On 1 May 2021 at 18.00 vocal chamber music cycles by Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel and Daniel Lesur will be broadcasted from the Latvian National Library. Refined masterpieces of French music will be interpreted by Marie Elisabeth Seager (mezzo soprano, France) and Toms Ostrovskis (piano, Latvia). The programme will be broadcasted on EPTA Latvia YouTube channel, as well as on the Facebook page and homepage of the National Library of Latvia.
The concert programme "Dans les yeux d'une française / Pasaule … francūža acīm" is very diverse – the colours of impressionism, symbolism, neoclassicism, late expressionism and modality are equal in beauty to the verses of French poetry used in the cycles. Although the oeuvres of the distinguished composers are highly individual, all three have drawn inspiration from foreign cultures – the opuses featured in "Dans les yeux d'une française" visit ancient Persia, Cambodia and Greece, forming a remarkable and exotic musical journey.
The song cycle by Claude Debussy "Five Poems of Charles Baudelaire" shows distinct influences of Wagner's music, for this reason the Parisian society of the late 19th century received the opus quite coldly. Interestingly, the French poet Charles Baudelaire, whose 200th anniversary is celebrated worldwide this year, was also a passionate supporter and admirer of Wagner's music in France. In the cycle Debussy uses poems from "The Flowers of Evil" on love and spleen. After the Wagnerian period, Debussy finds new dimensions for his inspiration in symbolism and composes his famous cycle "Three Bilitis Songs", based on the scandalous poems of Pierre Louis on love and passion in the ancient Greece.
Maurice Ravel composes his cycle "Scheherazade" for mezzo soprano with orchestra, subsequently arranging it for voice and piano. The magic of the East captivates him since childhood and in 1903 he welcomes the challenge of setting to music three poems from the volume "Scheherazade" by his contemporary and friend with the Wagnerian pseudonym Tristan Klingsor. The cycle represents a witty collection of western stereotypes on the "enchanted East" and the famous Scheherazade. The composer adheres to the descriptive style of the poems and invites the audience to savour calmly the exotic images conjured by the voice and the instrument.
The French composer Daniel Lesur, contemporary of Olivier Messiaen, approaches the topic of exoticism in a distinctly individual way. In 1964 the composer creates an intercultural translation of Cambodian folk melodies for voice and piano, deliberately avoiding eastern music cliches. In his cycle "Five Cambodian Songs" he explores emotional states of man and woman within nature, whilst creating exotic eastern atmospheres with original means of musical expression.
The French singer Marie Elisabeth Seager says: "I am happy to return to the Latvian National Library, this time with the most beautiful vocal repertoire of my homeland. A few years ago, I performed the most complex cycle for voice and piano by Messiaen here, and I remember very well the warm Latvian audience, as well as the beautiful performance space that overlooks the whole city. Our travel opportunities have been severely limited for quite a while now – I feel it very acutely, as my performance opportunities are suffering equal limitations, not to mention my sources of inspiration. The initial motto for this programme was "longing for escapes" – no one shall forbid us to travel in music!" Toms Ostrovskis adds: "From a professional standpoint, this might be the most colourful programme that I have ever attempted. Impressionism, minimalism, a tad of expressionism – composers demand the most nuanced timbres of piano and orchestra in their exotic soundscapes."
Marie Elisabeth Seager specializes in the 20th century music in general and in oeuvres of R. Wagner and O. Messiaen in particular. She collaborates with the associated professor of the JVLMA Piano Department Toms Ostrovskis since their postgraduate studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, 2003. Whilst in Latvia, on 23 April the singer will give a masterclass for the students of the JVLMA Vocal Department.
The performance is supported by the Latvian National Library, the Latvian State Culture Capital Fund and Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music.