This is one of a series of posts about books used as source material for Art Song Central.
Book Title: Album of Six Songs by Henri Duparc
Publisher: The Boston Music Company
Henri Duparc was born in Paris, January 21st, 1848. Comparatively late–in fact, only sometime after he had left college–did he decide to devote himself entirely to the study of music. Though no particular influence led him to undertake this step, it might safely be said that the prime responsibility for it lies with the piano teacher at the Jesuit College of Vaugirard, where Duparc went to school, and who was no other than César Franck. How this man, who was to dedicate, in 1888, one of his most marvelous works, the Symphony in D minor, to his pupil Duparc, was led to discover in the boy such singular gifts, Duparc himself avowed never to have fully understood. Their contact at the school was but slight and perfunctory. Nevertheless Franck succeeded in acquainting young Duparc with the great classic masters, particularly with Gluck, and saved the spark which he thought to see under smouldering embers. During the time he followed law courses at the University in Paris, Duparc’s frequent attendance of concerts, and an awakening realization of his talents, gradually fanned the embers into flame. Then began a time of serious and prolonged study of harmony, counterpoint, and composition with Franck. In 1869 Duparc published his first work which consisted of six little pieces for the piano. But before that date he had already begun some of the songs upon which his fame rests mainly. They form, together with the songs of his later period, the ripest fruits of his art, and will live long after his instrumental and symphonic works have been forgotten.
Up to the year 1885, Duparc took an active part in the musical life of the French capital. With his friends, Camille Saint-Saëns and Vincent d’Indy, he was one of the founders of the “Société Nationale de Musique.” From repeated visits to Bayreuth he returned an ever more fervent admirer of Wagner. The future lay bright before him, when a cruel malady necessitated his sudden retirement from public life. First at Pau in France, later in Switzerland, he has been living long years of solitude, a proud and resigned stoic, calmly awaiting the end. The whole tragedy of this life is revealed in the following lines from a letter of Duparc to one of his friends: “My songs were all published long after they were written. Eight of them came out in 1894, and the four others a few years later. When I wrote the first ones I had not even finished studying harmony, and all of them have been greatly revised and modified for publication. All I can tell you is that “Chanson triste” was begun in 1868. “Soupir” was done at the same period, and “L’Invitation au Voyage” was written during the seige of Paris. With regard to the others I have no definite recollections. Only one thing is certain, namely that all my songs were written before 1885; for since then I have never been able to compose again. Many people believe that I have a number of works in my drawer. But that is not the case; I have only a few pencil sketches which have interest for no one but me, and which I had jotted down in the hope that some day I should be able to work once more. I live to regret the things I did not do, without thinking much of the little I did.”
But what he has accomplished will suffice to place Duparc’s name among those of the great writers of songs. There is an even more remarkable force in the example which a man sets by accomplishing so much with so little.
This edition of these songs originally appeared with English singing translations by Bliss Carman. For Art Song Central, the English has been removed, both to avoid distraction, and to allow space for students to write in literal translations or IPA.
In addition, song titles have been reset in a larger typeface.
The French remains in italics, which is less than ideal. Still, this edition should be useful.