Baroque Choral Music: The Popular and the Profound
Baroque Choral Music: The Popular and the Profound
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter examines how the politicized nature of Handel's reception in the late 1860s caused enthusiasm for his choral music to reach a nationalist peak at Bach's expense shortly after war ended. Presented as a quasi-Latin and quasi-Republican figure, Handel the oratorio composer appeared accessible, macho, indomitable, and expressive of social cohesion. The chapter centers on debates about France's relatively weak musical capital in comparison with Protestant countries, especially an ascendant Germany. The state of the nationwide orphéon tradition, seemingly in crisis with musically illiterate participants and a simplistic repertory, fuelled calls to overhaul France's choral traditions. The chapter examines this short-lived, almost expedient, revival of Handel ode and oratorio as an example of cosmopolitan nationalism intensified by the experience of defeat. It offers telling evidence of a French need for a masculine musical culture and of their inability to find such a combination of brute strength and stylistic accessibility among native composers. It closes with an account of the post-Handelian return to Bach's choral music and the ideologies underpinning it.
Happy shall I be if the publication of this work, by recalling to my countrymen the memory of a great master whom they know too little of, shall suggest to them the regular performance of his immortal works.…There can be little doubt that the French public would not be slow to reward such an effort. So long as France deprives herself of the oratorios of Handel, there will be found within her a great deficiency in the culture of Musical Art.1
Victor Schoelcher's words, the closing gesture of the preface to his 1857 Life of Handel, were either prophetic, or an extraordinarily effective call to action. A Republican in exile from Louis‐Napoléon's France, Schoelcher had, as he put it, taken consolation in Handel's oratorios while in England. In them he had discovered a sense of noble warmth and stability, pervasive grandeur, and a focus for community music‐making that his beloved France lacked.2 For despite all the attempts of proselytizers such as Choron, a mixed choral society culture had never really taken off in France; Beaulieu's Association Musicale de l'Ouest (p.210) was exceptional. From 1834 and the closure of Choron's school, those institutions that might have been flagships remained technically fragile (the Société des Concerts choir) or uninterested in the wider community (the Moskova Société des Concerts, Edouard Rodrigues's group, and, later, Vervoitte's Société Académique). Oratorio composition had dwindled to almost nothing, for lack of an audience or the possibility of a hearing.3 Second‐Empire attempts at a choral revival centred on Handel (during the mid 1860s) seemed doomed to failure. Yet the years from 1868 to 1875 saw such difficulties triumphantly surmounted in Paris in precisely the terms that Schoelcher had outlined over a decade earlier. We witness a concerted attempt to naturalize a mixed choral culture, primarily via Handel but also via Bach, among the French people. At first sight such a phenomenon—the applauding of Germanic culture in the wake of defeat by Germanic culture—might seem counterintuitive, particularly given the loud appeals to ars gallica after the humiliation of the Franco‐Prussian War and the continued occupation of Paris by Prussian forces. But the cultural weave is more complex, threaded through with a deep‐seated sense of musical inferiority in respect to Germany and other Protestant nations that boasted the cultural capital of thriving amateur choral societies.4 The stakes concerned democratization and national musicality, not compositional prowess. As Arthur Pougin put it in 1873: “In France we have no idea what it is to have great musical festivals such as take place annually on the other side of the Channel, the other side of the Rhine or the other side of the Meuse.”5 In a bid for heightened self‐respect as a musical nation, earlier allegiances to Italian (Catholic) vocal and choral music—Pergolesi and Marcello—were all but put aside in favor of the grander products of northern Protestantism.
The emergence, across the decade punctuated by the Franco‐Prussian War, of Handel the oratorio composer as a musical symbol of idealized Republican nationhood was a defining episode in the history of early music in France. However it is also inextricably linked, following the long‐standing tradition of pairing “rival” composers, with the career of Bach as the tortoise to Handel's hare. For it was indeed Bach's choral music—perceived in the late 1860s as (p.211) overbearingly Protestant and Germanic—that was appropriated into acceptability at Handel's expense two decades later.6
The first signs of a new attitude toward monumental Baroque choral music can be traced to around 1860, hot on the heels of Schoelcher's Handel biography, the first third of which was serialized in La France musicale in 1860–62.7 But early plans to perform such repertory never bore fruit. The Société des Concerts du Conservatoire committee, which reportedly considered putting on oratorio performances for several years before 1863, never did so8; David and Saint‐Etienne's project for a Société du Grand Concert resulted in several new editions of Handel's works in 1865, but no performances.9 Although Weckerlin and his Société Sainte‐Cécile initiated the Paris revivals of Baroque choral music with their 1866 performance of Handel's Ode for St Cecilia's Day, the decisive impact did not come until 1868–69, from Pasdeloup and Bourgault‐Ducoudray. Enthusiasm grew in the years immediately following the Franco‐Prussian War, reaching maximum intensity with Charles Lamoureux's six performances of Messiah in the winter of 1873–74, followed by the St Matthew Passion and Judas Maccabaeus (both 1874) and a further Messiah series in January 1875.10 Thereafter, Parisian conductors’ interest in Handel waned to such an extent that even in late 1875 writers began questioning whether the “revival” would stall.
But if Handel's popularity in Paris was short‐lived, it was nevertheless the necessary condition for the composition of a host of new works, by Dubois, Franck, Gounod, Massenet, and Saint‐Saëns—some of them very Handelian indeed.11 Finally, the Handel revival underpinned the emergence in the 1880s of the late, now‐lamented Berlioz as the quintessential French composer of monumental choral music, and the rise of Bach, the trajectory of whose choral music performance offers a striking contrast with that of Handel. Here, interest (p.212) gathered momentum over a longer period, beginning with two “false starts” in 1868 and 1874 (Pasdeloup's and Lamoureux's performances of the St Matthew Passion) and culminating in the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire's performances of the B minor Mass under Jules Garcin (1891) and the cantata cycles of the Chanteurs de Saint‐Gervais (from 1893).
Press response to almost all such ventures focused on the idea of regeneration through the democratization of good music. Saint‐Etienne described his own Handel editions of the 1860s as cheaply bought masterpieces which might offset the pernicious effect of “so many useless works, mediocre and short‐lived efforts, which invade café concerts and even salons every day.”12 Pasdeloup's St Matthew Passion (Part I and closing chorus only) of May 1868 was performed to more than six thousand people in the Panthéon and sent Mathieu de Monter into raptures of hope.
The project so magnificently inaugurated by Pasdeloup three days ago, will live on and increase. Such prosperity, this extension into the popular [domain], is very important; it is, in my humble opinion, a contribution to the elevation, the substance, I would say even to the health, almost, of serious musical study in our country. The sublime harmonies…must not, in abating suddenly, leave emptiness or doubt behind them. They must rise up again soon, even more brilliantly, and resound often, so that, from these classical heights, they spread over Paris, over France.13
The poetic vision betrays fear as much as it conveys enthusiasm. Why was the nation's musical health at risk? Why should this particular concert have national significance? Why might “emptiness” ensue if Pasdeloup's venture failed? Had De Monter written these lines after the disaster of 1870, the reasons—centring on France's need to compete with Teutonic culture and (p.213) education at all levels—would be more easily explicable. But his comments are symptomatic of the extent to which French musicians, even during the heyday of the Second Empire, sensed a crucial lack of seriousness in French musical culture and education. The disparagement of Second‐Empire frivolity, so common a form of self‐flagellation during the Third Republic, in fact dates from the Second Empire itself. From the early 1860s enthusiastic reports of foreign choral festivals appeared regularly in the musical press, but by the mid‐1860s the need for France to find a “national institution” to compare with such traditions was a pressing one. For various reasons, the spotlight fell on Handel as the ideal vehicle.
Handel vs. Bach
The idea, initiated by Pasdeloup and pursued by Lamoureux, of following large doses of Bach with a leavening of Handel, encouraged comparisons that worked to Bach's disadvantage. Reviews of Pasdeloup's Panthéon concert in 1868 and its immediate successors already reveal a telling dichotomy: Louis Roger found Bach arid and Handel supple,14 while for Jules Carlez, Bach's melodic aridity—music born more of the head than the heart—took on national significance, since he regarded it as characteristic of Germanic melody, even though he detected in it a poetic dreaminess.15 Arthur Pougin, reviewing Lamoureux's St Matthew Passion of 1874 (performances of which concluded with familiar numbers from Messiah) found Bach inward‐looking and only indirectly expressive, especially in comparison with the brilliance and fire of Handel's music.16
Comparisons between Handel and Bach invariably portrayed Handel as closer to the French spirit. Towards the end of the century the contrast was often intended as purely factual. For instance, when René de Récy [pseud. J. Trezel] described Bach as German and Handel as cosmopolitan in his 1885 biography of Bach, he was merely recognizing in Handel a composer who worked in three countries and wrote music to suit a variety of national and religious tastes.17 A similar contrast (used to elevate Bach) appears in William Cart's 1899 comparison of the two German composers as polar opposites: the (p.214) one a gothic Romantic, the other closer in spirit to classical antiquity.18 But earlier critics had other agendas, emphasizing Handel's distance from Teutonic traditions specifically in order to Latinize and appropriate him, and to provide reasons to sideline Bach as part of a living repertory. After 1870 and the foundation of the new Republic which was to symbolize a return to the noble ideals of Greek and Roman antiquity, such rhetorics of Latinizing became commonplace, contributing to the idea of France as a “new Rome.”19
Yet the Latinizing of Handel took place well before it became a political imperative, bringing with it a valuable distancing from Protestant and Germanic values. Indeed, Handel was received in largely non‐Christian terms, irrespective of the nature of the work involved. His Christian devotion was not doubted; it simply remained a biographical fact rather than an element which French critics perceived to be a driving force behind his music. Messiah and Judas Maccabaeus consistently drew epithets such as “epic,” “vast,” “heroic,” or “of grandiose majesty,” inspiring little comment on their character as religious works. By the mid‐1860s, enough of their closeness to secular musical traditions in Britain was known to render them worldly, public works as far as the French musical intelligentsia were concerned. Moreover, the popularity, in the late 1860s and early 1870s, of smaller‐scale works such as Alexander's Feast and Acis and Galatea, served to fuel other non‐Christian critical rhetorics. Reviewing Bourgault‐Ducoudray's Alexander's Feast of March/April 1870, Louis de Lassus described a Grecian sublime. Handel's music, in which there were “no false jewels, no superfluous decorations, no verbiage…everything that is needed and nothing except that which is required,” resembled the “grandeur, power, solidity, beauty and even grace” of a Greek temple.20 The following week, with Bourgault‐Ducoudray's recent performances in mind, he portrayed Handel as entirely Latin, characterized by “that prodigious fertility of mind, that facility of improvisation which seems granted only to the Latin races.”21 Also inspired by these performances, the conductor Jules Cressonnois called Handel a “pagan Greek” whose musical nature was “strength in all its serenity.”22 The subject‐matter of Alexander's Feast notwithstanding, such comments—all dating from before the Franco‐Prussian War—created a “Mediterranean” Handel; and (p.215) the knowledge that he had written Italian operas worked to similar effect. It was little wonder, then, that in a postwar period replete with rhetoric about a new Republic built on Graeco‐Roman models and freed from the decadence of the Second Empire, a secular and Latin Handel would triumph over the musical Protestantism of Bach's choral music.
