Author Topic: Charles Tournemire 1870-1939  (Read 17297 times)

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Offline vandermolen

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Charles Tournemire 1870-1939
« on: October 28, 2007, 12:46:03 AM »
Just to prove that I don't only listen to music by obscure British composers I thought that I'd start a Tournemire thread.

To be quite honest I don't know that much about him although I have the four CDs of symphonic music released by Marco Polo and I often return to this music which has a sort of slumbering power and enormous integrity. Evidently he was well known as an organist and composer of organ music. The symphonies released on Marco Polo (seven in all) are all good, especially the almost 90 minute Symphony 7 "Les Dances de la Vie". The style is a bit like a more modern Cesar Frank. Tournemire's death in 1939 on the eve of World War Two together with the post-war direction of music meant that Tournemire has languished in some obscurity ever since but the music, I believe, is well worth a revival.

http://www.naxos.com/composerinfo/bio23893.htm
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Charles Tournemire 1870-1939
« Reply #1 on: October 28, 2007, 05:25:22 AM »
Of course(inevitable really isn't it!) I too like Tournemire. This was another example of Marco Polo's enterprise and clearly owed a lot to the enthusiasm of the late Antonio de Almeida. Unfortunately the Marco Polo series misses out Symphony No.6 for tenor, choir, organ and orchestra. I managed to find this missing symphony however on an Audivis Valois CD played by the Leige Philharmonic under Pierre Bartholomee(V 4757). The 6th-if you don't have the CD-is another huge work, lasting 55 minutes and like the other Tournemire symphonies is hugely impressive. These symphonies are very much the products of the organist-composer and it does seem to me that Tournemire is a French Bruckner(highly unlikely concept though that might sound!)-although, obviously, not as great a composer as the Austrian!

Tournemire was organist at St. Clotilde in Paris from 1898-1939 following Cesar Franck and Gabriel Pierne. I have always thought it remarkable that so many great French composers were church organists! Timpani has been recording the symphonies of Joseph Guy Ropartz recently but I am not sure that I don't rate Tournemire higher than Ropartz(were I to compare composers-which I don't!!)

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Charles Tournemire 1870-1939
« Reply #2 on: October 28, 2007, 05:26:54 AM »
That's Liege' of course!! (Apologies to any Belgian members!)

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Charles Tournemire 1870-1939
« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2007, 05:29:56 AM »
Oh, and one more thing about Tournemire! Messiaen deeply admired Tournemire's music. The back of the CD notes on the 6th carry a quote from Messiaen-"Un jour, on rendra justice a Tournemire".

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Charles Tournemire 1870-1939
« Reply #4 on: October 28, 2007, 01:47:30 PM »
Oh, and one more thing about Tournemire! Messiaen deeply admired Tournemire's music. The back of the CD notes on the 6th carry a quote from Messiaen-"Un jour, on rendra justice a Tournemire".

I tried to track down No 6 but it was rather expensive. Apparently his Catholic faith inspired much of his music and offered a refuge from the ills of contemporary society. I think that your French Bruckner is a very appropriate description of Tournemire. Yes Antonio de Almeida was a fine conductor. I have his last recording of music by Fikret Amirov.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Charles Tournemire 1870-1939
« Reply #5 on: October 28, 2007, 03:02:37 PM »
Just found Symphony 6 for just over £5.00 on Amazon. Have thus completed my collection of the symphonies. No 3 "Moscow 1913" is a hauntingly impressive work, apparently the most "popular" of the symphonies and the most often played (or the least neglected).
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Lilas Pastia

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Re: Charles Tournemire 1870-1939
« Reply #6 on: October 28, 2007, 03:05:46 PM »
All the symphonies are worth hearing. My favourites are 3 and 8, but I value 6 and 7 very highly too. The others are all very good, except maybe 2 "Ouessant", which is not as focused as the others.

