Chapter 6: Girard, Tilmant,
& George-Hainl (1848–72),
Even the empress Eugénie, wife of Napoléon III, noticed. Recognizing in 1856 the name of only one living composerRossinion the program, she inquired of Girard, And do you play only compositions by dead people in your lovely Conservatoire concerts?” Madame,” replied Girard with a bow, the repertoire of our society is the Louvre of musical art.” It says a certain amount about Girard that he is remembered to posterity largely for failing in Harold en Italie and for that remark.
By contrast he was tireless in advancing the music of Haydn and Mendelssohn. We know the Surprise” Symphony to have been a pillar of the programming, with at least its familiar Andante heard nearly every season. Girard brought what seem from the listings to have been a half dozen more Haydn symphonies into the active repertoire, probably including the Oxford,” Military,” and Clock” Symphonies (Nos. 92, 93, 101) and Symphony No. 102 in B Major.
In 1851, for instance, he called for pre-season readings of four new ones; he then spent the summer of 1852 researching the Haydn symphonies, which, he reported back to the committee, numbered 120. On this occasion he instructed the librarian to borrow and copy A.-F. Marmontels collection of twenty-four symphonies in two large volumes. Following Habenecks treatment of the Beethoven chamber repertoire, he began to program Haydn quartet movements for the full cohort of strings: in 1852 he introduced, as Hymne dHaydn, the theme and variations from the Emperor” Quartet, one of his signature works. Another popular Haydn excerpt, listed in the programs merely as a Benedictus, was probably the famous movement from the Lord Nelson” Mass, with its stern trumpets and timpani.
Girard also continued to piece together The Creation and The Seasons, hoping to have both oratorios fully assembled during his tenure. The Seasons was heard in its entirety on 22 March 1857, the first time the society devoted an entire concert to a single composition. The translation was by Gustave Roger, who sang the role of Lucas; the role of Jeanne was shared by two sopranos, Mlle Ribault and Mlle Boulart, and the bass Bonnehée was Simon. The Seasons was reprised in January 1858 and again from time to time by Girards successors. Excerpts continued to be heard every year, as they had been since the foundation. The Creation, called La Création du monde, was first heard on 6 February 1859 and was Girards last major premiere. Connoisseurs were pleased, but its length made The Creation fit less comfortably into the Sunday format than The Seasons, and by the same token it was difficult to find adequate rehearsal time. Only The Heavens Are Telling” and one or two other choruses stayed in the repertoire.
In January 1851 Girard instructed the secretary to contact Härtel in Leipzig for the score and parts to Mendelssohns incidental music for A Midsummer Nights Dream, introduced to the Paris public on 23 March 1851 as Fragments du Songe dune nuit détéa perfect performance,” according to Charles Dancla, leaving a vivid and profound impression.” Over the next several seasons they experimented with the number of excerpts and the order of the intermezzo, nocturne, and scherzo, arriving (in March 1858) at a six-movement suite with the nocturne and duo in the center:
Ouverture Allegro appassionato [= Intermezzo] Andante tranquillo [or Adagio; = Nocturne] Couplets et chœur [= Lied] Scherzo Marche [= Wedding March]
Other organizations clamored for the parts and French translation
of what they heard, but the society regarded the Songe dune nuit dété
as its exclusive property” and refused to release the material.
The January 1852 performance of the Italian” Symphony, No. 4 in A major, opening the 25th season, was probably a premiere; in any event the three main Mendelssohn symphonies ("Reformation,” Italian,” and Scottish” ) were now in place, with the Lobgesang” symphonie-cantate soon to come.
The societys experience with the Midsummer Nights Dream music had been so positive that it was decided to undertake another ambitious Mendelssohn project, Die erste Walpurgisnacht. Materials were acquired from Friedrich Kistner in Leipzig, and within a month of receiving them the work had been given a reading; the decision was soon reached to begin the long process of readying it for a French premiere. Goethes text was given to the translators Leroy for the prose and Bélanger for the poetry, the latter well known for his translations of the Schubert songs as well as Mendelssohns Midsummer Nights Dream and St. Paul and Beethovens Egmont. Bélanger demanded an exaggerated price for his travail poëtique. Girard, remonstrating with him, appealed to his higher instincts: You help us popularize an important work,” he said; some of the glory will fall to you. Join us in the sacrifice we are making to present this work.” Bélanger relented, and Die erste Walpurgnisnacht appeared on the program of 20 March 1853 as La Nuit du 1er Mai, ou le Sabbat des sorciers; ballade de Goëthe, trad. de M. Bélanger, musique de Mendelssohn. The overture and nine episodes were explained, unusually, with 24 lines of text in the program. La Nuit du 1er Mai was initially a success, though interest in it soon faded. Later on Girard was to introduce the first act of Die Loreley, the Ruy Blas overture, and one of Mendelssohns psalms for double chorus.
There was attention, too, to the other masters of musics Louvre.” Mozarts symphonies, so far represented by the Jupiter” and G-Minor, were pursued to the extent that the mysteries of their order and publication could be unraveled in Paris: there was a Fourth” symphony in the repertoire, and Girard called also for a Second” and Sixth.” The Beethoven repertoire was enhanced with Der glorreiche Augenblick (called simply Grande Cantate), four excerpts from The Creatures of Prometheus (called Gli Uomini di Prometeo: Ouverture, Tempesta, Adagio, Allegretto), and one of the woodwind trios in a setting for two oboes and English horn. The Egmont incidental music, which Habeneck had wanted to undertake, was finally premiered in 1855, with a new French text by Henry Trianon. Of Handel, Girard added choruses from Alexanders Feast and Samson and a theme-and-variations with fugue arranged by Adolphe Adam from a harpsichord work. Adam had also prepared, at Louis-Philippes request, Dans ces doux asiles,” a version of the minuet-chorus from Rameaus Castor and Pollux that was introduced to subscribers in January 1851 after a performance at court.
These were significant new forays into territory where the Société des Concerts already had a considerable stake. But in other respects the programming of individual concerts had grown formulaic: a Beethoven symphony, a Haydn quartet, something by Mendelssohn, perhaps a chorus of Handel or overture of Weberand all, or at least most, of the Beethoven symphonies every season. The effect must have been similar to playing ones favorite recordings again and again. There was no objection from the subscribers, and the musicians much preferred learning new music by composers whose idiom came naturallyand only once or twice a year.