Alongside images of a Latin Handel we find gendered rhetorics of particular importance in a society which was, especially in the aftermath of a lost war, questioning the strength, character, and virility of its men. There were other factors, too: calls for equality in education, in the workplace, and in civic life from Second‐Empire feminists such as Juliette Lamber, Julie Daubié, and Jenny d'Héricourt had provoked fierce debate on the question of whether French women should still, more than 50 years on, be trapped within the confines of the Napoleonic Code Civil of 1804. Women's increasing demands for education and opportunity contained, as far as their opponents were concerned, both the threat of masculinization in women and a rejection of their traditional submissive, domestic role. After the defeat of 1870, such perceptions intensified, since the French army's failure seemed to be symbolic of a loss of masculine authority not only over French territory, but over their property, women included.23 From the perspective of the early 1870s, the Second Empire seemed a decadent, effeminate age which, depending on one's viewpoint, the superior values of either the new Republic or a return to a Catholic monarchy would consign to a salutary past. Nevertheless, since the sense that the Second Empire had lost its moral way—that it had rendered men less than “real” men and made women aspire to be more than “real” women—was already deeply rooted in 1860s cultural perceptions, the gendered rhetoric with which Bach and Handel were evaluated in the 1860s and ’70s provides an important and fascinating reflection, within musical life, of debates about ways to “remasculinize” culture.
Essentialism was pervasive. Witness the scathing tones of Johannes Weber in 1869, when he complained that the soprano Christine Nilsson had “sighed Handel's music in such vaporous and amiable fashion that the female portion of the audience, especially, demanded an encore.”24 True, Weber was writing in (p.216) portentous mode at the time (he saw musical decadence everywhere and attributed it to poor education nationwide); nevertheless, he saw in such spineless singing of music from Judas Maccabaeus not only an insult to Handel, but also an indication that the austere traditions of the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire now risked being brought closer, through this “feminine” element (as he put it), to those of the Opéra or the Théâtre‐Italien.
In fact, both Bach and Handel, as choral composers, were perceived to display a potentially redeeming virility. Several critics who attended Pasdeloup's St Matthew Passion in 1868 said as much. For Sextius Durand, the closing chorus combined admirable gravity and splendor, with the “sovereign brilliance” of the chorus parts set in relief by the “masculine harmonies” underpinned by the low‐lying cello and bass part. Closing his review of the Bach, he could not resist comparing such music to the vapidity of modern ephemera.25 “B.D.” (Bougault‐Ducoudray?), in Le ménestrel, wrote that the St Matthew Passion was “the work of a giant, which in its austere and even rough language, in its Herculean structure, in its gigantic proportions, is disconcerting to our musical taste, which has been flattered by the infinite suppleness, the caressing wheedling and the voluptuous refinements of modern art!”26
The dichotomy between the hearty maleness of the old and the decadent femininity of the new could hardly have been spelt out more clearly. Moreover, as this critic further argued, whereas modern music seeks effects of sonority to flatter the listener's ear and keep his or her interest alive, in Bach “All the effect lies in the strength of the musical invention itself, in the justness of expression and in [the] power of conception.”27 The familiar trope of surface (feminine) versus substance (masculine) appears here, linked to the equally familiar conception of masculinity as defined in part by the sustained mental power (a capacity denied to women) that subjugates decoration to essence.
Yet Bach was manifestly more “feminine” than Handel, not least because his music appeared more varied in style. He was not immune to the charge (even from a supporter such as Charles Bannelier) of writing indulgent vocal ornamentation at the expense of musical expression, and was excused such lapses only because they were “imposed” on him by eighteenth‐century musical tastes.28 Ernest Reyer, also an ardent supporter of Bach as against Handel, saw (p.217) in his music the “pure and fortifying” flow of the stream indicated by Bach's name. But while Bach's work left him “overwhelmed by the grandeur and unity of this style, by the power and variety of these inspired songs,” he also found his melodic lines “unctuous and tender”; and that “fortifying stream” was also both stereotypically feminine (“full of sweet murmurs”) and stereotypically masculine (“bursting its banks; a stream larger than a river, more impetuous than a torrent”).29 There were also pieces in which Bach's gentler side dominated. In January 1874, when Danbé programmed an unidentified church cantata alongside Janequin's La bataille de Marignan and excerpts from Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie, Pougin (a Handelian where choral music was concerned) waxed lyrical, but using a rhetoric usually destined for the genderless Palestrinian school. It was, he said, “a calm, somewhat restrained work, which is notable for a heavenly kind of grace and a sweetness full of suavity.” He also compared it, à la Palestrina, to the great monuments of religious painting.30
Arguably, Bach's range was his undoing in the competition with Handel. In the 1870s the latter's music became more popular precisely because of its more easily definable character, its narrower emotional appeal, and its more straightforward construction. Notwithstanding moments such as the “Pastoral symphony” from Messiah, in Handel the French saw the essence of virility in music: robustness, solidity, healthy energy, forcefulness and a complete absence of the overrefinement that spelt incipient decadence. Moreover, his chosen texts were replete with military images, especially in the Old Testament subjects of the oratorios. The allegorical import of Handel's Judas Maccabaeus in particular was not lost on the French, whose favorite (and ubiquitous) chorus was “See, see, the conq'ring hero comes.” Even texts such as Dryden and Hamilton's Alexander's Feast, which were not particularly triumphalist, became so in French translation: Victor Wilder's version of “Happy, happy, happy pair / None but the brave deserves the fair,” became “Gloire à toi, Gloire à toi, Prince puissant, roi triomphant” in the popular Heugel edition which dated, inopportunely, from early 1870.31
For postwar French critics, the four‐square diatonicism of Handel's music suggested desirable characteristics for French society. Twice in the same review (p.218) of Lamoureux's Messiah of December 1873, Pougin described his music as containing “severe and masculine beauties”32; in a retrospective essay on the significance of Lamoureux's first performance, published in his family magazine La musique populaire (1881–82), he argued that every society needed activities that (like singing Handel) were “healthy, virile and comforting.”33 The element of comfort is particularly interesting, since it might be perceived as indicating emotional weakness. But as described in 1872 by Guy de Charnacé, the anti‐Wagnerian son‐in‐law of Liszt and Marie d'Agoult, the comforting nature of Handel's music was created by powerful means: diatonicism and clearly directional harmony. He was reviewing Bourgault‐Ducoudray's Acis and Galatea of 1‐May 1872:
Our modern ears, accustomed to chromaticism, are surprised hearing music in an almost entirely diatonic style. That is a fact. But what is equally true is the tonal power of Handel's music, a power so great that the ear never experiences indecision or doubt, and so fine that it [the ear] never becomes lost.
This great musician is of a time that knew neither our dreams, nor our sadnesses, nor our complex aspirations, and still less our emotional vapidities. His language is thus necessarily the expression of uncomplicated, direct, strong, natural sentiments—the language which responds best to [the expression of] clearly‐defined ideas.34
The comfort Handel offered was thus a cloak of self‐confidence that, temporarily at least, expunged doubt because its harmonic language offered no riddles. Had De Charnacé written only the first paragraph, we might be tempted to read his views as simply those of another conservative anti‐Wagnerian (although Lamoureux's status as both a Wagnerian and a Handelian/Bachian (p.219) makes the drawing of clear dichotomies insecure); it is his shift from music per se to the manner in which music reflects society that helps situate his critique as part of a wider search for a music that embodied successful aspiration and was unencumbered by the pressures of the present.
Such qualities were much needed in a society racked by self‐doubt regarding its military prowess and, by extension, the strength and virility of its manhood. But within French discourse the model for De Charnacé's image of Handel dates from considerably earlier—back to Maurice Germa's long biographical article in the Revue contemporaine of 1866, which was itself a review of Handel biographies, Schoelcher's included. It detailed Handel's struggles in England and his success in producing a genre that reflected the character of “this valiant, austere and liberal nation.”35 Not only was Handel a “masculine and proud” genius, but his project to institute opera in English was a “virile and national” exercise.36 Inevitably, though, Germa's focus was the oratorios, discussion of which formed a natural climax to the biographical narrative and led to a peroration comparing Handel's contribution to religious music with that of the angelic Palestrina.
For Germa, Handel had humanized religious music, turning it into a vehicle to express the drama of humanity's relationship to God. But more than that, because of the personal struggles of their creator—which Germa presented as a military campaign during which the composer conquered England and the English—Handelian oratorio became a symbol of determination, personal and collective resistance in the face of attack, and permanence.
