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Chants d’Auvergne

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Familiar with folk song since his childhood, Canteloube made his first collections in 1895: “I was living in the countryside at the time, in a region where peasants still sang readily. I started going around farms and villages to listen to the peasants’ songs, having everyone sing: old men and women, shepherds and shepherdesses in the pastures, ploughmen and harvesters at work.” But he did not work like an ethnomusicologist concerned with scientific accuracy. He published several thousand folk melodies to draw attention to the wealth of this tradition and make it available to amateurs. In parallel to these editions, he composed orchestral accompaniments for five series of Chants d’Auvergne (Songs from Auvergne) in 1923 (first and second series), 1927 (third series), 1930 (fourth series) and 1954 (fifth series). In these collections, shepherd’s songs mingle with lullabies and humorous, sometimes caustic vignettes. Canteloube justifies the refinement of his instrumental setting in these terms: “If a peasant sings without accompaniment, this is not a sufficient reason to imitate him. When a peasant sings while ploughing or harvesting, there is a whole accompaniment around his song that precisely those who want to remain ‘scientific’ do not ‘feel’. [...] Only immaterial art, music, can evoke the necessary atmosphere through its changing, impalpable timbres, rhythms and harmonies.” In fact, Canteloube blurs the boundaries between arrangement and composition, his orchestral environment imposing itself as a truly creative work.


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