Tournemire's chamber music is also of very high quality, and highly original. Here's a good start:



it contains the following works:
Poème Mystique for piano, Op 33 with Henriette Puig-Roget
Sagesse for voice & piano, Op 34
Sonate-Poème, for violin & piano, Op 65
Musique Orante for string quartet, Op 61

Finally, we should remember his magnum opus, L'Orgue mystique, a mammoth enterprise that occupied the later phase of his life. It's a work comprised of 51 liturgical suites for every Sunday of the liturgical year. The are grouped by cycles: Le Cycle de Noel, Op. 55. /  Le Cycle de Paques, Op. 56. / Le Cycle après la Pentecote, Op. 57. A complete recording occupies 12 discs (it's on Accord - OOP  or 'out of stock' unfortunately . Used copies sell for absurdly high prices). Many discs of excerpts exist. They usuallly present a few of the suites - they are not unlique the French baroque 'ordres' in concept. I have 3 discs that cover a portion of L'Orgue mystique. I'm interested enough to explore it further.

As has been mentioned, Messiaen was a great admirer of Tournemire. He was drawn to - and fascinated by - the old man's organ works and it's not hard to hear Tournemire' influence in Messiaen's own output.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2007, 03:13:24 PM by Lilas Pastia »

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Charles Tournemire 1870-1939
« Reply #7 on: October 28, 2007, 05:02:18 PM »
Just found Symphony 6 for just over £5.00 on Amazon. Have thus completed my collection of the symphonies. No 3 "Moscow 1913" is a hauntingly impressive work, apparently the most "popular" of the symphonies and the most often played (or the least neglected).

That is good! I am sure that you will let us know what you think of the piece when it arrives.

I suppose that I do have niggling doubts about the quality of the Marco Polo recordings. de Almeida was a fine conductor but the Moscow Symphony Orchestra is not a world class band and this repertoire must have been totally unknown to the orchestra. The performances seem reasonable enough-better than say the Malipiero cycle-but I am not familiar enough with the music to be able properly to judge.

Lilas Pastia

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Re: Charles Tournemire 1870-1939
« Reply #8 on: October 28, 2007, 06:37:58 PM »
Re: Symphony no 3: it should be noted that the "Moscow 1913" of the title refers to the city's churches, monasteries and bells. No political connotation here!

Hector

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Re: Charles Tournemire 1870-1939
« Reply #9 on: October 29, 2007, 07:11:51 AM »
jpc are selling a number of CPO and Marco Polo discs at really dirt-cheap prices, even more so with the strength of the £ against the Euro, and, so, I've ordered one of the Tournemire symphony CDs having read good reviews of both the music and the performance.

I've never knowingly heard anything by the composer but am interested in French music and, hey, isn't that what CD collecting is all about: dipping one's toe in the pool of knowledge and uncertainty?

Offline MishaK

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Re: Charles Tournemire 1870-1939
« Reply #10 on: November 01, 2007, 06:00:56 PM »
I have a fantastic Erato disc of organ music by Tournemire, Vierne and Duruflé (all performed by Duruflé and his wife). Great stuff.

pjme

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Re: Charles Tournemire 1870-1939
« Reply #11 on: November 03, 2007, 12:14:16 PM »
Indeed,not that much is known about this composer. Last year I found a little book in Paris :Pascal Ianco : Charles Tournemire ou le mythe de Tristan.

Mélophiles ; Editions Papillon  ISBN 2 9400310 06 8    Route d'Annecy 46    1256 Drize / Genève / Switzerland  (2001)

It gives a good portrait of a rather strange, difficult, catholic artist ...who felt misunderstood for most of his life. He could be extremely cruel : he really despised Stravinsky, Milhaud and Ravel ( ...a little artiste,with small (unhealthy) ideas,second rate ideas, no God, etc etc.) Vierne : my enemy for 45 years! Dupré: I think he is crazy...

Ianco writes : Tournemire has a complex personality : he is bitter, warm, unjust,friendly,spiteful,susceptible,...and without pity!

Apart from the organworks and symphonies, he leaves several huge operas and oratorios that - as far as I know- never have been performed.
Two early works:
Chryséis - drame antique ( Les dieux sont morts) (1912)
Nittétis ,tragédie lyrique ( 1907)

Seven (very large scale) opera-oratorios:
Saint François d'Assise (1923)
Don Quichotte (1924)
Faust (1925) - these three works form op.52

La légende de Tristan (1926) op. 53
La quête du Saint Graal ((1927) op.54

l'Apocalypse de Saint Jean op 63 (1933-36)

La douloureuse passion du Christ for reciters,chorus,large organ and orchestra op . 72 ( 1936-37)

In October 1939 Tournemire disappears in the woods near Arcachon - while fleeing for the War....On November 4th his body is found in ( or next to...) a little boat. Until today it remains unclear if he committed suicide or had an accident.
The last years of his life were burdened by financial problems, bad health and a growing feeling of insecurity : WW2!

