Aureole etc.




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Paule Maurice (1910-67) - Tableaux de Provence, for Saxophone and Orchestra

Maurice was French. More pointedly, Paule Maurice was a French woman composer, which immediately impales me on a cleft stick of Political Correctness. If I suggest that this is in any way remarkable, I risk condemnation for being “patronising”, and if I don’t I risk accusations of glossing over the achievements of women! Far from taking my life in my hands, like the critic who pronounced “[Maurice] is not a composer of the same stature as her husband Pierre Lantier” (particularly as the latter is himself hardly a household name!), I shall take cowardly refuge behind the skirts of a misquotation of Richard Strauss: “Do you know what a 'woman composer' is? I don't. There are only good and bad composers”. 

So, which is it? Her career credentials are impeccable. She studied under Henri Busser and the frères Gallion, winning a first prize in composition and harmony. She became a respected educator, professor of sight-reading at the Paris Conservatoire (1943), then of harmony and analysis at the Normal School of Music (1967). As a composer, her main claim to fame was to foster the reputation of the saxophone, hitherto disdained as a crude jazz instrument or at best regarded as a “special effect”. Motivated by her friend Marcel Mule, a pioneer of the “classical” saxophone, she set about producing music to demonstrate its capability of “serious” musical expression. I am tempted to enquire, “Do you know what a 'classical instrument' is? I don't. There are only good and bad instruments.” So, which is it? Listen, and decide for yourselves! 

Tableaux de Provence crept into being between 1954-9, during which period Charlie Parker died, and Brubeck’s Take Five was born. This protracted gestation is partly because Maurice was not especially prolific but, I suspect, more because it grew out of the Lantiers’ and Mules’ shared family holidays in that special part of southern France, a region whose shimmering pastoral beauty has understandably inspired umpteen artists. The juxtaposition of evocative scenery and M. Mule’s saxophone may have been the source of Maurice’s inspiration, but the music also constitutes a real challenge, to composer and performer alike: to express the quinessentially pastoral through a medium that is essentially urban, both in origin and association. 
 
 

1. Farandole des Jeunes Filles (Dance of the Young Girls)

2. Chanson Pour ma Mie (Song for my Love)

3. La Bohemienne (The Bohemian Girl)

4. Des Alyscamps L'Ame Soupire (The Sigh of the Soul for the Alyscamps)

5. Le Cabridan (The Big Bee [presumed translation!])

 

[I am indebted to the saxophonist Sarah Field for providing a vital fund of information, without which this note would never have got off the ground!]
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© Paul Serotsky
29, Carr Street, Kamo, Whangarei 0101, Northland, New Zealand


 

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