I recently returned from my first trip to Paris, France. What a city! Everything that you’ve heard about French cooking is true. Connie and I enjoyed one fabulous meal after another. And, amazingly, we never gained any weight thanks to the massive amount of walking that we did around the bustling French capital.
As a graduate student in Music History at Northwestern University, my area of concentration was French music criticism in the mid-nineteenth century. Specifically, I was interested in studying the work of the conservative French music critic Paul Scudo who wrote for the Revue des Deux Mondes up until his death in 1864.
Scudo was an arch-conservative who loved Italian opera but absolutely hated the French/German avant garde of his day: Hector Berlioz, Franz Liszt, Frederic Chopin, Richard Wagner, et. al. As with most conservatives, Scudo was proven to be on the wrong side of history despite his popularity at the time. Any way, M. Scudo’s life and writings consumed most of my time in graduate school forty years ago.
Finally, after all of these years, I made it to Paris to walk in the footsteps of my graduate school heroes. One week was barely enough to scratch the surface. I don’t think that if I spent a year in Paris that I could see everything that I would like to.
Here are some musical highlights:
We stayed in a wonderful hotel just a few short blocks from this Musee. We attended a concert of medieval music by Alla Francesca an ensemble featuring the recorder player Pierre Hamon and the harpist/singer Brigitte Lesne:
We greatly enjoyed hearing some French Jazz in the style of Django Reinhardt played by Christope Brunard’s trio at La Taverne de Cluny. They showed a much different approach to Jazz than we have here in the States beginning with the instrumentation of two electric-acoustic guitars and a violin. One guitar provides the driving rhythm for the improvisations of the lead guitar and the violin. It was really a cup of musical espresso!
Connie and I attended Sunday mass at a packed Notre Dame de Paris. Inside the cathedral — as was the case with all of the churches that we visited in France — you had an amazing sense of vertical movement. There was no mistaking that these buildings were intended to lead you to heaven.
After the mass ended we got to hear the famous organ as heard in this video…
I had a very personal reason for wanting to visit the church of Saint Suplice. My organ teacher at De Paul University, Arthur Becker, had studied at that church nearly a century ago with the famous French organist Marcel Dupre pictured here.
St. Suplice was beautiful but we were, unfortunately, unable to hear its world famous organ being played in person. Here’s a sample of what we missed…
We didn’t hear any music at the Paris Opera either but, WOW!, what a building. With its many stairways and nooks and crannies you could easily imagine a story like the Phantom of the Opera actually having some truth to it.
It was here at the Paris Opera that I got to stand next to a memorial bust of one of my favorite French composers and a bitter enemy of Paul Scudo: Hector Berlioz…
- So, I sadly paid a fond adieu to Paris, the city of music. I hope to return there again someday…