Filled with indomitable perseverence against ever‐threatening hostilities, he erects impregnable ramparts, built on rock and capable of fending off the winds of the sky, the waves of the sea and the attacks of man. He imprinted on his compositional style a massive solidity which remains unaffected by time and changing fashion. His scores carry the stamp of a valiant nature that nothing can overcome, a tenacity which exhausts that of any obstacle, and his oratorios, in which are melded all art, all sacred melody, all the operatic and (p.220) dramatic inspiration of a nation, are monuments of granite and iron which will live on for so long as England remains standing.37
In 1866 Germa had effectively written the script of postwar Handelian reception. His Handel contained all the requisite features of a successful warrior nation: positive on the attack and steely in defence. The nature of his music as raw material—with its granite‐ and iron‐like qualities—is also alluded to in comments such as de Charnacé's description in 1872 of Handelian rhythms as “beaten by bronze hammers.”38 Germa had of course read Schoelcher's peroration of 1857, in which Handel was referred to as a “great conqueror” and a man of “indefatigable perseverance,” “moral courage,” and “indomitable will”39; he was undoubtedly influenced by Schoelcher's graphic metaphor of each section of a Handelian chorus as a “battalion marching to the assault.”40 But the references to territory and the elements, and the projection of composer onto people, appear to be his own. Moreover, when Germa re‐used this passage in 1875, in a review of Holy Week concerts that had featured both Handel and Palestrina, the resonances were entirely different and the implication blunt: had France been blessed with men like Handel in 1870, she would not have had to cede Alsace‐Lorraine to Germany.41 In Germa's vision, therefore, virility, confidence, strength in simplicity—all these elements now familiar in the reception of Handel's choral music—combined with the image of massed delivery to climax in the irresistible image of a disciplined, unified and indomitable warrior nation singing its own, indomitable music. It is no wonder that Handel provided (p.221) French musicians with an enviable model for the revitalization of their own moribund choral culture, and that no indigenous tradition appeared equal to it.
The People's Handel?
Rhetorics of directness and masculine vigor contributed significantly to perceptions of Handel's popular accessibility. Reviewers of Pasdeloup's concerts noted it in 186842; by the 1880s, the idea of his choral music as accessible to “the people”—not just “le public,” but also the masses (“la foule”)—had become received wisdom. In 1882, Pougin summed up the prevailing view: “More accessible, perhaps, to the crowd than the great Bach himself, more radiant, more easily comprehensible, exciting the masses and impressing them with all the power of his genius, his memory remains brilliant: he dominates the art with all the grandeur of a magnificent and overflowing inspiration.”43
The popular appeal of Lamoureux's Handel performances of the 1870s had been documented in the same way: Reyer wrote of “an attentive crowd, excited and full of enthusiasm” flocking to the Cirque des Champs‐Elysées for Judas Maccabaeus.44 As a committed Bachian, he even found Handel's popularity suspicious, hinting that the music therefore showed little of the sophistication that characterized great art45; but for other writers, the combination of Handel's uncomplicated style and foreign traditions of massed performance suggested that his music was ripe for adoption beyond the confines of Paris's high‐bourgeois and aristocratic choral societies. It was imperative for Handel to break free from the Salle Herz and, even, the Cirque des Champs‐Elysées. Here, two defining strands of the composer's reception—the perception of his music as both accessible and gigantic—became weapons in a wide‐ranging ideological battle to bring Handel, and Handel specifically, to the people of France.
It was Bourgault‐Ducoudray whose performances came at the most propitious time: from 1869 to 1874. To his supporters they appeared to be a prelude (p.222) to a great flowering of Handel oratorio in France, during which choral societies would progress beyond Acis and Alexander's Feast to the full‐scale works sung by enormous choirs. This was undoubtedly Louis de Lassus's agenda when in April 1870 he expressed the wish that, through Bourgault‐Ducoudray's activities, Handel should belatedly be accorded “droit de Patrie” in France.46 It was also Louis Roger's, when in the same month he dubbed Bourgault‐Ducoudray's society an “institution nationale.”47 The general public needed to be educated to appreciate Handel, and immediately after the war Bourgault‐Ducoudray appeared to be the conductor best qualified to do it. The critic A. de Bory wrote a lyrical appreciation of his work after a performance of Acis, exhorting him to embark on a crusade of artistic enfranchisement: “Will you, M. Ducoudray, please be Handel's advocate. Initiate us completely—and especially the masses, who are so often disinherited in matters of art—as regards these great choral compositions.”48 De Bory was encouraged by the recent decision of the Directeur des Beaux‐Arts to subscribe to Gérard's cheap score of Acis and to distribute it to all state‐run conservatoires and regional philharmonic societies: it seemed to indicate that serious attempts were being made to democratize good music and (as in Victorian England) to offset the pernicious influence of lower‐class musical entertainments such as farce and the café‐concert.49
It is therefore not surprising to find De Bory at the centre of a move to spread the Handelian word around the nation's amateur choral societies and to enable them to emulate the great traditions of Germany and England. In spring 1873, he, Bourgault‐Ducoudray, and De Lajarte met in Paris to discuss how Handelian repertory might be imported into the male‐voice orphéon tradition.50 The group's vision was a distilled version of that put forward from the early 1860s by another reformer—Louis Roger—who later used his orphéon journal La semaine musicale as a platform for the argument that the orphéon should change course. As he asked in 1862, why could orphéons not prove that the popularization of music did not necessarily mean a decline in artistic standards?
I do not want to start redrawing the map for choral societies. I say simply to those who direct them: there is much still to be done and you have as yet done nothing at all. You are behind in respect of early music, and you are no less so in respect of modern music. Orlandus Lassus awaits; so do Handel, Haydn, Cherubini and Mendelssohn.51
Roger's outburst was probably motivated as much by the new sense of possibility as by lingering frustration. It was not enough to popularize music; what was necessary was the popularization of “classic” music.52 By contrast, and entirely in line with prevailing ideologies relating to the emulation of English and Germanic choral traditions, the 1873 group narrowed the field of favored composers to Handel, Bach, Haydn, and Beethoven, with Handel given pride of place. As for involving the lower classes: Bourgault‐Ducoudray had already shown the way forward by enlisting the services of men from the orphéons Le Louvre and Les Enfants de Lutèce from 1872. For while his society was relatively small and performed mostly to elite audiences in the Salles Herz and Pleyel, his aspirations for its public utility were not. He intended it to serve as a small‐scale model for larger gatherings that would, once France's system of public musical education had been improved, be accessible to all.53 His teaming up with two orphéon societies was thus symbolic of his determination, after the lost war with Prussia, to illustrate how all strata of French society could be brought together in harmonious alliance and participate together in a form of music‐making that was traditional in other nations—not least Germany.
For various reasons, co‐opting the orphéon on a national scale was an obvious ambition in 1873. Since its inception in the mid‐1830s under the direction of Bocquillon Wilhem, it had become a national movement, comprising both male‐voice choirs and wind or brass bands. In 1855 there were three hundred choirs nationwide (though unevenly spread); seven hundred by 1860; twelve hundred by 1864; and in 1870, more than two thousand.54 The orphéon followed (p.224) an annual cycle which culminated in a competitive festival season stretching from June to August, during which towns across the country would host visiting choirs and bands for a three‐day orgy of performances, street processions, prize‐givings, and a final banquet for hosts and judges. In the eyes of their higher‐class organizers at least, the orphéon movement had always brought its participants a combination of artistic and social benefits. Music's civilizing effects were married to militaristic, patriotic, and faintly religious texts which were intended to inspire a potentially insurgent lower class with devoted loyalty to family and nation. Whatever the more sinister aspects of social control it embodied, the orphéon movement, which involved members of the artisan as well as the working classes, was originally intended to provide structured leisure activity that could give France's male population a taste of disciplined learning through art under the banner of brotherhood and the oft‐cited “spirit of association.” It was perhaps a fitting by‐product of the movement's success that in the festival season it demanded such protracted absences of the men from their family homes and workplaces: for the orphéon was, with few exceptions, an all‐male phenomenon that aped the characteristics and adopted the trappings of military life, from battle against strangers on a foreign field to the sparkling epaulettes of participants’ uniforms, the gilt‐edged processional banners, and, of course, medals.
However, as Roger had intimated, surface bustle no longer indicated a healthy tradition even by the early 1860s. For many commentators, some of them regular jury members, the balance between artistic and social goals had shifted such that the movement was no longer fulfilling any meaningful musical function. Standards of singing at regional and national competitions were often lamentable; many societies remained musically illiterate and clung to a small repertory of well‐known, short, pieces.55 From the late 1860s onward, writers for the orphéon press followed the Paris oratorio revivals closely and began to measure the movement's choral decadence against the rising stars of the capital's elite amateur societies. Charles Coligny saw the decadence as early as 1863: the orphéon had to be saved from itself. If Marcello were still alive, he wrote, he [Coligny] “would beg him to help us chase away from the orphéo n the buffoons who dishonor it.”56 Six years later, F. Gillet, editor of La France orphéonique (and probably a member of the Gillet oboists’ dynasty) (p.225) wrote of an unmistakable and widely observed decline in the “temperature” of the choral orphéon tradition,57 claiming that the most important reasons were musical illiteracy and the misconceived ideals (travel and the excitement of competitions) that lay behind the institution of the newest choral societies.
