Russian would win.

However Van Cliburn’s performance at the competition finale of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 on April 13 earned him a standing ovation lasting eight minutes.

When it was time to announce a winner, the judges were obliged to ask permission of the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to give first prize to an American. “Is he the best?” Khrushchev asked. “Then give him the prize!”

Cliburn returned home to a ticker-tape parade in New York City, the only time the honor has been accorded a classical musician. His cover story in Time magazine proclaimed him “The Texan Who Conquered Russia”

Tonight we will will listen to a performance by Van Cliburn recorded just after his shocking win, with the conductor the same as at the competition, invited to the US by Van Cliburn.  This was the first classical recording to ever go platinum.


The music

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky was neither the greatest nor the most innovative musician of his time, yet his contributions to music are still felt today, for it was his gift to write beautiful, evocative melodies that are not easily forgotten. From the love theme of the Romeo and Juliet Overture (1870), to the music of Swan Lake (1877) or his Sixth Symphony (Pathétique, 1893), to the well-known opening of the Piano Concerto No. 1, his music has become almost inescapable, a part of the collective conscious.

Yet the oft-told tale of the Piano Concerto’s conception reminds us that even Tchaikovsky’s melodies could fail to charm. He completed the work in December of 1874, and dedicated it to his teacher and friend, the great Russian pianist Nikolai Rubinstein.

He described the scene in a letter to a friend: “I played the first movement. Not a word, not a remark. If you only knew how disappointing, how unbearable it is when a man offers his friend a dish of his work, and the other eats and remains silent!” Tchaikovsky played the entire piece and then, he wrote, Rubinstein told him it was “worthless, impossible to play, the themes have been used before … there are only two or three pages that can be salvaged and the rest must be thrown away!”

Rubinstein offered to play the piece if Tchaikovsky rewrote it, but the composer replied, “I won’t change a single note,” and instead gave it to the pianist and conductor Hans von Bülow. Von Bülow did not share Rubinstein’s distate, and premiered the work in Boston on October 25, 1875. Though a critic there called it an “extremely difficult, strange, wild, ultra-modern Russian Concerto,” the audience was enthusiastic, as was a second audience in New York a week later, demanding an encore of the final movement. Rubinstein later recanted and performed the piece as well, while fifteen years later Tchaikovsky made some of the changes Rubinstein had requested. Rubinstein’s criticisms still have merit, for the piece is in some places nearly unplayable, while other passages for the soloist are barely audible. And the famous opening theme, for all its grandeur, is just as remarkable in its disappearance — for after storming in with blaring horns calls, sweeping strings, and maestoso ascending chords from the piano, the theme continues for only 110 measures and simply drops out of the piece, never to be heard again.

Yet it is at that point that the first movement, Allegro, may be said to truly begin. Two themes are introduced in double exposition, with the athletic first theme reappearing to interrupt the more restrained second at dramatic moments, and the piano “indulging in cadenza-like flights of startling execution,” as the Boston reviewer wrote in 1875. The movement ends in a burst of pyrotechnics from both orchestra and soloist.

The gentle Andantino simplice offers a respite from the bold gyrations of its predecessor, with the flute, oboe, and viola taking turns with the solo piano to develop the gentle, lilting first theme. The second theme is a rapid scherzo, based on a French song, “Il faut s’amuser, danser et rire” (One must amuse one’s self by dancing and laughing), a song favored by the opera singer Désirée Artôt, with whom Tchaikovsky had once been infatuated.

The first theme for the final Allegro is based on a Ukrainian folk song, “Viydi, viydi Ivanku,” (Come, come Ivanku), and it dances up and down in brilliant syncopations. A second, more lyrical theme sweeps in above the virtuosic piano line, and the piano answers in kind. The two themes build to a maestoso tutti followed by bravura fireworks all around.


Salon 1/11/15 – Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky

We’re back!  After a few weeks off for the holidays, our annual Handel’s Messiah salon (see previous blog posts for that write up!), and a guest presentation by Erehwon Yoshikawa on Power Pop, we are back with our traditional Salons!


Pictures at an Exhibition

Modest Mussorgsky

Victor Hartmann was a close friend who shared Mussorgsky’s ideals in his own field of architecture and painting.

