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Music

Listen to an orchestra with a sense of adventure

Iit's a multi-course French meal this hour, with music written for the coronation of Napoleon by Étienne-Nicolas Méhul - and a leap into the 20th century with "Prelude to the Afternoon" of a Faun by Claude Debussy. 

Listen to audio 54:59

Concert Hour: Les Siècles, part one

In a time when orchestras are sounding more and more alike, the French period instrument orchestra Les Siècles has its own sound. 

"We rehearse everything like it is a premiere," says its conductor, Francois Xavier Roth. If necessary, all the musicians in Les Siècles will swap their instruments for ones that suit the time in which the piece was composed and first performed. 

As Roth explained to DW, "When you change the instruments, you put the orchestra in the situation of the period. It's totally different: exciting, and at the same time, something like an adventure. That's why I decided to create this orchestra with this adventurous philosophy."

Claude Debussy (picture-alliance/dpa)

Claude Debussy in a contemporary painting

This hour, along with Debussy, we'll hear music by Étienne-Nicolas Méhul, called the composer of the French Revolution. Les Siècles dug up an interesting piece, Méhul's coronation mass for Napoleon - or the one he is supposed to have written. 

In fact, not long before our concert in September 2016, doubts emerged as to the true authorship. A musicologist now says that someone had made a copy of a mass by Austrian composer Franz Xaver Kleinheinz and sold it off as Méhul's Coronation Mass. 

Francois-Xavier Roth responded, "It was a strange story. But whether Méhul or Kleinheinz, it's interesting to see the variety of different tastes in music at this time just after the French Revolution - an event that all composers in Europe reacted to." 

Vaclav Nijinsky (picture-alliance / akg-images)

Vaclav Nijinsky as the faun in Debussy's ballet music

 

Claude Debussy
Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun 
Les Siècles
François-Xavier Roth, conductor

Recorded by West German Radio, Cologne (WDR) in the Beethoven Hall, Bonn on October 2, 2016.

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul (attrib.)
Solemn mass for the Coronation of Napoleon (excerpt) 
Chantal Santon, soprano
Caroline Meng, alto
Artavazd Sargsyan, tenor
Tomislav Lavoie, bass
Flemish Radio Chorus
Les Siècles
François-Xavier Roth, conductor

Recorded by West German Radio, Cologne (WDR) in the Beethoven Hall, Bonn on October 1, 2016. 

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