Chansons of the French Revolution - ALPHA 810 [ST] - Musicweb International Classical Reviews

France 1789 – Révolte en musique d’un sans-culotte & d’un royaliste (Chansons of the French Revolution)
Amphigouri et La Prise de la Bastille [3:09]; Est-il bien vrai que je veille [4:24]; Délivrance des captifs [0:53]; Hymne à l'hyver [3:11]; Le gouverneur perfide [0:42]; Chanson Grivoise [5:26]; Déclaration des droits de l'homme [1:10]; Poursuite et retour de la Famille Ci-devant Royale [2:18]; Chanson nouvelle [2:15]; Complainte de Louis XVI aux Français et Parodie de la complainte [5:13]; La Trahison punie [4:18]; La guillotine [1:02]; Entends ma voix, finis mes maux [5:39]; Mort de Louis Capet [1:12]; La grande colère du Père Duchene [1:35]; Amphigouri patriotique [1:01]; Un pain d'quatr' livres [2:14]; Hymne à l'Être suprême [5:15]; La queue à Robespierre [2:51]; Vive la liberté [0:42]; Marseillaise et Contre Marseillaise [6:37]
Arnaud Marzorati (baritone); Jean-François Novelli (tenor); Les Lunaisiens
rec. Cité de la Musique, Paris, July 2010, using instruments from the collection of the Musée de la Musique
ALPHA 810 [61:23]

This rather unusual disc gathers together a collection of songs written during the French Revolution (1789-1794). They’re mostly popular ballads that would have been sung in the streets or, in some cases, in the private gatherings of those of a particular political persuasion, such as Royalists who felt unable to articulate their feelings in public. Most are new words written to accepted tunes, the better to establish them in the popular consciousness, and many were written to commemorate significant events. In fact, this collection runs almost the whole gamut of the revolutionary experience: there are songs to commemorate the storming of the Bastille, the establishment of the Republic, the counter-revolutionary wars and the fall of Robespierre, to name but a few. There are also songs to engage with the Catholic, Royalist side, lamenting the end of the monarchy and denouncing the dechristianisation of France. Most interesting is the final item on the disc, Marseillaise et Contre Marseillaise, which pairs verses from the French National Anthem – itself adapted from an armed band, from Marseilles, that had arrived in Paris to defend the city from the invaders – with anti-revolutionary propaganda, pitting the two against each other.
The other interesting thing about the disc is the choice of musical instruments to accompany the songs. These are as ”authentic” as it’s possible to get, taken as they are from the collection of the Musée de la Musique. They include the flageolet, serpent and, best of all, an organised piano – not a keyboard with a filofax, but a half-way house between an organ and a fortepiano. It all adds to the flavour of the disc and it’s worth dipping into, even if it is primarily of historic rather than musical interest. Few of the numbers have much real musical merit, though the Hymne à l’hyver anticipates the nature-worship of many of the later Romantic composers. Performances are good, if somewhat limited by ham-acting at times. Alpha have given us a good historical resource, though I suspect that few people will want to hear it more than a couple of times.
Simon Thompson

A good historical resource though few people will want to hear it more than a couple of times.