The consequences of illiteracy prompted reformers to advocate a more overtly pedagogical approach, turning education into a hotly debated issue long before defeat brought the conviction that the Prussians’ victory owed much to superior systems of training at all levels.58 With respect to musical culture the French sense of inferiority was in any case already acute, with much ink spilt on discussions of whether the Germans were an innately musical nation. But the most common counterarguments—that their superior musicality was due to musical education from infancy, or that the Lutheran chorale tradition provided an aural/harmonic training that French plainsong practices could not hope to equal—merely intensified the perceived need for educational reform at all levels. More worryingly, they also prompted the thought that Catholic nations were necessarily held back by their tradition of singing chant—“an incomplete music which has neither melodic span, nor key, nor rhythm, nor harmony, and melody so rarely that it's hardly worth mentioning.”59 As late as 1899, William Cart advanced a similar argument when he wrote that in the wake of the Thirty Years’ War Protestant traditions were the most potent vehicles for cultural regeneration, and that Catholic states had taken considerably longer to re‐establish themselves.60
Such comments, which form an important subset of the plethora of laments about France's musical backwardness, had limited effect on those orphéon traditionalists who clung to the movement's social ideals.61 While (p.226) reformers from within and commentators from without argued that France's status as a civilized nation was at stake, orphéo n men such as Ernest Gebaüer found the artistic and chauvinistic benefits of better musical education irrelevant because the French, with their underdeveloped educational system, could not possibly hope to compete with centuries of Lutheran training. Moreover, he argued, “The orphéon is not a school; it is an institution whose primary goal is the fusion of different classes in society, and in which the moralizing aspect must take precedence over the musical one.”62 Musical literacy classes, he claimed, were for the conservatoires, not the orphéons. It was hardly surprising that after 1870 such debates should intensify and become imbued with anxiety about the nature of “real” men and the need to cultivate a healthy mass culture that could compete with those of stronger military nations such as England and Germany. After all, in the name of fraternity and social cohesion the summer competitions saw thousands of Frenchmen dress up for a quasi‐military pageant and apparently waste their efforts on unworthy music. As Gustave Francolin, founder of a journal dedicated to musical literacy, observed in an article entitled “The Errors of the Orphéon”: “The French orphéon…has not taken the manly decision to engage in serious study; still less has it developed a taste for great works; it tackles the magnificent oratorios of the classic masters no more than it ever did.”63 Like so many manifestations of feminized culture, from salon music to the popular novel, the movement appeared to prioritize surface over substance.
It was in this climate, with the debate already a decade old, that De Bory, Bourgault‐Ducoudray, and De Lajarte met in 1873 to discuss the artistic future of the orphéon. Yet nothing substantive had happened in the interim, and so what De Bory and his colleagues were suggesting was nothing short of a complete overhaul. Even those (notably the composers Camille de Vos and Charles Coligny) who were enthusiastic and prolific in their writings on Handel, were resistant to the idea. The proposed change of repertory from unaccompanied male‐voice works to orchestrally accompanied works (potentially requiring the teaming‐up of orphéons and local philharmonic societies) represented not so much a reform as a takeover bid by bourgeois and amateur musicians among whose own class there were too few willing singers to create the massive effects (p.227) Handel's music demanded. Coligny approved of the co‐option of orphéon singers to bourgeois societies for their oratorio performances, but he recoiled at the idea of destroying the unique character of the orphéon itself.64 De Vos was in a more embarrassing position because as chief editor of La nouvelle France chorale he had, from 1870 to April 1873, written concert reviews that were paeans to Handel, to the exclusion of almost all other composers (Wagner excepted) being performed in Parisian concerts. He had also emphasized the extent to which Handel's music demanded enormous performing forces.65 Nevertheless, perhaps fearing for his own career as a successful composer of orphéon choruses, he limited his support for restructuring to the establishment of mixed orphéons singing dedicated, unaccompanied music.
Participation, too, was different from competition: the celebratory and socially cohesive type of festival became, in the mid 1860s, preferable to the potentially divisive pageant of competition.66 The monumental numbers involved in the orphéon movement inspired ideas of a new choral festival culture that would cut across class divisions and present, through a single chorus, a microcosm of society. In 1868 the official Government paper, the Moniteur universel, printed a Utopian picture of English festival customs in which class differences were erased and one saw “excited ladies singing their part alongside humble middle‐class women.”67 The allure of such monumental solidarity, before but particularly after the war, was that it could suggest a unified nation and that it offered possibilities as the music of civic ceremonial. As early as 1866, Louis Roger had written that for state celebrations or other important events in the civic calendar: “we might convene in Paris or elsewhere one or two hundred orpheon societies to perform a masterpiece. This would constitute [a truly] popular art, worthy of a fine and wealthy nation.”68 It was precisely the image of the singing nation, evoked most powerfully in Germa's seminal Handel article of the same year, that drove Republican‐inspired reformists to try to import Handel into the orphéon tradition after 1870. The Handelian project also encouraged comparison with the musical styles of the late 1700s, and in its ambition, its rooting in a spirit of educational fraternité, its implicit (p.228) anticlericalism, and its intended nationwide application it was indeed a project in the classical Republican tradition, dating back to the aftermath of 1789, of unifying the nation by giving it access to a common sense of, and right to, secular citizenship.69 Indeed, hopeful sketches of scenes akin to the massed gatherings of Revolutionary festivals appeared throughout the musical press; and the monster concert, gathering participants from entire départements was the necessary goal, as is attested by the almost obsessive precision with which the number of performers in foreign festivals was reported (even down to the numbers in each choir section).
Society, however, includes women; and by far the most radical demand of the 1873 project was that orphéon culture should embrace them. Although many choirs included children, the movement's overwhelmingly male culture was, of course, a major obstacle. As early as 1869, F. Gillet had suggested the inclusion of women as a means of saving the orphéon70; opponents of reform pointed acidly to the absence of “l’élément féminin” as a decisive reason why the orphéon could not change artistic direction.71 However, in other contexts the issue had already received significant publicity, with the prudishness of French societal rules about the mixing of the sexes criticized as a factor that was fatally hindering France's chances of competing musically with Protestant countries. Such problems were not restricted to French choirs or indeed to orphéons: an excited report of the Brussels festival Messiah, which involved thirteen hundred singers and five hundred instrumentalists, trumpeted that the problem of persuading four hundred women “of a certain station” to participate alongside persons of whose character and social status they were ignorant had finally been overcome.72 And one senses the frustration (ambivalent though it was) of Camille de Vos's compliment of 1874 to Guillot de Sainbris on his success in bringing together his Société Chorale des Amateurs—a choir of fifty men and fifty women.
In sum, from this society we hear works which could not be performed by any other society, because those which are known to us manage to put a few pieces together only by dint of desperate (p.229) measures to bring together male and female singers who have no other reason to meet—which therefore renders all contact between them impossible.73
The problem was thus surmountable within the leisured classes (De Vos's gloom may actually be an exaggeration born of his immersion in lower‐class music‐making, with its rather different mores). But fear of inappropriate class‐mixes still prevailed, as Bourgault‐Ducoudray found when his levels of female recruitment dwindled after the arrival of his orphéon men.74
It may have seemed to De Bory and his associates that it would be easier to co‐opt lower‐class and rural women to orphéon choirs than to struggle against various levels of bourgeois Catholic mores. In practice, it was not. As Peter McPhee has argued, relative economic prosperity in the decades after 1850 produced widespread changes in rural life, not least among which was a progressive embourgeoisement especially noticeable in rural communities situated close to towns.75 Of course, with that embourgeoisement came closer attention to patriarchal codes wherein men and women would ideally inhabit the separate spheres of the public and the domestic, and where chaperones and tightly controlled encounters with members of the opposite sex became the rule once girls reached marriageable age. Within bourgeois urban society, we see the system at work. The statutes of amateur choral societies such as the Société Académique made provision for the presence of non‐subscribing parents (implicitly chaperones) at rehearsals; and, with a regularity that went beyond the need for preparatory sectional rehearsals, separate rehearsals for men and women were common in choral societies of the period. In that same spirit of idealist/realist tension born of a need to keep up appearances, some examples of mixed choirs in the 1870s actually represent the bringing together of separate societies of men and women respectively (Poisot's in Dijon, for instance). Neither would anticlerical Republicanism bring major changes in this respect, since Republican ideals did little more than substitute Marian devotion with devotion to a secular version of family and motherhood, disseminated nationwide via an equally (p.230) effective education system in which gender‐specific primary‐school texts replaced the catechism. It is arguable, then, that in terms of changing social mores (rather than political change), the 1860s and 70s were an extraordinarily unfavorable time to attempt the kind of long‐term change De Bory and his colleagues had in mind.
In his 1873 review of Lamoureux's first Messiah, Pougin lamented women's absence from virtually any form of singing except opera.76 Two years later, perhaps on the strength of the ideas of De Bory and his team, the Paris Conseil Municipal issued a policy for “la musique populaire” that instituted a prize for female orphéons and in the same breath attributed the lamentable absence of regular performances of Bach and Handel choral music specifically to the lack of female choirs.77 Yet two years after that, a certain De Moonen, writing anonymously to the orphéon leaders François Bazin and H. Simon, is found pleading for the musical education of lower‐class women, through all‐female choirs led by female conductors if necessary, since they needed music's moralizing influence just as much as did their men. The popularization of good music in France, he claimed, depended on “the introduction of the feminine element in popular musical events.”78 Familiar complaints were reiterated in 1890, when Louis de Romain published a collection of his criticism. His essay “Nous et les autres” brought together discussion of the ills of the orphéon repertory, the woman problem (rendered a stalemate by a male‐female conspiracy in which patriarchal rules went unchallenged by women who feared for their daughters’ futures), and the embarrassing issue of French frivolity in matters of art. “Les autres”—so aptly named—were the Protestant countries. Ironically, they included England, “the ultimate anti‐musical and prudish nation,” but one where it seemed as though “women's reputations did not hang by a thread, so easily snapped,”79 and where female participation in choral music was perfectly normal. For de Romain, the problem lay not so much with societal morals as with the absence of an artistic will strong enough to overcome them in the pursuit of a higher goal.
