A Musical Journey – France: A Musical
Tour of Brittany and Normandy
Chapter 1: Etretat, Mont St Michel, Calvary of Pleben, Ushant, Stones
Chapter 2: Isle de Fédrun, Le Grande Briere, Les Marants Salants,
Le Croisic, Abbey of Jumiéges
Chapter 3: Ushant, La Baule, Bayeux Tapestry, Rothéneuf Rock Carvings,
Mont St Michel
Chapter 4: Mont St Michel
Chapter 5: Ushant and Isle aux Moines, Calvary at Plougonven, Tregastel
Harbour, By Boat from Brest to Ushant
Chapter 6: Iles de Chaussey, Quiberon Peninsula, Mont St Michel
Music for the tour includes the Organ Symphony by Camille Saint-Saëns
(Imrich Szabo (organ). Slovak Symphony Orchestra/Stephen Gunzenhauser
from Naxos CD 8.550138); Saint-Saëns Romance (Polish National Symphony
Orchestra/Anton Wit from Naxos CD 8.559752); César Franck’s Prelude
and Chorale (Royal Flanders Philharmonic/Gunther Neuhold from Naxos
No recording dates or venues, given
Director: Roland Boss
Cameraman: Hans Toni Aschwanden
Video Format: NTSC. Colour 4:3
Audio Formats: DTS 5.1. Dolby Digital 5.1. PCM Stereo 2.0
I have criticised some issues in this series for lack of visual variety and content. This has often involved tedious views of seascapes or fields. This issue has the virtue of a reasonable amount and variety of visual stimulus to go alongside some apposite music well performed. It covers the inevitable sea scenes that are a part of Breton life but there are also, scattered rather haphazardly throughout, other interesting sights.
Brittany in western France has its own culture and language. Lacking the political thrust for dissemination that is found in the fellow western and Celtic tradition of Wales, with which language it has many similarities to an attuned ear, the Breton language struggles to survive except in the far west of Finisterre. That area is also renowned for the resplendent head-dresses of the ladies, another tradition that struggles to survive and which is not illustrated within this content.
The presentation of the interesting places visited has one major limitation: the haphazard flitting between the two regions. Whilst the tour starts in Normandy, with pictures, after a seascape, of the awesome rock structures around Etretat, it moves in a large leap to Mont St. Michel, at the other side of the Cotentin peninsular. No visit to the Normandy landing beaches or Cherbourg, let alone the Benedictine Monastery at Fecamp, famous for its eponymous liqueur, or the copper working town of Villedieu les Poeles. There are glimpses of the Bayeux Tapestry, with its near contemporary record of William of Normandy's successful expedition in 1066 to conquer England. Justifiably the mighty monument of Mont St Michel has a whole Chapter to itself (4) as well as featuring elsewhere. This mighty edifice is spectacular viewed from its approach causeway or from a helicopter. The final organ movement of Saint-Saëns symphony is a fitting aural background. That location might overawe the Abbey of Jumiéges, which in itself is worth visiting too.
A lot of Brittany is inevitably missed although Ushant does well. The watercourses of the Grande Briere are a little overdone whilst the neighbouring bastide town of Guérande is missed. The rocky coastline of northern Brittany get more than its share of visual time. That being said, it is interesting to see, albeit briefly, the Carnac alignments. Also included are the saltpans of the Marais Salants and the nearby port town of Le Croisic and the chic resort of La Baule. Most interesting are the Calvaries of Celtic Brittany and the rock carvings at Rothéneuf.
Robert J Farr