When Hartmann died in 1874, aged only 39, Mussorgsky was devastated. In abject bitterness, he wrote: “Why should a dog, a horse, a rat live on and creatures like Hartmann must die?” But soon his incomprehension took a more constructive tack. The following year saw a memorial exhibit of 400 Hartmann works, including sketches, watercolors and costume designs. Mussorgsky was deeply moved. Seized with inspiration, he quickly reacted to the exhibition by writing a suite of ten piano pieces dedicated to the organizer.

The work opens with a brilliant touch – a “promenade” theme that reemerges throughout as a transition amid the changing moods of the various pictures. By alternating 6/4 and 5/4 time, its regular metric “walking” pace is thrown off-balance and cleverly suggests the hesitant gait of an art-lover strolling through a museum, attracted by upcoming pleasures but hesitant to leave the object at hand without a final glance at a telling detail.

The ten pictures Mussorgsky depicts (interspersed with the Promenade) are:

  1. Promenade
  2. The Gnome – a gnome-shaped nutcracker;
  3. Promenade
  4. The Old Castle – a troubadour plaintively singing outside an ancient castle;
  5. Promenade
  6. The Tuileries – children vigorously playing and quarrelling in a park;
  7. Bydlo – a lumbering wooden Polish ox-cart;
  8. Promenade
  9. Ballet of the Unhatced Chicks – a ballet of peeping chicks as they hatch from their shells;
  10. Samuel Goldberg and Schmuyle – an argument between two Warsaw Jews, one haughty and vain, the other poor and garrulous;
  11. Limoges, the Market – shrill women and vendors in a crowded marketplace;
  12. Catacombae (sepulchrum romanum) &
  13. Con Mortuis in Lingua Mortua  –   the eerie, echoing gloom of catacombs beneath Paris;
  14.  The Hut on Fowl’s Legs – the hut of a grotesque bone-chomping witch of Russian folk-lore;
  15.  The Gate of Kiev – a design for an entrance gate to Kiev.


Mussorgsky clearly chose these subjects for the variety of moods they invoked and the opportunities they presented for a wide array of musical depictions.

Alcoholism and severe depression not only cut short Mussorgsky’s life but plagued his most creative years and prevented him from advocating his work, which succumbed to the dismissive attitude of the cultural gatekeepers. Fame came only after his early death at age 42, when well-meaning admirers indulgently undertook to edit his operas in order to correct what they perceived to be artistic flaws, lapses of inspiration and overall carelessness. Only in more recent times have the originals been revived to display their frank elemental power.

The Pictures at an Exhibition met a similar fate. The score remained unpublished until 1886, five years after Moussorgsky’s death. But then, almost immediately, an amazing phenomenon began – while the original version generated little interest among pianists, over two dozen composers were seized by a compulsion to orchestrate it.

By far the most famous was by Maurice Ravel. Commissioned by Serge Koussevitzky in 1922, his was a propitious choice – Ravel’s version strongly underlines the mood of each piece, from the woodwind chirping of the chicks through the reverberant, dark brass of the catacombs, the percussive terror of the witch and especially the blazing brass and pealing carillons of the finale. Koussevitzky was not only a great conductor but a wise businessman – his deal with Ravel included in five years of exclusive performance rights.



Salon 12/7/14 – Piano Music of Erik Satie

In the midst of an art opening at a Paris gallery in 1902, Ambient music was born. Erik Satie and his cronies, after begging everyone in the gallery to ignore them, broke out into what they called Furniture Music–that is, background music–music as wallpaper, music to be purposely not listened to. The patrons of the gallery, thrilled to see musicians performing in their midst, ceased talking and politely watched, despite Satie’s frantic efforts to get them to pay no attention.

 “I have never written a note I didn’t mean.” – Erik Satie


You’ve heard his work in movies, commercials, even on “Sesame Street.” He was the quintessential “artist’s artist,” a man who, as one critic wrote, “had the no-doubt gratifying sensation of seeing the times catch up with him.”