That higher goal was nothing less than a clone of the choral culture of France's neighbors. Within musical writings, the density of debate on this aspect of French inferiority, its causes and possible cures, compares only with that on Wagner during the same period. The attempt to integrate Handel into a newly mixed orphéon tradition was not just a salvage attempt on the orphéon movement itself, but an opportunity for France to save face through massed displays of cultural capital.80 During the period 1866 to 1875, Handel was the most widely discussed of all Baroque composers—and not just composers of choral music—in the French press and in pamphlets of all kinds. Symbolic of so much to which the French Republicans aspired in the early years of the Third Republic, earlier modes of reception meant that by the time of France's defeat of 1870, the level of hope for regeneration invested in his music meant that the momentum was unstoppable: indeed, the match between prewar interpretive paradigms and the cultural needs consequent upon defeat actually served to intensify and accelerate the process. The revival of Handelian oratorio in Paris was inextricable from the perceived social and cultural health of the French nation. The obverse of a narrowly nationalist revival elevating indigenous culture, it was in fact its necessary complement, demanding that the French prove to themselves (and to others) that they could equal or better the Germans on their own traditional ground. That they saw it in such terms, and discussed it explicitly as a competition that France was losing, says much about the profundity with which it was felt. But such profundity is hardly surprising, especially given the Republicanism of the Handel revival's main proselytizers. Until 1873 Paris was still being “protected” by Prussian soldiers—a fact which many Republicans were unwilling to accept as “atonement” for Imperial sins; until early 1876, while the Republicans in government were in the minority, Catholics enjoyed the “Moral Order” years, during which attempts to strengthen the Church's hold on education were extremely successful. The Handel debates, then, kicked against enemies both without and within.
The revival itself was short‐lived. Indeed, where Handel is concerned, Lamoureux's concerts may actually be seen as an endpoint. Why? At this level the reasons seem to be as much pragmatic as ideological; but they stem from a key moment when the Société des Concerts program committee refused to listen to the very arguments about Baroque oratorio and national pride that (p.232) underpinned the debate. By their refusal to sanction Lamoureux's “patriotic” plan of 1872 to add oratorio concerts to the Société des Concerts’ series, the Conservatoire authorities had sown the seeds of failure for the Handel revival in Paris, since they denied the revival its best opportunity for state recognition, state funding, and international publicity.81 In Paris, the Société des Concerts’ decision effectively turned the revival into a private venture in which conductors of independent means, unable to co‐opt amateur singers in large numbers to form balanced choirs, had to rely on professionals or on wealthy amateurs combined with (and strengthened by) paid singers.82 Conversely, the failure of the attempt to co‐opt the orphéon meant that nonprofessional performances remained relatively small: hence the disappointment of critics who craved an equivalent to the English “Handel Festival” experience.
By 1875 worries were surfacing in the Paris press: was the revival stalling? Low audience numbers for Lamoureux's charity performance of Messiah on 14 January 1875 were in stark contrast to the overflowing crowds of his 1874 Handel concerts. Expense could not have been the only factor, concluded Henry Cohen: the applause among those who were there was distinctly muted, even for the Hallelujah chorus.83 Lamoureux himself had abandoned his Handel concerts after this January series of Messiahs, even though he had advertized forthcoming performances of a new work: Israel in Egypt. After three years of Handelian silence, broken only by a single attempt by Pasdeloup to re‐establish his position as a promoter of choral repertory, another Art musical critic, L. Kerney, despaired of a lasting revival. All would be lost if Lamoureux stopped performing Handel—which he appeared to have done, his idea “dead, abandoned.”84
Kerney was right. Later in 1878, when Pasdeloup secured a grant of 25,000F per year from the Ministère de l'Instruction Publique to cover the cost of mounting choral works, he did not promote Handel; instead he concentrated, when increasingly difficult finances permitted, on modern works. Lamoureux, too, was shifting his interest to modern oratorio and, increasingly, Bach. The bicentenary was hardly noticed. That the only society in the capital to commemorate Handel in 1885 was Ernest Deldevez's ultraconservative (p.233) Société des Concerts—in a concert containing “selections” only—was a sure sign that the revival was in terminal decline. Symbolic events, too, lost their symbolic power. There is an echo of the Republican Handel in performances of Messiah at that most symbolic of Expositions Universelles, in 1889. But the reviews reveal that the Republican “moment” for Handel had gone. Tiersot rehearsed the “Republican/popular festival” rationale for programming Messiah as though 1870s propaganda had never happened: “At first it is difficult to see what relation there might be between the Exposition and Handel's music,” he wrote. “Looking more closely, one can understand that the two things go well together.”85 Outlining the architectural and triumphal nature of Handel's music, he emphasized its grandeur and its majestic accessibility but also, in contrast to earlier comparisons with ancient Greek sublimity, found it to be “decorative” music.86 Worse followed, since Tiersot was writing in a journal one of whose other contributors, Amédée Boutarel, found the Hallelujah chorus too militaristic and the work as a whole too lacking in variety to command the attention fully.87
The anti‐Handel trend continued: in 1891, tickets for the second and final performance of Israel in Egypt by the aristocratic‐Republican Société des Grandes Auditions had to be sold at half price;88 and Lamoureux's Messiah performances of 1896 provoked little more than press nostalgia and the belated recognition that the opportunity of a generation before had been lost. The fate of Victor Schoelcher's voluminous Handel collection, given to the French nation in three tranches after Schoelcher's return from exile, was in many ways emblematic of the failure of the specifically Handelian face of the French (p.234) choral revival and of its architects’ aspirations for official recognition both by the government and its musical agent, the Conservatoire. After 1872 (the date of the first donation), cataloguing and the release of the collection into the public domain were delayed, with the result that the entire Handel revival of the 1870s in Paris took place while the most important collection of Handeliana in western Europe lay hidden in boxes.89
Back to Bach
Bach's fate was different, and the bicentenary year holds clues as to why. Although 1885 did not see a marked increase in Bach concerts, the celebratory performance organized by the indefatigable (and Protestant) Henriette Fuchs and Concordia in April of that year was part of a general intensification of interest in Bach's choral music, particularly the cantatas, dating from the early 1880s.90 Bach would never be potential orphéon material; as such he would never be politicized in the manner of Handel. He superseded Handel among Parisian choral amateurs only after an interregnum during which nationalist sentiment encouraged more appreciation of and confidence in France's own cultural products, both old (chanson populaire and, to a lesser extent, early stage and keyboard music) and new or recent (the Société Nationale de Musique; Colonne's lionization of Berlioz). It is, moreover, no coincidence that Bach's rehabilitation coincided with the rise of Wagnerism, his bicentenary conveniently occurring the year the Revue wagnérienne was founded. Among prominent musicians and critics, Reyer, Gouzien, Benoît, and Lamoureux himself all promoted both composers’ music; as Walter Corten has pointed out, the filiation of contrapuntal technique from Bach to Wagner had been commented upon by Wagner's supporters and detractors at least since Théophile Gautier's (ghosted?) comments of 1857 that Wagner's music represented a “return to the old fugal styles.”91 It was, of course, this illustrious pairing that Bellaigue lampooned in his “Tedium in Music” of 1888. But the connection had existed on many levels since the 1860s (Pasdeloup was as (p.235) much a Wagnerian as a lover of Bach; Lamoureux, too). And among the eccentrics of high society the coupling of the two composers was neatly epitomized by the comte and comtesse de Chambrun: she who died on her way back from Bayreuth; he who underwrote editions of Bach's choral music and held private performances in the 1890s, much in the manner of Edouard Rodrigues's Handel half a century earlier.
The link was made explicit in two contrasting ways in 1892, the year after the Conservatoire's first B minor Mass. First, Julien Tiersot compared the Christmas Oratorio, intended to be sung over the course of six days, to the Ring.92 Then, for Holy Week, the brothers Paul and Lucien Hillemacher presented an alternative to the St Matthew Passion at the Théâtre du Châtelet: Ed. Haraucourt's play La Passion (1891), with incidental music for orchestra adapted from the Well‐Tempered Clavier, various organ pieces, and the famous “Pentecost” aria. The whole was put together according to Wagner's leitmotif system. Henry Eymieu's detailed description of the piece is the only aspect of it that has come to light thus far; but his report, which has the allure of a program note for pilgrims to Bayreuth, is revealing for its casual use of Wagnerian terminology in respect to this Bach pasticcio. The terms “motive” and “leitmotif” permeate the text, and individual motives are even given official names in the manner of published guides to the Ring:
When Judas counts the price of his treachery on the very table on which Christ has just broken the bread with his apostles, the theme of the F minor fugue (which we might call the “Judas leitmotif”) returns in the orchestra.
The motive from the E minor organ fugue serves as the prelude to the Garden of Olives tableau.…At the moment when Judas kisses Christ the characteristic theme described above returns, and at the end of the scene the “Virgin's Theme” [from tableau I] (prelude in F minor), which intermingles with the Judas leitmotif.93
(p.236) The Hillemachers’ provision of a funeral march emanating from the crucifixion scene (complete with a final statement of the “Judas” theme) further strengthens the association of their Christ with Siegfried. Such Wagnerian adaptation of Bach—and explicitly Bach the polyphonist—struck Eymieu as the work of “marvellous artisans” creating a new relationship with the great master's music.94 But in terms of the cultural construction of Bach, La Passion also provides insights into the composer's changing image. For there appears to be no other example in nineteenth‐century France of such double translation—of the updating of early music according to the stylistic norms of a third party who is himself associated with the ultramodern.
In combination with the progressive acceptance of the most Catholic and overtly expressive of the choral works—the “Actus Tragicus,” the Magnificat, and the B minor Mass—the association of Bach with the saturated expressivity of Wagner also allowed him to begin to escape the charge of overlearned calculation and to attain a mystical aura which effectively overturned 1870s complaints that his church music was too unemotionally Protestant or learned.95 Reviewing bicentennial biographies, René de Récy [J. Trezel] even argued that he was more Catholic than Protestant, and that the Magnificat and the B minor Mass were entirely Catholic in spirit.96 Later writers nuanced such sentiments: for Benoît in 1891, the absence of chorales and recitatives in the B minor Mass rendered it universally Christian, a quality which gave it, for Cart, a special place in Bach's output, since it transcended both denominations while nevertheless revealing how significant were the remnants of Catholicism in the early eighteenth‐century Lutheran rite.97 Just as French supporters of Handel transformed his Protestantism in order to appropriate him in the late 1860s, so too—and not just in the spirit of Gounod's dressing‐up of the C‐major Prelude as an “Ave Maria”—did Bach's champions claim the Catholic side of his output for themselves over twenty years later. This was the last stage in a Catholic appropriation of Bach that had, since the 1840s, seen institutions such as Langres Cathedral and the Ecole Niedermeyer claim his organ works as an extension of the Palestrinian lineage.