Indeed, a strange but fascinating figure.


Peter
« Last Edit: November 03, 2007, 02:25:59 PM by pjme »

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Charles Tournemire 1870-1939
« Reply #12 on: November 03, 2007, 12:56:34 PM »
Indeed,not that much is known about this composer. Last year I found a little book in Paris :Pascal Ianco : Charles Tournemire ou le mythe de Tristan.

Mélophiles ; Editions Papillon  isbn 2 9400310 06 8    Route d'Annecy 46    1256 Drize / Genève / Switzerland  (2001)

It gives a good portrait of a rather strange, difficult, catholic artist ...who felt misunderstood for most of his life. He could be extremely cruel : he really despised Stravinsky, Milhaud and Ravel ( ...a little artiste,with small (unhealthy) ideas,second rate ideas, no God, etc etc.) Vierne : my ennemi for 45 years! Dupré: I think he is crazy...

Ianco writes : Tournemire has a complex personality : he is bitter, warm, unjust,friendly,spiteful,susceptible,...and without pity!

Apart from the organworks and symphonies, he leaves several huge operas and oratorios that - as far as I know- never have been performed.
Two early works:
Chryséis - drame antique ( Les dieux sont morts) (1912)
Nittétis ,tragédie lyrique ( 1907)

Seven (very large scale) opera-oratorios:
Saint François d'Assise (1923)
Don Quichotte (1924)
Faust (1925) - these three works form op.52

La légende de Tristan (1926) op. 53
La quête du Saint Graal ((1927) op.54

l'Apocalypse de Saint Jean op 63 (1933-36)

La douloureuse passion du Christ for reciters,chorus,large organ and orchestra op . 72 ( 1936-37)

In october 1939 Tournemire disappears in the woods near Arcachon - while fleeing for the War....On november 4th his body is found in ( or next to...) a little boat. Untill today it remains unclear if he commited suicide or had an accident.
The last years of his life were burdened by financial problems, bad health and a growing feeling of insecurity : WW2!

Indeed, a strange but fascinating figure.


Peter


Thank you Peter, that's an extremely interesting post as I had little idea about Tournemire the man.

Jeffrey
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

pjme

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Re: Charles Tournemire 1870-1939
« Reply #13 on: November 03, 2007, 01:17:04 PM »
you're welcome Jeffrey. Unfortunately the book is only available in French. It relates ofcourse many more interesting details about the life and works of this "difficult" and often bitter man - whose life was guided by strict and very elevated religious aspirations.

I remember that several years ago,Pierre  Bartholomée ( and Tournemire admirer Paul Beusen) had plans to perform some of the late oratorios. Possibly Beusen's death and the sheer cost of such an undertaking, cut the plans short....We'll have to wait again.

Peter
« Last Edit: November 04, 2007, 01:13:24 AM by pjme »

Lilas Pastia

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Re: Charles Tournemire 1870-1939
« Reply #14 on: November 03, 2007, 03:34:42 PM »
Some of those oratorios would really be nice to have: the Graal one , the Apocalypse, the Passion....

Offline Brian

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Re: Charles Tournemire 1870-1939
« Reply #15 on: November 03, 2007, 05:52:51 PM »
Fun But Clearly Irrelevant Factoid: In their cycle of Tournemire symphonies for the label Marco Polo, the Moscow Symphony Orchestra's percussion instruments and equipment were donated by David Hurwitz.

pjme

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Re: Charles Tournemire 1870-1939
« Reply #16 on: November 04, 2007, 01:12:32 AM »
I took out Tournemire's sixth symphony op.48 ( Auvidis/Valois - Musique Française V 4757) - I hadn't heard it for quite a while.
Written in 1917-1918, it is scored for very large orchestra ( 6 horns, 7 trumpets, 4 harps,2 timpanists,5 flutes,5 clarinets...,a large body of strings...etc) organ solo, tenor and mixed chorus.
I quote from the CD booklet : the work is both a Symphonia sacra and a War symphony, the shattering reflection of the experiences lived by the composer during WW1.It is the only work he managed to complete during those fateful years.
It is the only symphony with vocal parts and, like the fifth symphony, it has no title.

