Napoleon's Music

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0120121203

Donald Macleod uncovers the early impulses for Napoleon's unlikely love of music and art.

As part of BBC Radio 3's Napoleon season marking two hundred years since his historic retreat from Moscow, Donald Macleod follows the French dictator's relationship with music.

As Napoleon indulged in his multi-day coronation as Emperor in 1804 he was far from the first national leader to be anointed to the sounds of the finest music. Yet the way in which he did it, and the artists he chose, hint at a lifetime fascinated by the power of music to rally a nation.

Napoleon was ever a lover of ceremony, but as the crown was placed on his head he faced the people, not the altar. Likewise in his music he had engaged some of Europe's most talented court composers, yet preferred the jingoistic marches and hymns of the Revolution to symphonies.

During the week, Donald Macleod strips back the military facade to discover Napoleon's real musical passions. We meet a man devoted to Italian opera, a glutton for the cult of Italian singers in particular, and a leader who saw a political value in music so great that he stepped in to rescue Paris's great theatres personally. We see him commemorating the life of a much respected colleague in music, and spending unfathomable amounts of money luring musicians to his chapel and court ensembles. But we also discover the tensions between Napoleon and the great composers of his day, the likes of Berlioz and Beethoven whose revised dedication in the 'Eroica' symphony remains the stuff of supposition and speculation.

And what of the popular music Napoleon might have known? Historian Laura Mason offers glimpses during the week into the raucous singing which filled Paris's streets and cafes. We discover the legend behind the creation of La Marseillaise and the battles which were enacted between rival factions through the medium of song.

The week begins in the years before Napoleon's consulate. We meet a young army apprentice steeped in the culture of his native Corsica, and soon in the habit of singing at the top of his voice while his servant Constant helped him dress. And what he lacked in his own musicianship he would quickly make up for by enticing the very best composers of Europe to join his political and cultural crusade.

0220121204

With his own musical taste in question, what rightful place for Napoleon the impresario?

With Napoleon's own musicianship and taste severely in question, could there be any rightful place for him as an impresario? Donald Macleod hunts out the composers who benefited from Napoleon's cultural largesse, including the Italian whose success in a competition to commemorate the life of a Republican military hero was to lead to great things. Plus, there's another glimpse into the world of Revolutionary singing, as Laura Mason explores the legends surrounding the creation of the piece destined to become France's national anthem.

0320121205

The mystery of Beethoven's 'heroic' symphony and its dedication to Napoleon.

It's the most famous musical tribute to Napoleon ever composed, yet no one is quite sure why and when Beethoven decided to remove the association of the Emperor from his 'heroic' symphony. Donald Macleod explores the evidence, and introduces rarely heard music from the man who might well have suggested the idea to Beethoven in the first place.

0420121206

Gifts of cash and jewels abound as Napoleon lures the very best musicians to his court.

Donald Macleod charts the extraordinary efforts which Napoleon would make to lure the very best musicians to his court. In the case of one singer, his preposterously generous offers prove to be overwhelming as we find her fleeing his attention in panic. Plus, another dip into the world of Revolutionary song as Laura Mason recalls an anthem so politically charged that its performances were frequently accompanied by violence.

05 LAST20121207

As Napoleon's ashes are returned from Corsica, artistic rivalries are exposed.

As part of BBC Radio 3's Napoleon season marking two hundred years since his historic retreat from Moscow, Donald Macleod follows the French dictator's relationship with music.

As Napoleon's ashes are returned from Corsica, artistic rivalries are exposed at the commemoration. And an unlikely figure finds himself present to record the occasion for a German newspaper: none other than Richard Wagner. Presented by Donald Macleod