Texts for the program book for Concordia's 1888 St Matthew Passion reveal the beginnings of the change. There were strong links, wrote the Wagnerian (p.237) Edouard Schuré, between Bach and Palestrina. Both appealed neither to the senses nor the intellect. Instead, in their “virile and chaste tenderness,” they reached directly to the soul. Using language that had been commonplace in the evocation of a Palestrinian mysticism since the 1830s, Schuré claimed the “half‐light of a gothic cathedral” as the natural home for Bach's sacred music and, with more Palestrinian resonances, imagined it rising, incense‐like, to the heights of the nave.98 J.‐G. Fréson, writing on the Wagnerian aesthetic in 1893, compared Parsifal to the St Matthew Passion, and the polished leitmotif treatment of the composer's late style to the Art of Fugue; but he then, via an apparent paraphrase of Choron, traced the roots of Wagner's contrapuntal practice further back, again to Palestrina. “Musically,” he wrote, “we float between all tonalities; as in the masses and motets of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, the sea of harmony extends to the horizon, in a series of infinitesimal gradations.”99 Fréson's aim was to emphasize the distance between Parsifal and opera; but the result, in terms of a longer historiographical trajectory, was to make Wagner the direct descendent of sacred‐music composition in the severe style and to cement Bach's place at its historical centre.
But where Bach ultimately trumped Handel in the last two decades of the nineteenth century was in perceptions of his profundity, his subtlety, his variety of mood, and his old‐fashioned Romantic isolation from the compromises entailed in carving out a career in the musical marketplace. As we have seen, in 1874 Reyer somewhat resented Handel's capacity to please the crowd; by contrast, from the 1880s Bach's commentators provided their readers with a quiet philosopher of music. For René de Récy in 1885, Bach was the official medium for Protestant expressions of religious mysticism: a reflective, unworldly genius in whose work the outside world found only “dim reflections.”100 Tiersot, writing at the time of Garcin's first performance of the B minor Mass, praised a self‐taught composer of extraordinary depth, who appeared to shun both publicity and the wider public. Quoting Mme de Staël's definition of the German artist as a figure whose inwardness contrasted with French artists’ sensitivity to (p.238) public tastes, he presented the mismatch between Bach's humble communitarianism and his genius as a signifier of artistic integrity:
He cared little about the public; he composed his greatest masterpieces to be performed once only in the presence of a few friends and parishioners…. Not seeking to please the public, Bach thus concentrated on expressing what he felt, and he did it so much more spontaneously and naturally because he had not “legislated” anything and because he seems, in his writing, to have followed only the vague and obscure principles to which his genius (much more than his will) had given powerful illumination.101
By the later 1890s, mention of Bach's profundity, his lack of ambition, and his purity of artistic spirit was a commonplace that served to relegate Handel to the inferior position of a great but ultimately opportunistic artist who “was there for his own apotheosis” and whose compositions were tainted with theatricality and conventionality.102
Bach's need to provide weekly cantatas and generally fulfil employers’ requirements seems to have escaped his supporters’ notice, though detractors seized on its artistic consequences. “Rameau” of Le monde artiste, for instance, exposed the self‐borrowing within the B minor Mass in an explicit attempt to dent the myth of the composer's much‐vaunted “sincerity”103 and perhaps to slow a process of artistic beatification according to which the composer could be described, even if half‐jokingly, as “our holy Father.”104 He failed. Reviewing the Chanteurs de Saint‐Gervais at the Concert Guilmant of 26 April 1899, Hippolyte (p.239) Barbedette reported the enthusiasm of the five‐thousand‐strong audience and, in respect to the cantata “Jesu der du meine Seele,” wrote the now‐traditional Bachian encomium: “Bach has expressed everything: no human emotion is unknown to him. He is perfect, from the slightest fugue to those colossal pieces the Mass in B minor and the St Matthew Passion.”105
Given the conditions in which it arose, it is difficult to see how a specifically Handelian choral revival in France could have succeeded in the long term. He was after all an outsider—a double foreigner whose music was appropriated to a nationalistic cause and then dropped when its political attractiveness had waned and once the works of indigenous heroes (with Berlioz at their head) were able to replace it. Yet for as long as the French needed a musical weapon against Prussian culture, a pagan, Republican, and Mediterranean Handel was ideal. For all the rhetoric that placed Bach and Handel as twin pillars of the eighteenth‐century oratorio tradition, at the beginning of the Third Republic Bach was still too difficult, too Protestant, too chromatic, and ultimately too German to be pressed into service as a popular nationwide repertory. Moreover, the fact that by 1871 Handel was already favored over Bach provided an opportunity to enjoy the best of (almost) all worlds: one could argue for the creation of a singing nation to rival that of Germany through the medium of a de‐Germanized composer whose music was identified with an even greater military power, the British Empire.
Saint‐Saëns was chillingly accurate when in 1879 he called performances of Handel oratorio a “blip” lacking the institutional bedrock of performances abroad.106 Yet he was also myopic, since the “death” of Handel did not mean the death of attempts to found a choral culture. Rather, hindsight renders Handel the choral composer a transitional figure who (the Germanic traditions of Alsace aside) was the necessary condition for a reappraisal of Bach, and who made possible the flowering of French choral music in composition and nationwide performance during the last quarter of the century. This was an episode in French concert history that was predicated on reaching out to more sectors of French society than any before it, Choron's attempts excepted: an idealist vision that embraced all generations and both sexes; amateurs and professionals; all social strata from workers and artisans to aristocrats; Republicans, (p.240) Protestants, pagans, and even (moderate) Ultramontanes. Though the architects of the Baroque choral revival failed in their immediate goals, the entire episode nevertheless marks not just a defining period in the history of early music in France, but a defining period in the history of French musical culture. The music of the monumental Baroque—Handel especially—was more important for prompting crucial questions than for providing all the answers.
(1.) Schoelcher, The Life of Handel, xxiv.
(2.) “Grandeur is the distinctive characteristic which dominates over all the compositions of Handel.” Schoelcher, The Life of Handel, 387.
(3.) No new oratorio by a Frenchman was performed in France between 1815 and 1843. The years 1843 to 1865 yielded just 12 works. Smither, A History of the Oratorio, vol. 4, 532.
(4.) For another aspect of this complex nationalist weave, see Strasser, “The Société Nationale.”
(5.) “Nous ne savons pas en France ce que c'est que de grandes fêtes musicales, telles qu'il s'en donne annuellement de l'autre côté de la Manche, de l'autre côté du Rhin, ou de l'autre côté de la Meuse.” Pougin, A propos du Messie, 12.
(6.) For a detailed discussion of “pairings” in musical biography of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, see Wiley, Re‐writing Composers’ Lives. For important background to Bach in France, see Corten, Le “procès de canonisation,” summarized in his “La réemergence de J.S. Bach.” See also Fauquet and Hennion, La grandeur de Bach.
(7.) Broken off after 39 installments, halfway through chapter 5. The remainder was never published in French, though the all‐important chapter 12 on Handel's character appeared in La France musicale in 1870, followed by individual “essays”—versions of five sections taken from intermediary chapters of the book. No reason was given for breaking off publication in 1862. The sheer length of the biography is a plausible one; however, state muzzling is another. Schoelcher's French‐language writings during his exile were otherwise published in Geneva or Brussels, not Paris.
(8.) Charles Coligny in FC 2 (no. 46): 1 February 1863, .
(9.) See the notice in UM 3/11–12: August 1864, 185.
(10.) None was complete, but all presented over 50 percent of the work concerned.
(11.) The last 35 years of the century yielded 21 new French oratorios, 13 of them clustered around the years 1867 to 1880. Smither, A History of the Oratorio, vol. 4, 532.
(12.) “tant de morceaux futiles, de productions médiocres et éphémères, qui chaque jour envahissent les cafés chantants et même les salons,” UM 3/15–16: 16 October 1864, 238.
(13.) “L'oeuvre si magnifiquement inaugurée, il y a trois jours, par Pasdeloup, vivra et grandira. Cette prospérité, cette extension populaire importe beaucoup, c'est du moins mon humble avis, à l’élévation, à la substance, je dirais presque à l'hygiène des hautes études musicales dans notre pays. Ces harmonies sublimes, qui ont réveillé les échos endormis du temple national et retenti jusque dans la nuit des tombeaux illustres, ne sauraient, en s’éteignant subitement, laisser après elles le vide, le doute, l'oubli. Il faut qu'elles s’élèvent bientôt, plus éclatantes encore, qu'elles résonnent souvent, que, de ces hauteurs classiques, elles se répandent sur Paris, sur la France.” RGM 35/19:10 May 1868, 146.
(14.) La réforme musicale (henceforth RéfM) 15/12: 17 April 1870, n.p.
(15.) La semaine musicale (henceforth SM) 3 (no. 108): 31 January 1868, n.p.
(16.) Mén 40/18: 5 April 1874, 139.
(17.) RDM 15 November 1885, 224. For the attribution of this article, see Corten, Le “procès de canonisation,” 71.
(18.) Cart, Etude sur J.‐S. Bach, 259.
(19.) See Fauser, “Gendering the Nations,” 82.
(20.) “Pas de faux brillants, pas d'enjolivements superflus, pas de verbiage; il y a tout ce qu'il faut et rien que ce qu'il faut.… Grandeur, force, solidité, beauté, grâce même.” FM 34/15: 10 April 1870, 110.
(21.) “cette fécondité d'esprit prodigieuse, cette facilité d'improvisation qui semble n’être dévolue qu'aux races latines.” FM 34/16: 17 April 1870, 118.
(22.) “un païen, un païen grec”; “la force dans toute sa sérénité.” La France orphéonique (henceforth FO) 2/7: 10 April 1870, n.p.
