Digital resources for French Romantic music

Sirènes, Les (Grandmougin / Dukas)




Like Berlioz in 1829, Dukas was so close to win the Prix de Rome in 1888 that he was almost certain to get it the next time he competed. Indeed candidates – especially when they had already won a second prize in the competition – were generally rewarded for their determination. In 1889 the set piece for the first round was Les Sirènes by Charles-Jean Grandmougin, and this time Dukas’s modern tendencies were clear in the melodic chromaticism and the textures. Was he cheekily thumbing his nose at the Institut de France? Or was it a natural progression in his art? With their gently unfolding melodic lines and cries of ‘Ah!’ the sirens, divided into three parts, entice, while a soloist uses the sensuality of her mezzo-soprano voice to lure the lost mariner (or the listener). We can almost see the sleek, scaly bodies glistening in the sunshine and the voluptuous movements of these beings, half human, half fish, as they sing ‘Nous voltigeons sans avoir d’ailes, Nous sommes les sœurs immortelles’. Significantly more advanced in its orchestration and harmonies than his three previous choral offerings for the competition, this piece placed Dukas in first position after the qualifying round, leaving him to approach the cantata with confidence. Furthermore the libretto appealed to him. Likewise in 1829 Berlioz had been stimulated by the text of Cléopâtre and setting it had given him great pleasure that had raised his hopes, only for them to be dashed by the jury’s decision. Dukas was to prove that history repeats itself.

    Persons - 2
  • DUKAS, Paul (1865-1935)
  • GRANDMOUGIN, Charles (1850-1930)
  • Themes - 2
  • Chœur – La musique chorale au XIXe siècle
  • Prix de Rome – Concours de composition musicale