Two main parts are divided in 8 movements - the whole works lasts ca 53 mins., in Bartholomée's performance (Liège 1995) :
Part 1:
1/Introduction and allegro
2/Allegro with two slower interludes for chorus & orch.
3/Vivo - chorus & orch.
Part 2:
4/Largo (with chorus)
5/Introduction and Scherzo for orch.
6/Procession and continuation of Scherzo (with chorus)
7/Tenor solo (with organ ) - without orchestra
8/Finale with wordless chorus and organ

Tournemire wrote the texts himself, freely adapting from the Bible : Psalms, Jeremiah, Isaiah,Osea and the gospel according to Saint John.

The work has Mahlerian ambitions ( the Finale is really stunning & magnificent) ,but I still don't know if it all "hangs together"....We have no orchestral tradition for Tournemire and it will take more time and repeated listenings to come to terms with this complex and unusual music.

« Last Edit: November 04, 2007, 01:17:49 AM by pjme »

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Charles Tournemire 1870-1939
« Reply #17 on: November 04, 2007, 02:18:21 AM »
you're welcome Jeffrey. Unfortunately the book is only available in French. It relates ofcourse many more interesting details about the life and works of this "difficult" and often bitter man - whose life was guided by strict and very elevated religious aspirations.

I remember that several years ago,Pierre  Bartholomée ( and Tournemire admirer Paul Beusen) had plans to perform some of the late oratorios. Possibly Beusen's death and the sheer cost of such an undertaking, cut the plans short....We'll have to wait again.

Peter

Thanks again Peter and I'm really looking forward to receiving Symphony 6. I have been listening to the epic No 7 and the Marco Polo CD with the "Moscow 1913" Symphony (which I play most often) and No 8.  Unfortunately my French is not really up to the book; I am ashamed to say that during my French oral examination for O level (old UK system) I replied "Ten past three" to the question "What is the weather like?" I should never have insisted that our French au pair girl did my homework for me  ::)
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Hector

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Re: Charles Tournemire 1870-1939
« Reply #18 on: November 05, 2007, 06:47:52 AM »
Thanks again Peter and I'm really looking forward to receiving Symphony 6. I have been listening to the epic No 7 and the Marco Polo CD with the "Moscow 1913" Symphony (which I play most often) and No 8.  Unfortunately my French is not really up to the book; I am ashamed to say that during my French oral examination for O level (old UK system) I replied "Ten past three" to the question "What is the weather like?" I should never have insisted that our French au pair girl did my homework for me  ::)

The old "temps" trick, ay?

A very, very religious man both the more structured, in my view, Symphony No. 3 and No. 8 remind me of, not only, Mahler, but anticipate both Koechlin, to a lesser degree, and Messiaen who, of course, shared his religious convictions.

Interesting that the booklet notes his antipathy to Debussy and the Franck/D'Indy path he chose to follow, the 3rd contains music that sounds very "gamelan" to me and the orchestration, generally, is not as heavy as either of his two chosen influences.

The penultimate movement of the 8th could have been written by Debussy, so reminiscent is it of the Nocturnes.

Pity that the other recordings in D'Almeida's Marco Polo cycle are considered so poor (the 3rd and the 8th being the best of them).

This is the sort of music that would attract Chung, Segerstam and Rattle, I would have thought.

Lilas Pastia

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Re: Charles Tournemire 1870-1939
« Reply #19 on: November 05, 2007, 04:47:30 PM »

This is the sort of music that would attract Chung, Segerstam and Rattle, I would have thought.

In the case of Segerstam and Rattle, honestly, I wouldn't think - or hope - so. My hunch for a Tournemire revival would rather veer in the direction of the fine Timpani label - whoever they assign to the job. Theirs is just the kind of product I'd rush to buy.