Thursday, 12 August 2010

Hillier covers Jaufré

Paul Hillier, co-founder of the Hilliard Ensemble and general early music bloke, recorded the six surviving and uncontested songs of Jaufré Rudel on an album for Harmonia Mundi called Distant Love.

For reasons I won't go into here, Hillier was a guest at my wedding in Bloomington, Indiana back in 1998, and during a lull in the small talk, mentioned that he'd just recorded the Rudel songs. I jumped in eagerly to contribute my recollection that a French ensemble had structured an album around the Jaufré legend and included some of his songs.

'Oh, well I won't bother with mine then,' said Hillier. There followed the kind of awkward atmosphere that you only get when you put two shy Englishmen in a foreign setting and leave them to make conversation. I think he was joking rather than offended, but I guess I'll never know...

Thursday, 5 August 2010

A prelude to 'La Princesse'...

Among the handful of composers to have had a bash at the Rudel legend (besides the previously-blogged-about Kaija Saariaho) is the Russian composer Nikolai Tcherepnin (1873-1945). I think you'd have to call him one of the minor late Romantics, on a par with someone like Anatoly Lyadov or Vasily Kalinnikov.

Tcherepnin (not to be confused with his son Alexander or his grandson Ivan, both also composers but of a very different stripe) studied composition with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov at the St Petersburg Conservatory. While still a student he was commissioned to write an orchestral prelude for Rostand's Rudel drama, La Princesse Lointaine (1896). According to the Tcherepnin family's website, 'Tcherepnin later observed that his concept of professionalism owed much to the experience of writing and exhaustively rewriting his Prélude pour la Princesse Lointaine, Op. 4, under Rimsky's guidance'.

Inevitably, you can listen to the piece on youtube. It's quite floaty and tone-poem-esque.

Update, 6 August 2011: No you can't - it's been removed.