Sat 05Feb2022

The Pleasures of the Palace and the Palate

Online via Zoom

2.30pm - 4pm

Organiser: Clare Griffel /

A presentation by Richard Langham Smith
(Research Professor, Royal College of Music)

This title is unashamedly borrowed from a 2CD/Cookery leaflet beautifully produced by the Ensemble Clément Janequin. Admittedly it’s of music a couple of centuries older than the repertoire of the Grand Siècle which is the subject of today’s talk but I can think of no better title, playing on the double entendre of the French word palais, meaning both a palace and the palate. I’ll introduce some of my favourite pieces of this repertoire and have tried to include as many genres as possible.

We’ll focus on the Ballet de la nuit, in which Louis XIV himself danced: one of the greatest political spectacles ever involving dance and music, disseminated in publications throughout the world, aiming to boost France’s European and colonial reputation. We’ll glance back at the repertoire of the 17th harpsichord composers and focus on the unmeasured Préludes of d’Anglebert, whose printed collection of Suites must rank among the most beautiful scores ever produced. François Couperin will be another focus but not so much his harpsichord music, more his political credo that the best music would be a fusion of European National style. His Apothéoses de Lully and de Corelli amusingly imagine Corelli and Lully duetting on Mount Parnassus. He also wrote some of the most sublime religious music: Stravinsky used to make time to hear his Holy Week lamentations of Jeremiah: the Leçons de ténèbres. We’ll take a look back at some of the roots which flowered into French opera—Cantatas and Court Airs, sometimes to do with Greek mythology, sometimes more to do with the more immediate pleasures of drinking, eating and love-making.

Finally, a glimpse at one of the operatic geniuses of all time: Jean-Philippe Rameau, most of whose operas were composed in his old age. He will take us back to Dance: when his statue of Pygmalion comes to life, he has to learn the art which was never far from the surface of French Music of this time: dance. How elegantly he mastered this art and with such delight.

Richard Langham Smith is well known for his love of French and Spanish music and dislike of Brahms. He has held positions at Lancaster, City University, Exeter, Cambridge and the Open University and is now a Research Professor at the Royal College of Music. He was admitted to the Ordre des arts et des lettres at the rank of Chevalier in 1994, for services to French culture. He has recently published ‘Uncovering Bizet’s Carmen’ with Boydell and Brewer, and has co-edited with Clair Rowden ‘Carmen abroad’ a collection of chapters on the reception of Bizet’s opera all over the world., recently awarded the Royal Musical Association prize for the best edited collection of music books of 2021.

There is no charge to attend this event, but donations (which will be passed directly to the tutor) are invited. 

Please donate by bank transfer:
Sort Code: 40-28-22
Account Number: 91477285
Account Name: South West Early Music Forum
Reference: RLSFeb2022

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