Erik Alfred Leslie Satie was born in 1866, and was raised in Paris during an age in which the Wagnerian music model reached its zenith in Europe. He began music lessons at the age of 15, but without much success – though some thought he had talent and potential, his playing was at various times called “insignificant and laborious” and Satie the student, “worthless.”

In the 1890s he joined the Rosicrucian church, and was introduced to the mystical strains of Gregorian and plainsong chant that would permeate his music for the rest of his life. Satie quickly became bored by the Rosicrucians, though, and decided to create his own church, which he called “L’Eglise Métropolitaine d’Art de Jésus Conducteur.” For this he published an “official” manifesto that functioned primarily as soapbox upon which to rant against music critics.

Satie supported his one-member church by playing in the famous cabaret, the Chat Noir, where he met a young composer named Claude Debussy. Satie held strong influence over Debussy, instructing him to avoid all popular Wagnerian influences of the time. As he claimed, “There is no need for the orchestra to grimace when a character comes on stage. . . . What we have to do is create musical scenery . . . in which the characters move and talk.”

Debussy and friend Maurice Ravel began writing Satie-inspired pared-down music that eventually morphed French Impressionism. Debussy and Ravel only acknowledged Satie’s influence many years later, as firmly established composers. But, while Impressionism flourished, Satie stayed in the cabarets, and stayed very poor, even called Monsieur le Pauvre by his friends. By the turn of the century he moved to a cheap industrial suburb of Paris, where he would spend the rest of his life, walking several miles each day to play at the cabarets and back home every night with hammer in his pocket for protection.

It was around this time that Satie began wearing his trademark gray velvet suits, earning himself the nickname “the velvet gentleman.” He detested the sun, and tried to go outside only during bleak days. He washed only with pumice stone, never soap, but perhaps his most extreme behaviors centered around food: he “never spoke while eating, for fear of strangling himself,” and only ate white foods. His list? Eggs, sugar, shredded bones, animal fat, salt, coconuts, rice, turnips, pastry, cheese (white varieties), cotton salad, and certain kinds of fish.

In 1905, at the age of 40, Satie enrolled again in the conservatory to learn the “proper” classical techniques of counterpoint and theory. Surrounded by students half his age, he honed his skills and graduated top of class. With the classical training however, his music continued to become more bizarre. He began scribbling mysterious directions all over his scores and gave a running commentary of dialogue, puns, and absurdities: to be jealous of one’s playmate who has a big head, the war song of the King of Beans, canine song, to profit by the corns on his feet to grab his hoop, and indoors voice. The titles, too, were remarkable: Veritable Flabby Preludes (for a Dog), Sketches and Exasperations of A Big Boob Made of Wood, Menus for Childish Purposes, and Desiccated Embryos, to name just a few.

Spring of 1917 marked the premiere of the balletParade, a synthesis between literature and music, visual art and dance, fashion and poetry. For many, it was a long-awaited unification of art with everyday life, and an overdue break with the stifling bindings of Wagnerian late-romanticism.

The collaboration of poet, artist, and enfant terrible Jean Cocteau with the 48-year-old Satie began some three years prior, when the two had met as witnesses in a wedding. The charming Cocteau had attached himself to the Ballet Russes, becoming, in one critic’s words Diaghilev’s “court jester” and “house pixie.” While artists championed Parade, critics panned it, and the piece outraged so many people that there was a riot the first night it opened. Satie, Cocteau, and a few of their cronies even found themselves facing a libel suit in court, culminating being labeled “cultural anarchists,” and eight days of jail time for Satie.

Cocteau and Satie thrived on scandal however, and Parade became something of a cult object. Thanks to the high standing of Diaghilev and Picasso (not to mention a scathing press) Satie became something of a celebrity. Shortly after the premiere Satie’s newfound popularity found him at the center of a group of composers that would become known as Les Six. Satie collaborated with Les Six for the next several years and continued his interest in ballets, culminating in the 1924 premiere of Relâche.

Four decades of bourbon and absinthe had caught up with the composer however, and shortly after this event Satie became ill with cirrhosis of the liver and died. Though largely forgotten in the years following his death in 1925, during the 1960s Satie’s music began to surface as an anecdote to more traditional classical music, and has risen in popularity ever since.


