Herold, Adam And Delibes

Episodes

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02Fame At Last For Herold20111018

Donald Macleod discusses Herold's international success, from Zampa and Le pre aux clercs.

After hearing the ballet Sylvia, Tchaikovsky said that "Had I known that music, I would not have written Swan Lake." Donald Macleod surveys the life and music of French ballet masters' Herold, Adam and Delibes

International success arrived at last for the composer Ferdinand Herold, with his works Zampa and Le Pré aux clercs.

However it was in the world of ballet where Herold was something of a revolutionary.

Disregarding the existing tradition of rehashing popular tunes from the day to create a ballet score, Herold was quite keen to compose more original music.

One of his ballets is still very popular today, La Fille mal gardée.

In the audience for Herold's last great success Le Pré aux clercs, was his friend and fellow composer Adolphe Adam.

Adam considered that in the world of ballet, Herold had no rival, although he would go on to outshine Herold with his ballet Giselle.

After Herold's early death, Adam was steadily developing his own career in music, including one of his biggest theatrical successes from the time, Le chalet.

03Adam's Giselle And Le Corsair20111019

Donald Macleod focuses on how Adolphe Adam's fortunes fluctuated.

After hearing the ballet Sylvia, Tchaikovsky said that "Had I known that music, I would not have written Swan Lake." Donald Macleod surveys the life and music of French ballet masters' Herold, Adam and Delibes

Try as he might, one night Richard Wagner just couldn't get to sleep.

There was this tune which just wouldn't stop going around in this head.

It came from the opera comique Le Postillon de Lonjumeau by Adolphe Adam, which brought the composer international success.

Adam's fame spread, and he was soon invited to the court of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, where he staged a number of his works.

On a roll with success, and now back in Paris, Adam would go on to compose the work which he is best known for today, the ballet Giselle - a work he composed in lightening speed in just three weeks.

The ballet represented progress in the way it relied more on female dancers in the main roles, as opposed to men as in previous traditions.

With success there was the inevitable low period, but this was due to an argument with the director of the Opera Comique, who swore he'd never have another work by Adam on his stage.

At huge financial risk, Adam opened his own opera house in Paris, but with the 1848 revolution, Adam was completely ruined.

However success came again, and with financial security, in the form of his opera Si j'étais roi, and the ballet Le corsair.

05 LASTLakme And Sylvia20111021

Donald Macleod explores Delibes's final years.

After hearing the ballet Sylvia, Tchaikovsky said that "Had I known that music, I would not have written Swan Lake." Donald Macleod surveys the life and music of French ballet masters' Herold, Adam and Delibes

In this final episode, Donald Macleod journeys through Delibes's final years, and considers how far the developments in Romantic French ballet had come.

Delibes had already composed Coppélia, but his next ballet, Sylvia, was a radical departure in Delibes's symphonic approach to the score.

Even Tchaikovsky considered the work a total masterpiece, and felt it cast his Swan Lake into the shadows.

In his last few years, Delibes was presented with numerous honours, including being made a Knight of the Legion of Honour.

He also became composition professor at the Paris Conservatoire, despite his own admission that he knew little about fugue or counterpoint.

With the vogue during this time for things Spanish, Delibes composed his popular song Les filles de Cadix, where the coquettish young girls of Cadiz want to know if their waists look slim.

Delibes at the very end of his life, was busy writing a grand opera.

His previous opera Lakmé had not been the success he'd hoped for, and he considered the way forward to be some hybrid of comic opera and Wagnerian music-drama.

He died having not completed the work.

Whereas Lakmé, desipte its original reception, has gone on to be one of Delibes most successful and popular works.