Wednesday, 6 July 2016

C'EST L'HEURE EXQUISE!

Artist rendering of spacecraft Juno descending into deep orbit of the planet Jupiter
| NASA/Lockheed Martin |
On July 4, 2016, we, the collective civilians on earth listened to, or watched reports of the historic celestial "meetup" of spacecraft Juno, which launched half a decade ago from earth, on a drawn-out journey to make a highly anticipated date to tango with the planet Jupiter - that gas giant that, shockingly, allowed the craft to gain unprecedented access within it's radiation belt by allowing Juno to delve even deeper into the planet's orbit than had previously been thought possible.  The sweat-inducing final moments of Juno's behemoth journey was captured live on video and has been made available to the public by NASA. This coverage can be viewed below. 

Just as I had required whilst 'watching' the live feed of NASA's SUV sized Rover Curiosity landing on the surface of Mars four years ago, tissues were very much needed and were fortunately at the ready.  I highly recommend to you, the reader, to do likewise and have either tissues or handkerchief at hand whilst watching the below videos. The most moving and poignant moment, for me, was not so much the colossal achievement by man, but rather an awakening - an all encompassing awareness as I marveled at the infinite capabilities of mankind. That sentiment however, does not diminish in any way the scale of the spacecraft Juno successfully completing the first part of its megalithic mission..for it was at that precise moment of Orbit Insertion that such humble beings bore witness to a monumental moment of celebration: of a collective effort made toward a heroic enterprise - of reveling in the triumph of what was once little more than a grand idea set up against a vast tedium of unknowns, uncertainties. Of one thing mankind can be certain: that Juno's well-drawn out journey, which defied astronomical odds (quite literally) and yet somehow managed to complete the mission, is far from NASA's final hurrah: folks, we live in truly momentous times - in an age of epic discovery, advanced technology and a level of human perseverance that belies definition. Juno's entry into deep orbit on July 4, 2016 truly marks a moment of collective human genius, of passion, and is  testament that bespeaks of just what we are capable of as a people.


NASA'S "Live" feed of Juno entering into deep orbit of the planet Jupiter.

Now, all that remains in terms of JUNO is for space enthusiasts to continue to wait with bated breath to discover all of the data that the spacecraft is just waiting to unleash upon those inquiring minds across the globe. If you are a fan of the cosmos and of space endeavor like I am, dear reader, you too probably would have felt the wide range of emotions that surged without cessation for those many hard working engineers at NASA who made this epic ‘contact’ possible.

Reynaldo Hahn
I have selected to celebrate the occasion the French mélodie (no. V) “L’Heure Exquise” of 19th century French Romantic composer Reynaldo Hahn to mark this momentous occasion. 

Venezuelan (later turned French) composer, chanteur et polymath Reynaldo Hahn, the composer to this most excellent piece, may never have sat to pen his now infamous seven-piece mélodie (equivalent to Germany’s “Lieder” genre), known as Les Chansons Grise (Songs in Grey) had he too, not been open to explore the great beyond from his homestead at Caracas. [see footnotes]

Shortly after Hahn's arrival on Paris in 1877, the young singer/composer sat to compose a series of art songs, under the mélodie genre for his Chansons Grise. The song-cycle’s antepenultimate mélodie. "L’heure Exquise" (The Exquisite Hour) is highly emotive on a colossal scale, whilst simultaneously playing coy - it’s protagonist reflects on a most humbling scene - it’s mélodie, and the vocal timbre of it's chanteuse – remain tranquil, fully understated throughout, yet delivering to the masses an other-worldy aura of man and nature, of the present and the infinite.



NASA'S Jet Propulsion Laboratory explain JUNO mission to the press.

