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Lecture recital to focus on French composers

January 19, 2011

An upcoming program at Mississippi State University will present the life and music of celebrated French composers Gabriel Fauré and Francis Poulenc.
The recital is set for 7:30 p.m. Jan. 25 in the Giles Auditorium of the MSU Architecture Building. Dr. Guy A. Hargrove, tenor, will sing some of the most famous art songs (mélodies) of Fauré and Poulenc and will also comment on the songs of Poulenc which he is performing. Dr. Karen Murphy will be the pianist for the program. Dr. James Sobaskie will provide commentary on the life and music of Fauré and Poulenc.
This program will offer both entertainment and insight into the compositions of these two major composers from three talented specialists.
Fauré (1845-1924) was one of the foremost composers of his day and an acknowledged master of French art song. An organist, pianist, and teacher, Fauré also is well known for his nocturnes for piano and his Requiem, among other works.
On the program, Hargrove will sing some of the most celebrated of Fauré’s art songs, including the beautiful love song “Après un Rêve” and the haunting “Clair de Lune.”
Fauré’s life as well as his songs which Hargrove will perform will be discussed by Sobaskie, an expert on Fauré.
Receiving his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and
his doctoral degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Sobaskie teaches Music Theory in the MSU Music Department.
He serves as the Book Reviews Editor of the U.K.-based musicology journal Nineteenth-Century Music Review, and he published the first critical edition of Fauré’s “Piano Trio and String Quartet” in “Oeuvres Complètes de Gabriel Fauré,” the first volume of a monumental 30-volume work on the composer.
He is currently at work on a book on Fauré’s musical style and will make a presentation on the composer’s opera Pénélope next summer at a conference in Greece.
Poulenc (1899-1963), called the great successor to Fauré and Debussy, was, according to Hargrove, the greatest French composer of art song of the 20th century. His compositions also include chamber music, opera, and choral works.
Hargrove will sing a number of his art songs, including the delightful “Voyage à Paris,” which celebrates the city of Paris with echoes of Parisian music hall tunes, as well as “C’est ainsi que tu es,” a lyrical love song to the beloved.
Poulenc was innovative in incorporating the sounds of popular entertainment into many of his early works, rejecting the serious elevated tone of traditional classical music for revelry, playfulness, and enthusiasm.
On the other hand, his later work was often religious and more somber in nature.
In late 1962, Hargrove received a Fulbright grant to study with Poulenc himself from October 1963 to June 1964 in Paris. However, when the composer unexpectedly died in January 1963, Hargrove studied instead with the great French baritone Pierre Bernac.
Since Poulenc wrote over half of his art songs for his friend Bernac to perform, Hargrove learned from him the art of singing the composer’s songs while earning the Licence de Concert (Chant), a Mmaster’s degree in Voice, from the École Normale de Musique.
Hargrove says, “The opportunity to study with this famous singer was the most significant experience of my professional career and gave me great insight into the performance of these songs.” His essay entitled “My Year with Pierre Bernac” is forthcoming in the Journal of Singing.
In addition to this French degree, Hargrove, a retired professor of Music at MSU, received bachelor of music and master of music degrees from the New England Conservatory of Music and a doctoral degree in performance and literature from the University of Iowa.
At MSU, he taught voice, music history and music appreciation courses, gave numerous concerts, and directed performances of opera and musical theater from 1970 until his retirement in 1995. He also served as the conductor of the Starkville-MSU Symphony Orchestra for 16 years. He has given and continues to give concerts at MSU and throughout the United States and Europe.
Dr. Karen Murphy, collaborative pianist in the MSU Music Department, received her doctoral degree at the University of Minnesota and joined the MSU faculty in 2007. She has performed with singers, instrumentalists, and choirs throughout the United States as well as in Canada, Spain, and France.
At MSU, soon after her arrival she inaugurated a collaborative program featuring performances of songs by students and professors in the Music Department with commentary on the poetry by Dr. Nancy D. Hargrove, Giles Distinguished Professor Emerita of English. So far this program has featured the musical settings of the poetry of Sylvia Plath (2008), Emily Dickinson (2009), and T. S. Eliot (2010).
This year’s program will present cabaret music of great poets and composers.
She has also presented programs on campus entitled “Mississippi’s All-Girl Band: The International Sweethearts of Rhythm” and “All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go: Home Alone with the Virginal,” and she has played for numerous performances on campus and in the community, including a music program for children at the Starkville Public Library on January 22, 1911 entitled “1 + 1 = Fun!”
The program on Fauré and Poulenc is open to the public free of charge. Translations into English of the poetic texts of the songs will be included in the printed programs. Along with the explanations by Hargrove and Sobaskie, the music will be accessible to all in the community who want to take advantage of this rare opportunity.

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