(23.) The Code Civil states: “La femme est notre propriété.” For an indication of how long‐lived and widespread men's insecurities were about the related problems of defeat by Prussia and potential “defeat” at the hands of noncompliant women, see Berenson, The Trial of Madame Caillaux, esp. 114–17, and, on fencing and the duel as a form of ritual military re‐masculinization during the Belle époque, 186–98, and Nye, Masculinity and Male Codes of Honor, 148–71.
(24.) “a soupiré la musique de Haendel d'une façon si vaporeuse et si aimable que la partie féminine surtout de l'auditoire lui a redemandé le morceau.” Temps 27 April 1869, n.p.
(25.) “éclat souverain”; “mâles accords.” FM 32/20: 17 May 1868, 150.
(26.) “oeuvre de géant, qui déroute, par un langage austère et même rude, par sa structure herculéenne, par ses gigantesques proportions, notre goût musical flatté par les souplesses infinies, les cajoleries caressantes, et les raffinements voluptueux de l'art moderne!” Mén 35/24:10 May 1868, 187.
(27.) “Tout l'effet consiste dans la force de l'invention musicale proprement dite, dans la justesse de l'expression, et dans [la] puissance de conception.” Mén 35/24:10 May 1868, 187.
(28.) Article previewing Lamoureux's first St Matthew Passion. RGM 41/13:29 March 1874, 100.
(29.) “ébloui par la grandeur et l'unité de ce style, par la puissance et la variété de ces chants inspirés”; “ces mélodies onctueuses et tendres”; “ruisseau dont l'onde est pure et fortifiante, ruisseau plein de doux murmures et de débordements, ruisseau plus large qu'un fleuve, plus impétueux qu'un torrent.” JD 31 May 1868, n.p.
(30.) “une oeuvre calme, recueillie en quelque sorte, qui se fait remarquer par une grâce toute céleste et par une douceur pleine d'onction.” Mén 40/8: 25 January 1874, 61.
(31.) As indicated by a note on the contents page, this translation was first performed by the Société Bourgault‐Ducoudray on 31 March 1870.
(32.) “beautés mâles et sévères”; “mâles beautés.” Mén 40/3: 21 December 1873, 19,‐20.
(33.) “saines, viriles, réconfortantes.” Pougin, revision of A propos du Messie, published in his own La musique populaire (MPop), 1/6: 24 November 1881, 87.
(34.) “Nos oreilles modernes, habituées aux éléments chromatiques s’étonnent en entendant une musique d'un genre presque exclusivement diatonique. Cela est vrai. Mais ce qui n'est pas moins vrai, c'est la puissance tonale chez Handel, puissance telle qu'il n'y a jamais d'indécision, de doute pour l'oreille, si bien qu'elle ne s’égare jamais.
Ce grand musicien est bien d'un temps qui ne connaissait ni nos rêves, ni nos mélancolies, ni nos aspirations compliquées, et encore moins nos mièvreries sentimentales. Sa langue est donc bien l'expression nécessaire aux sentiments simples, francs, sains, forts, naturels, la langue qui répond le mieux aux idées définies.” De Charnacé, Musique et musiciens, vol. 1, 148–49.
(35.) “cette nation vaillante, austère et libérale.” Revue contemporaine, 2d series, 23: September/October 1866, 616. It was, of course, precisely this image of Handelian oratorio as national allegory that the English themselves had cultivated since the genre's earliest days. See Buch, Beethoven's Ninth, 14–16.
(36.) “mâle et fier génie”; “virile et nationale.” Revue contemporaine, 2d series, 23: September/October 1866, 610, 606. I have yet to find comparably gendered interpretations of Handel in Francophone writings before Germa. The closest comparable article, by Fétis, dwells on Handel's clarity and his massive choral effects [Biographie universelle, 2d ed., vol. 4 (1862), 137–38] but takes the evaluation no further.
(37.) “Plein d'une persévérance indomptable, contre les hostilités toujours menaçantes, il élève des remparts inexpugnables, assis sur le rocher et capables de braver les vents du ciel, les flots de la mer, l'attaque de l'homme. Il a imprimé à sa facture et à son style un solidité massive, qui n'a point à compter avec le temps et avec les modes changeantes. Ses partitions portent l'empreinte d'une vaillance que rien ne dompte, d'une tenacité qui fatigue l'obstacle, et ses oratorios, dans lesquels s'absorbent tout l'art, toute la mélopée religieuse, toute l'inspiration lyrique et théâtrale d'une nation, sont des monuments de granit et de fer qui subsisteront tant que l'Angleterre sera debout.” Revue contemporaine, 2d series, 23: September/October 1866, 615.
(38.) “frappé par des marteaux de bronze.” De Charnacé, Musique et musiciens, 147 (from his 1872 review of Acis).
(39.) Schoelcher, The Life of Handel, 398.
(40.) Schoelcher, The Life of Handel, 388. Germa extended the idea: “les compositions de ce grand homme gagnent à être mises en relief par d’énormes armées orchestrales et chantantes. Dompter les masses, les rallier dans l'idée biblique, telle est la virtualité de l'oratorio et le caractère du génie d'Haendel.” Revue contemporaine, 2d series, 23: September/October 1866, 615; CM 8 (no. 43): 1 April 1875, 32.
(41.) There is, of course, another element, post‐1870, to the comparison with a liberal and friendly England: it was well known that the British prime minister, William Gladstone, had tried to dissuade Bismarck from his plan to annex Alsace and Lorraine and that he had attempted to form a coalition with other neutral European powers for this purpose. See Magnus, Gladstone, 205; and Roy Jenkins, Gladstone, 330.
(42.) See especially Sextius Durand's review in FM 32/20: 17 May 1868, 151.
(43.) “Plus accessible peut‐être à la foule que le grand Bach lui‐même, plus rayonnant, plus facilement compréhensible, remuant les masses et les frappant de toute la puissance de son génie, son souvenir reste éclatant, il domine l'art de toute la grandeur d'une inspiration magnifique et débordante.” MPop. 2/44: 17 Aug. 1882, 390.
(44.) “une foule attentive, émue, enthousiasmée.” JD 24 Nov. 1874, n.p.
(45.) Toward the end of his review of Lamoureux's St Matthew Passion he quipped that Lamoureux had ended the concert with the most “saisissantes, je devrais dire saisissables” passages of Messiah (the Hallelujah chorus). JD 21 April 1874, n.p.
(46.) Mén 34/16: 17 April 1870, 118.
(47.) RéfM 15/11: 10 April 1870, n.p.
(48.) “Soyez, vous, monsieur Ducoudray, l'homme de Handel, initiez‐nous complétement, et surtout les masses, si souvent déshéritées des choses de l'art, à ces grandes compositions chorales.” La nouvelle France chorale (henceforth NFC) 5/8: 16 April 1873, n.p.
(49.) NFC 5/8: 16 April 1873, n.p.
(50.) As reported in an article co‐written by Charles Coligny and De Bory in NFC 5/9: 1 May 1873, n.p. Bourgault‐Ducoudray had used orphéon singers in 1872, for his Acis of 1 May. Thereafter, they shared program credits with Bourgault‐Ducoudray's own society for performances of (among other concerts) Alexander's Feast on 28 January and 16 March 1873, and Acis on 6 April 1873.
(51.) “Je ne veux pas entreprendre de tracer un plan aux sociétés chorales. Je dis seulement à ceux qui les dirigent: il y a beaucoup à faire et vous n'avez encore rien fait. Vous êtes en retard avec la musique ancienne; vous ne l’êtes pas moins avec la musique moderne. Orlando Lassus vous attend à l'oeuvre; Haendel, Haydn, Cherubini et Mendelssohn vous y attendent également.” RéfM 6/49: 12 January 1862, n.p., reprinted in Roger's own La semaine musicale 2 (no. 61): 1 March 1866, n.p.
(52.) SM 2 (no. 61): 1 March 1866, n.p.
(53.) This is the burden of the brochure Société Bourgault‐Ducoudray, which set out the society's rationale, traced its history, and touted for new members.
(54.) Gerbod, “Vox populi,” 233.
(55.) For repertory lists of the Paris Orphéon up to around 1880, see Di Grazia, Concert Societies, 132–33 and 157–59. It should be noted, however, that under the leadership of Gounod, Pasdeloup, and Bazin this orphéon was unusually experienced in the “classique.”
(56.) “le supplierais de nous aider à chasser de l'Orphéon les bouffons qui le déshonorent.” FC, 2 (no. 46): 1 February 1863, n.p.
(57.) “thermomètre de l'Orphéon français.” FO 1/10: 10 December 1869, n.p.
(58.) See, esp., Digeon, La crise allemande. As Digeon notes, the notion that the Germans were better equipped, intellectually and spiritually, than the French, was not born of defeat, “Mais la défaite incite, impérativement, l'imitation” (365).
(59.) The complete passage is a blistering condemnation of the effects of plainchant singing on music education: “Or, voilà trois siècles que les protestants ont renoncé au plain‐chant, et quand nous aurons comme eux, pendant plusieurs générations, entendu et exécuté de la musique harmonisé et rhythmée, il sera temps alors de constater qui aura fait le plus de progrès dans l'usage de la vraie musique.” [Plainchant is] “une musique incomplète, qui n'a ni l’étendue, ni la tonalité, ni le rhythme, ni l'harmonie, et si rarement la mélodie qu'il en faut à peine parler… Pour surcroit de désastre artistique, dans le grand nombre des communes de France, on laisse chanter faux au lutrin. Voilà ce qui nous retarde.” Guimet, La musique populaire, 12–13.
(60.) Cart, Etude sur J.‐S. Bach, 2–3.
(61.) Meaning, in practice, the persuasion of the have‐nots that they were “integrated” in society.
(62.) “L'Orphéon n'est pas une école: c'est une institution ayant surtout pour but la fusion des diverses classes de la société, et où le côté moralisateur doit primer essentiellement le côté musical.” L’écho des orphéons (henceforth EO) 6/4: 20 February 1866, 1.