Tonight’s Playlist

  1.    Reinbert de Leeuw – Satie: Gnossiennes – No. 1 – Lent (5:37)
  2.    Reinbert de Leeuw – Satie: Gnossiennes – No. 2 – Avec étonnement (2:58)
  3.    Reinbert de Leeuw – Satie: Gnossiennes – No. 3 – Lent (4:05)
  4.    Reinbert de Leeuw – Satie: Gnossiennes – No. 4 (2:51)
  5.    Reinbert de Leeuw – Satie: Gnossiennes – No. 5 (3:03)
  6.    Reinbert de Leeuw – Satie: Gnossiennes – No. 6 (2:40)
  7.    Jean-Yves Thibaudet – Satie: Le Piccadilly (1:36)
  8.    Jean-Yves Thibaudet – Satie: La diva de l’empire (2:15)
  9.    Jean-Yves Thibaudet – Satie: The dreamy fish (5:34)
  10.    Jean-Yves Thibaudet – Satie: The Angora Ox (7:39)
  11.    Reinbert de Leeuw – Satie: Petite ouverture à danser (2:17)
  12.    Jean-Yves Thibaudet – Satie: Je te veux (5:12)
  13.    Jean-Yves Thibaudet – Satie: 3 Gymnopédies – No.1 (3:39)
  14.    Jean-Yves Thibaudet – Satie: 3 Gymnopédies – No.2 (3:29)
  15.    Jean-Yves Thibaudet – Satie: 3 Gymnopédies – No.3 (3:07

Salon 11/30/14 – Gabriel Faure

Gabriel Faure

Gabriel Urbain Fauré (1845-1924) was a French composer, organist, pianist and teacher. He was one of the foremost French composers of his generation, and his musical style influenced many 20th-century composers. Among his best-known works are his Pavane, Requiem, nocturnes for piano and the songs “Après un rêve” and “Clair de lune”. Although his best-known and most accessible compositions are generally his earlier ones, Fauré composed many of his most highly regarded works in his later years, in a more harmonically and melodically complex style.

Fauré’s music has been described as linking the end of Romanticism with the modernism of the second quarter of the 20th century. When he was born, Chopin was still composing, and by the time of Fauré’s death, jazz and the atonal music of the Second Viennese School were being heard. The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, which describes him as the most advanced composer of his generation in France, notes that his harmonic and melodic innovations influenced the teaching of harmony for later generations.




The Fantasie for Flute and Orchestra was written as a competition piece but is certainly more than just an exercise. Although under five minutes the piece is in two movements and beautifully demonstrates the range and abilities of the flute. The work recorded here is an orchestration made in 1957 for Jean-Pierre Rampal.


Prelude to Penelope

Pénélope is an opera in three acts by the French composer Gabriel Fauré. The libretto, by René Fauchois is based on Homer’s Odyssey.  The Prelude to Penelope, Faure’s only opera, is a good piece of dramatic music writing that sets the scene for what is to follow: the return of Ulysses to his homeland after 20 years absence.


Ballade in F-Sharp Major

The Ballade for Piano and Orchestra comes from 1879 and is like Faure’s Nocturnes in mood. The music begins with a reflective melody and slowly builds in tempo to a dance-like melody becoming more and more tranquil and finally fading away.



The Pavane is a famous piece, slightly melancholy but with elegance and beautifully composed.  This is the version without boys choir, which I prefer.


Sakura Salon 11/23/14 – Annelies, by James Whitbourn



Though concert audiences have been moved by James Whitbourn’s riveting Annelies since its premier in 2005, the towering work had been unavailable on CD, until recently. Tonight we will listen to this 2014 Grammy nominated performance.

Annelies is the first adaptation of the diary of Anne Frank into a large-scale choral work (with small sections written in Dutch and German), 75 minutes in length, for soprano soloist, choir and instrumentalists. The libretto by Melanie Challenger is a translation and distillation from The Diary of Anne Frank. (Annelies is the full forename of Anne Frank, now commonly referred to by her abbreviated forename, Anne. Although her story had been choreographed for ballet as early as 1959, this is said to be the first authorized musical setting of the diary.)

