The Kennedy Center

Souvenir de Munich, Quadrille on Themes from Tristan und Isolde, orchestral version by Jean Françaix

About the Work

Emmanuel Chabrier Composer: Emmanuel Chabrier
© Richard Freed

For much of his life Chabrier was a committed Wagnerian. He made visits to Bayreuth and Munich to attend performances of the music dramas, and it was a production of Tristan und Isolde, which had its premiere in the Bavarian capital, that persuaded him to give up his post on the legal staff of the Ministry of the Interior and commit himself entirely to composing music. In 1885 he composed a "Wagnerian" opera, Gwendoline, and in that same year composed this jolly quadrille for piano duet on themes from Tristan. This in no wise represented any lowering of his respect for the recently deceased Wagner, as Liszt, Thalberg and other pianist-composers (as well as Johann Strauss, the Waltz King) had regularly produced quadrilles using tunes from popular operas.
The piece is cast in the five sections of the formal quadrille structure, as follows:
PANTALON—Sailors' greeting to King Marke, from Act I, followed by the
motif of Tristan's native Karéol
ETÉ—Love music from Act II
POULE—Shepherd's tune from Act III; motifs of death from Acts II and III
PASTOURELLE—Kurwenal's music from Act I
GALOP—Sailors' song and Kurwenal's aria from Act I; "Longing for
death" motif from Act II
Like his senior colleague Maurice Ravel, Jean Françaix was a master of orchestral writing and was strongly influenced by Chabrier. In Françaix's case his admiration led eventually to his orchestrating several of Chabrier's piano pieces. This brilliant setting of the Souvenir de Munich, dated 1960, was his first such effort; he headed his score with an epigraph from Molière:

C'est lui tout craché comme This is the spitting image of him,
je vouls l'ai défiguré. just as I disfigured him for you.