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Suite, "Scènes alsaciennes"

Jules Massenet

The suite "Scènes alsaciennes" was first produced in Paris in 1882, though written some time before that. It is evidently one of those war scenes inspired at the time when Massenet was an actor in them, for he served in the Franco-Prussian War. It has to do, however, with Alsace, lost to France as the outcome of that struggle, and recalls memories of the lost province. It is divided in four movements: 1. "Sunday Morning." 2. "At the Tavern." 3. "Under the Linden Trees." 4. "Sunday Evening." Massenet has prefixed this program to the suite, which sufficiently explains its musical meaning:

". . . . . . Especially now that Alsace is enclosed by a wall, do all my former impressions of this lost country return to me. . . .

"That which I recall with happiness is the Alsatian village, the Sunday morning at the hour of service; the deserted streets, the empty houses with some old people sunning themselves before their doors, the filled church. . . and the religious songs heard at intervals by the passer-by. . . .

"And the tavern, in the principal street, with its little leaded windows, garlanded with hops and roses. . .

"’Oho! there! Schmidt, some drink!’. . . .

"And the song of the foresters as they lay aside their guns! . . .

"Oho! the joyous life and the gay companions!. . . .

"Again, further on, ‘'t was always the same village, but with the great calm of a summer afternoon. . . at the edge of the country, a long avenue of linden trees, in whose shadow a loving pair walk quietly, hand in hand; she leaning toward him gently and murmuring softly: ‘Wilt thou love me always?’. . . .

"Also the evening, in the public square, what noise, what commotion!. . . everybody out of doors, groups of young beaux in the street. . . . and the dances which rhythmize the songs of the country. . . .

"Eight o’clock!. . . . the noise of the drums, the song of the bugles. . .. it was the retreat! . . . . the French retreat! Alsace! Alsace! . . . .

"And when in the distance the last roll of the drum was silenced, the women called the children from the street. . . . the old folks relighted their good big pipes, and to the sound of the violins the joyous dance recommended in more lively circlings by more crowded couples. . . . "

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See also:
Middle Ages Music
Renaissance Music
Baroque Era Music
Classical Era Music
Romantic Era Music
Nationalist Era Music
Turn of Century Music

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