The first complete performance of this moving work took place in April 2005, with Louise Kateck (soprano), the Clare College Choir and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin. The U.S. premiere was on April 28, 2007, at Westminster Choir College, in Princeton, NJ. James Jordan and composer James Whitbourn conducted the Westminster Williamson Voices and an instrumental ensemble. The soprano was Lynn Eustis. The world premiere of the completed chamber version was given on June 12, 2009, at the German Church of the Hague, Netherlands.

Annelies brings to life the diary written by Annelies Marie Frank between 1942 and 1944 when she and her family hid in the back of an Amsterdam warehouse. From the windows, Anne looked up to the beauty of the sky, and downwards to the brutality meted out by the Nazis. The contrasting sights inspired some of the most profound and memorable thoughts in an extraordinary diary, read by millions of people throughout the world.

The instrumental parts exist in two scorings: the larger is for full symphony orchestra while the smaller is for four solo players–clarinet, violin, cello and piano. Although the vocal writing is the same in both versions, the work can successfully be performed by a small chamber choir or by a large chorus. The chamber version has a few minor cuts.

Tonight we will listen to the chamber version, which the more knowledgeable of you may recognize as being scored for the same instruments as Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, written for the only instruments available to him in the concentration camp.


Written by Frank over a period of two years, while her family lived in secret rooms atop her father’s office building during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, the diary puts a very human face on the destruction wrought by Hitler’s Final Solution.

Frank began her diary two days after her 13th birthday. The last entry is dated Aug. 1, 1944. On the morning of Aug. 4, the rooms were stormed and the Franks deported. The identity of their betrayer has never been discovered.

Her mother perished of starvation at Auschwitz. Fifteen-year-old Anne and her sister died of typhus at Bergen-Belsen.

Her father, separated from the family at Auschwitz, miraculously survived. After the war, he was given the diary and associated papers by Miep Gies, one of the employees in the building who had aided the family in their seclusion. She had collected the papers from the ransacked apartment in the hope of one day returning them to Anne.

It was while in hiding that Anne had heard a radio broadcast from London. Gerrit Bolkestein, a representative of the Dutch government-in-exile, stated that after the war he would be collecting evidence, in the form of written documentation, of the oppression the Dutch people suffered at the hands of the Nazis. Anne, who by this time aspired to be a writer, set about revising portions of her diary for publication.


Whitbourn’s music for this work has been described as “woundingly beautiful” (The Daily Telegraph). He reflects sounds of the Westerkerk bells and tunes heard on the radio in the Annex, along with representations of Anne Frank’s Jewish and German heritage, details that add to a score “whose respectful understatement is its greatest strength” (The Times of London).

Reviews of the work


The libretto primarily consists of text drawn from Anne’s writings seasoned with a folk song in German, verses from the Old Testament, and a Kyrie. While we know the narrative, it is Anne’s voice, no, poetry, that is so touching.

 James Whitbourn: Annelies
Libretto by Melanie Challenger based on
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl




Up above you can hear the breathing,
Eight pounding hearts, footsteps on the stairs,
a rattling on the bookcase.
Suddenly, a couple of bangs.
Doors slammed inside the house
(11 April 1944)

Bleibst du! Anschlag!
(Stay there! Stop!)

We are in blue sky,
surrounded by black clouds.
See it, the perfectly round spot?
but the clouds are moving in,
and the ring between danger grows smaller.

We look at the fighting below,
and the peace and beauty above,
but the dark mass of clouds looms before us,
and tries to crush us.

O ring, ring, open wide and let us out!

(8 November 1943)



When would we go into hiding?
Where would we hide?
In the city? In the country? In a house? In a shack?
(8 July 1942)

These questions kept running through my mind.
I started packing my important belongings.
The first thing was my diary.
Memories mean more to me than dresses.
(8 July 1942)

Ik zal, hoop ik, aan jou alles kunnen toevertrouwen, zoals ik het nog aan niemand
gekund heb, en ik hoop dat je een grote steun voor me zult zijn.