(63.) “L'orphéon français… n'a pas pris la résolution virile d’étudier sérieusement; il n'a pas pris davantage le goût des grandes oeuvres; il n'aborde pas plus qu'avant les magnifiques oratorios des maîtres classiques.” Journal populaire de musique et de chant 4 (no. 42): August 1873, 72.
(64.) Journal populaire de musique et de chant 4 (no. 42): August 1873, 72.
(65.) See, for instance, his “Bulletin” in NFC 2 (no. 26): 16 April 1870, n.p.; his “Bulletin‐Chronique” in NFC 3 (no. 47): 16 March 1872, n.p.; and his review of Lamoureux's Messiah, NFC 6 (no. 1): 1 January 1874, n.p.
(66.) French writers did not deny that the Germans and the British also had their competitive festivals for male‐voice choirs; they simply chose to ignore them in favor of a model that offered more obvious social solidarity.
(67.) “de fièvres ladies chanter leur partie à côté d'humbles bourgeoises,” given in the RMSAM 9/8: July/August 1868, 58.
(68.) “on convoquât à Paris ou ailleurs cent ou deux cents sociétés orphéoniques pour l'exécution d'un chef‐d'oeuvre. Ce serait l'art populaire, digne d'une belle et riche nation.” SM 2 (no. 83): 2 August 1866, n.p.
(69.) On the “Republican tradition” during the nineteenth century and beyond, see Hazareesingh, Political Traditions in Modern France, 65–89.
(70.) FO 1/10: 10 December 1869, n.p.
(71.) See, for instance, Ernest Gebaüer's comment about the plausibility of orphéon choirs tackling Elijah, which I interpret as a sarcastic retort to the evangelizing of his rival journal editor Louis Roger. EO 10/3: 5–9 February 1870, 1.
(72.) “d'un certain rang.” L’écho du parlement, given in RéfM, 14/37–38: 10–17 October 1869, n.p. A portion of this report, which contains some telling plagiarism of Germa's militaristic Handel imagery from his Revue contemporaine biography of 1866, is also given in AM 9/45: 7 October 1869.
(73.) “En somme on entend des oeuvres dans cette société que l'on ne pourrait exécuter dans aucune autre société, car celles que nous connaissons n'arrivent à mettre quelques morceaux sur pied qu’à force de tambouriner pour rassembler des chanteurs et des chanteuses qui n'ont aucune raison pour se rencontrer ce qui rend, par conséquent, toute association impossible.” “C.V.” [Camille de Vos], NFC 6/4: 16 February 1874, n.p.
(74.) Detailed in my “A Tale of Two Societies.”
(75.) McPhee, A Social History of France, 234–35.
(76.) Mén 40/3: 21 December 1873, 19.
(77.) Article 5 of the Conseil Municipal document, cited and discussed by Léon Escudier in AM 14/35: 2 September 1875, 273: “C'est parce que nous n'avons pas en France des choeurs de femmes amateurs que nous ne pouvons pas exécuter d'une manière régulière les chefs‐d'oeuvre des grands maîtres: Bach, Haendel, etc., qui ont écrit pour des masses chorales mixtes.” Escudier draws attention to the suppression of the word “oratorio” in this anticlerical, Republican, document.
(78.) “l'introduction de l’élément féminin dans les solennités musicales populaires.” M. de Moonen, “L'orphéon,” 8.
(79.) “nation anti‐musicale et prude par excellence… la réputation de femmes ne tient pas à un fil, si facile à casser.” De Romain, Essais de critique musicale, 200.
(80.) Concomitantly, Lamoureux's Handel choirs could never be too big—or big enough.
(81.) See the minutes of the committee of the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, BNF (Musique): D 17345 (8); and Deldevez's La Société des Concerts, 270–76.
(82.) In preparing his application for government subsidy in 1878, Pasdeloup estimated that hiring a chorus of 140 nearly doubled the wage bill for an orchestra concert. Given in Journal de musique (henceforth JM) 2 (no. 90): 16 February 1878, 2.
(83.) AM 14/3: 21 January 1875, 19.
(84.) “morte, abandonnée.” AM 17/2: 10 January 1878, 12.
(85.) “L'on ne voit pas bien au premier abord quelle relation il peut y avoir entre l'Exposition et la musique d'Haendel. A y regarder de plus près, l'on finit par s'apercevoir que les deux choses vont bien ensemble. La musique d'Haendel est surtout extérieure. Soit par la beauté architecturale et décorative, par la grandeur de ses proportions, soit par le relief de la ligne mélodique, elle frappe au premier abord et apparaît dans un essor majestueux et triomphal.” Mén 55/24: 16 June 1889, 188. For more detail on the 1889 Messiah, see Fauser, Musical Encounters, chap. 1.
(86.) “décorative.” Mén 55/24:‐16 June 1889, 188.
(87.) Boutarel wrote that the Hallelujah chorus “manque le caractère spécial qui devrait distinguer un hymne religieux d'un chant guerrier. Le‐morceau d'Haendel aurait pu servir à recevoir au Capitole un général victorieux de l'ancienne Rome, mieux encore qu’à célébrer l'avènement pacifique du Messie. Comme impression d'ensemble on peut dire que l'oeuvre, malgré la variété réelle des formes musicales, devient à la longue un peu monotone.” Mén 55/24:16 June 1889, 192.
(88.) As noted by Ernest Reyer, JD 7 June 1891, n.p.
(89.) See King, “The fonds Schoelcher,” 706–7. There was no attempt, even on Weckerlin's part, to give priority to the Handelian part of the collection (the initial donation): the second donation (miscellaneous English music) was catalogued first (706).
(90.) His music in other genres had, of course, enjoyed increasing favor in admittedly intimate circles throughout the Second Empire.
(91.) “retour aux anciennes fugues.” Moniteur universel, 29 September 1857, given in Corten, Le “procès de canonisation,” 173–74.
(92.) Review of the Société des Grandes Auditions Musicales's performance. Mén 58/5: 31 January 1892, 35.
(93.) “Au moment où Judas compte le prix de sa trahison sur la table même où le Christ vient de rompre le pain avec les apôtres, le thème de la fugue en fa mineur, qu'on pourrait appeler le leitmotive de Judas, revient à l'orchestre. Le motif de la fugue en mi mineur des pièces d'orgue sert de prélude au tableau du jardin des Oliviers.… Au moment où Judas embrasse le Christ revient le thème caractéristique dont nous parlons plus haut, et à la fin de la scène la Phrase de la Vierge (prélude en fa mineur) qui se mêle au leitmotive du Judas.” MS 15/9: April 1893, 70.
(94.) “merveilleux artisans.” MS 15/9: April 1893, 70.
(95.) See Corten, Le “procès de canonisation,” 175–77. In contrast to Corten, who sees the concert performances of 1868 as the beginning of the end of Bach's “learned Kantor” image, I would place this transformation considerably later, first with the Guilmant concerts, and then with the establishment of the Bach/Wagner association.
(96.) RDM 15 Nov. 1885, 414 and 416.
(97.) Benoît, La grande messe en si mineur de Jean‐Sébastien Bach, 5–6; Cart, Etude sur J.‐S. Bach, 221–24. On Bach chez D'Indy, see my “En route to Wagner.”
(98.) “tendresse mâle et chaste”; “le demi‐jour d'une cathédrale gothique.” Program booklet for Concordia's St Matthew Passion, 16 May 1888: “Notices et texte,” 11–12 [BNF (Musique): Fonds “Programmes: Concordia”].
(99.) “Musicalement, nous flottons entre toutes les tonalités; comme dans les messes et les motets de Jean Pierluigi da Palestrina, la mer de l'harmonie s’étend à perte de vue avec une série d'insensibles dégradations; les vagues du rhythme ne la soulèvent ni l'agitent; et toutes les souffrances terrestres semblent se dissoudre dans l'Amour sans bornes du Christ souffrant pour nous.” Freson, L’ésthétique de Richard Wagner, vol. 2, 217.
(100.) “de lointains reflets.” RDM 15 November 1885, 414.
(101.) “Le public, il n'en avait cure: ses plus beaux chefs‐d'oeuvre, il les composa pour être exécutés une seule fois en présence de quelques amis et des paroissiens de son église… Ne cherchant pas à plaire au public, Bach se bornait donc à exprimer ce qu'il sentait, et il le faisait d'autant plus spontanément et naturellement que lui non plus a point ‘légiféré’ et qu'il semble, en écrivant, n'avoir obéi qu’à des principes vagues et obscurs que son génie, bien plutôt que sa volonté, a puissamment illuminés.” Mén 57/11: 15 March 1891, 81. Tiersot was referring to De Staël's discussions of German artistic character in her De l'Allemagne of 1810.
(102.) “assista à son propre apothéose.” Hippolyte Barbedette, reviewing what turned out to be Lamoureux's last Messiah series. Mén 62/13: 29 March 1896, 101.
(103.) “Sincérité.” MA 31/11: 15 March 1891, 169. Nevertheless, the journal's critics still favored Bach over Handel when they made the comparison; “Tic‐Tac,” writing sarcastically of the Société des Grandes Auditions’ Israel in Egypt of 3 June 1891, used precisely the traditional comparison of the commercial Handel as against the “purist” [le puriste] Bach, composing only “for himself” [pour lui‐même]. MA 31/23: 7 June 1891, 368.
(104.) “notre saint père Bach.” From a comment of Eugène de Bricqueville on the motet “Jesu meine Freude,” sung (probably complete) by the Société des Concerts on 5 March 1899. Mén 65/11: 12 March 1899, 84.
(105.) “Bach a tout exprimé: aucun sentiment humain ne lui est étranger. Il est parfait, depuis la moindre fugue jusqu’à ses oeuvres colossales que sont la Messe en si mineur et la Passion de Saint‐Mathieu.” Mén 65/18: 30 April 1899, 140.
(106.) “un accident.” Saint‐Saëns, “Les festivals de Birmingham” (1879), in Harmonie et mélodie, 151.