How perfect to mark this sublime occasion, then by a listening of Hahn’s mesmerizing "L'Heure Exquise," a musical setting to a work of the same name by famed poet and librettist Paul Verlaine. [see footnotes]  The equally sublime mélodie, L’Heure Exquise, with its rich array of patience, and of doubt - of wonder, and of ultimate triumph - I believe, is a perfect compliment to NASA's latest successful mission. I have selected this piece to coincide with spacecraft JUNO entering into the deep orbit of gas giant Jupiter, and paying homage the hefty myriad of emotions that would have undoubtedly both plagued and delighted it's orchestrators:


Enjoy below the beautiful L'heure Exquise, the fifth mélodie of Renaldo Hahn's seven-part cycle, Les
Chansons Grise
as sung by Canadian coloratura contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux:






[Footnotes:] 
The much revered librettist and poet Paul Verlaine, is said to have openly wept before young Hahn, whom had invited the wordsmith to hear some of his writings set to music. Perhaps it was due to the tender yet thunderous simplicity of Hahn’s mélodies that Verlaine had found himself enraptured - ushering him into a state of intoxicating reverie. One had to imagine the astonishing event with which they had been privileged: an exclusive invitation for a first listening – the most remarkable part of the entire evening must have been focused not solely on the music itself, but rather, on the fact that it’s performer and composer, Reynaldo Hahn had commenced production on the work at the tender age of 12 in 1887 and completed a mere three years later!

By then, Hahn had already become a French émigré, his Basque (Spanish) mother and German-Jewish father (Carlos) having been left with scant choice but to initiate an exodus from the families' native Caracas. The family had been little more than forced into exile following an escalating series of political discord surrounding the person and friend to Carlos Hahn, the Venezuelan President Antonio Guzmán Blanco.

The move to France, as it would turn out, would be a most fruitful one. This, in spite of the fact that in contemporary Paris, musicians and composers of a tender age were considered disreputable (in stark contrast to other nations of Europe, who openly celebrated and encouraged young child prodigies like Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart). Young Hahn was one of the exceptions to the rule, (even prodigal pianist Franz Liszt had been rejected by the Paris Conservatoire's hallowed ranks due to his youthfulness - thus Hahn's acceptance into the institution to mingle amongst the Conservatoire's exclusive student body is an achievement not to be understated). Hahn had been welcomed at the Conservatory with open arms with scant regard to his age, so greatly perceived were his talents.

As unravelingmusicalmyths has recently mentioned on the posting of Monday June 20th, 2016 regarding German-turned-French composer Jacques Offenbach, obtaining a most coveted spot at this musical court meant that a burgeoning musician had arrived, and in most instances, would be guaranteed future successes. It was a distinction granted by the high cultured, musical elite whose encouraging tactics included setting an atmosphere of a like-minded and highly goal oriented school body, both teaching/mentoring and assuming the role of pupil were vast and varied professional musicians and composers – the Conservatoire, thereby served as the ultimate ‘meet up’ of Classical music’s most powerful boys and men.

The father Hahn, Carlos’ exit to Paris at 1877, truly set the standard for greatest Venezuelan export. Hahn continued to cause a sensation in France throughout his maturation, rubbing shoulders with musicians of the highest strata: Jules Massenet, Charles Gounod, Camille Saint-Saëns and Maurice Ravel and bowling over some of the 19th century’s greatest minds: the aforementioned Verlaine, the poet who "wept to hear Hahn's songs.” And the French novelist Marcel Proust who once proclaimed "Everything I have ever done has always been thanks to Reynaldo".

Text (L'Heure Exquise:)

La lune blanche
luit dans les bois.
De chaque branche part
une voix
Sous la ramée.
O bien-aimée!

L'étang reflète,
profond miroir,
La silhouette
du saule noir
Où le vent pleure,
Rêvons, c'est l'heure!
Un vaste et tender
apaisement
Semble descendre
du firmament
Que l'astre irise;

C'est l'heure exquise!

The pale moon
gleams in the forest;
From every branch
sounds a voice
beneath the leaves:
O my beloved.

The pool reflects
a deep mirror:
The silhouette
of the black willow
where the wind is weeping.
Let us dream, it is the hour.
A vast and tender
consolation
seems to fall
From the firmament
the moon illumines...

It is the exquisite hour!




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-Rose.

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