[I hope I shall be able to confide in you completely, as I have never been able to
do in anyone before, and I hope that you will be a great support and comfort to
(12 June 1942)

It seems like years since Sunday morning.
So much has happened,
it’s as if the whole world had
suddenly turned upside down.
(8 July 1942)



My last night in my own bed.
A warm rain fell.
The four of us wrapped in layers of clothing,
the stripped beds, the breakfast things on the table.
We closed the door behind us.
(8 July 1942)

Walking in the pouring rain,
walking down the street,
each of us with a satchel filled to the brim.
(9 July 1942)

We arrived at Prinsengracht,
led through the long passage
and up the wooden staircase
to the Annexe.
The door was shut behind us,
leaving us alone.

Then for the first time,
I found a moment to tell you about it,
to realize what had happened to me
and what was about to happen.
(10 July 1942)

We’re Jews in chains,
chained to one spot,
without any rights,
a thousand obligations.

We must be brave
and trust in God.
(11 April 1944)



The days here are very quiet.
(1 October 1942)

Having to sit still all day
and not say a word,
you can imagine how
hard that is for me.
On ordinary days, we speak in a whisper.
Not being able to talk is worse.
(29 September 1942)

The silence makes me so nervous,
but the chiming of the Westertoren clock
reassures me at night.
(11 July 1942)

You no doubt want to hear
what I think of life in hiding?
(11 July 1942)

The blue sky, the bare chestnut tree,
glistening with dew,
the seagulls, glinting with silver
swooping through the air.
As long as this exists,
this sunshine and this cloudless sky,
how can I be sad?
(23 February 1944)

Prospectus and Guide to the Secret Annexe.
A Unique Facility for the Temporary Accommodation of Jews and Other
Dispossessed Persons.
Now our Annexe has truly become a secret,
a bookcase has been built in front of the entrance.
It swings upon its hinges
and opens like a door.
It is Open All Year Round,
Located in Beautiful, Quiet, Wooded Surroundings,
In the Heart of Amsterdam.
Inside it is Necessary to Speak Softly at all times,
Singing is Permissible, only Softly and After Six pm!
(17 November 1942)

The strangest things happen when you’re in hiding.
Try to picture this.
We wash ourselves in a tin tub,
since the curtains are drawn,
we scrub ourselves in the dark,
while one looks out the window
and gazes at the endlessly amusing people.
(29 September 1942)

The children run around in thin shirts
and wooden clogs.
They have no coats, no socks,
no caps and no one to help them.
Gnawing on a carrot to still their hunger,
they walk from their cold houses through cold streets.
(13 January 1943)

One day this terrible war will be over,
and we’ll be people again,
and not just Jews.
(11 April 1944)



If you become part of the suffering,
you’d be entirely lost.
(7 March 1942)

Der Winter ist vergangen.
Ich seh’ des Maien Schein;
Ich seh’ die Blümlein prangen;
Des ist mein Herz erfreut.
Da singt Frau Nachtigalle
Und manch’ Waldvogelein..

[The winter is over.
I see the light of May;
I see blossoms everywhere;
and my heart is pleased.
There sings the nightingale
and the small forest birds.]
(German traditional)

Beauty remains,
even in misfortune.
One who is happy will make others happy,
one who has courage will never die in misery.
(7 March 1944)

Ade, mein’ Allerliebste!
Ade, schön’s Blümelein!
Ade, schön’ Rosenblume;
Es muß geschieden sein!
Das Herz in meinem Leibe
Gehört ja allzeit dein..
[Goodbye, my beloved!
Goodbye, beautiful blossoms!
Goodbye, beautiful rose flower;
I must leave you.
My love for you will
burn in my heart forever. ]
(German traditional)

[Annelies Marie Frank was born in the German city of Frankfurt to German parents, and lived in Germany until her parents emigrated to Holland when she was four years old.  Her mother was always more comfortable with the German language than with Dutch.  Although Anne learned Dutch, and wrote the diary in her adopted language, she was familiar with German poems and prayers, especially those given to her by her mother.  This was originally a Dutch song that became popular in Germany during the seventeenth century.]


In the evenings,
when it’s dark,
lines of good innocent people
and crying children
walk on and on,
ordered by men who bully
and beat them.
No one is spared,
all are marched to their death.

(19 November 1942)
Westerbork! Westerbork!
[A refugee camp which Dutch Jews were forced to build, which later became the
transit camp where Jews were held before being taken to Auschwitz and Sobibor.]

Night after night,
green and grey vehicles
cruise the streets
and knock on every door.
(19 November 1942)

Westerbork! Westerbork!

Sshh. I heard a sound from the bookcase,
hammering on the door.
We turned white with fear.
Had he heard something, this stranger?

Open up! Open up!
In my imagination,
the man kept growing and growing,
until he became a giant,
the cruelest fascist in the world.
(20 October 1942)



Kyrie eleison
[Lord, have mercy]
(Greek liturgical)

Help us. Rescue us from this hell.
(27 November 1943)

We must be brave and trust in God.
(11 April 1944)



Last night, just as I was falling asleep,
an old friend appeared before me.
I saw her there,
dressed in rags,
her face thin and worn.
She looked at me with such sadness.
Anne, why have you deserted me?
Help me, help me, rescue me from this hell!
(27 November 1943)

To me she is
the suffering of all my friends,
and all the Jews. When I pray for her,
I pray for all those in need.
(6 January 1944)

Merciful God,
comfort her,
remain with her so she won’t be alone.
(27 November 1943)

Dear God,
watch over her and bring her back to us.
(29 December 1943)


On Sunday, Amsterdam was bombed.
(19 July 1943)

The planes dived and climbed.
The air was abuzz with the drone of engines.
(26 July 1943)

The streets are in ruins, countless are wounded.
In the smouldering ruins, children search forlornly
for their parents.
(19 July 1943)

It makes me shiver
to think of the dull, distant drone
of approaching destruction.
(19 July 1943)
I wander from room to room,
climb up and down the stairs
and feel like a songbird,
whose wings have been ripped off
and who keeps hurling itself
against the bars of its dark cage.
(29 October 1943)

“Let me out, where there’s fresh air and laughter,”
a voice within me cries.
(29 October 1943)



The years went by.
There’s a saying: “Time heals all wounds,”
that’s how it was with me.
(7 January 1944)

Until one day,
I saw my face in the mirror.
It looked so different.
My eyes were clear and deep,
my cheeks were rosy,
my mouth was softer.
I looked happy,
and yet, in my expression, there was something
so sad.
(7 January 1944)



This is D-Day,
this is the day.
Fighting will come,
but after this the victory!
Eleven thousand planes,
four thousand boats,
is this the beginning
of the long-awaited liberation?
(6 June 1944)

I walk from one room to another,
breathe through the crack in the window frame,
feel my heart beating as if to say,
“fulfill my longing at last…”
I think spring is inside me,
I feel spring awakening,
I feel it in my entire body and soul.
(12 February 1944)

Ich danke dir für all das Gute und Liebe und Schöne.
[This phrase appears in German in the diary.  It translates: “Thank you, God, for all that is good and dear and beautiful.”]
(7 March 1944)



On August the 4, 1944,
a car pulled up at Prinsengracht.
Several figures emerged,
armed, and dressed in civilian clothes.
The eight residents of the Annexe
were taken to prison,
and from there, transported to Westerbork,
and onwards to the concentration camps.
(information from
contemporary reports)

The atmosphere is stifling,
outside you don’t hear a single bird.
A deathly silence hangs in the air.
It clings to me as if it were going to drag me
into the deepest regions of the underworld.
(29 October 1943)

[Anne did not continue her diary after she left the Annexe, but this extract, written
about the Annexe, echoes the atmosphere described by others of the Nazi
concentration camps.]

There is no speech or language
Where their voice is not heard.
Their sound is gone out
through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
(Psalm XIX, vs. 3–4)

Their blood have they shed like water,
and there was none who could bury them.
(Psalm LXXIX, vs. 3)

The young and the old lie on the ground;
the maids and the young men are fallen.
(Lamentations II, vs. 21)



I see the world being slowly
turned into wilderness.
I hear the approaching thunder,
that one day will destroy us too.
And yet, when I look at the sky,
I feel that everything
will change for the better.
(15 July 1944)

Whenever you feel lonely or sad,
try going to the loft
on a beautiful day and looking
at the sky.
As long as you can look
fearlessly at the sky,
You’ll know you are pure within.
(23 February 1944)