“All his inspirations smell of the vegetable kingdom, his bowings soar like palm fronds, his waltzes and his quadrilles bud”, we read in the review Le Ménestrel of April 16, 1848. This musician-gardener is Isaac Strauss (1806-1888), violinist, conductor, composer and, above all, director of balls under the July Monarchy and the Second Empire (1).
The artist is part of a long festive tradition that saw parks and gardens resonate with these outdoor works, from village festivals to court entertainment. We should therefore not be surprised to see an edition of the now traditional “Rendez-vous aux jardins” placed under the associated auspices of the plant and sound kingdoms.
Music, an expression of nature?
As for the composers, they wonder about the similarities, even the intimate kinship, between their art and the marvels of the atmosphere. “Are you the sweetness of spring, the breaths of Zephyr, coloring the meadows and hissing in the leaves? The happy season that banishes all pain, when God is happy and Creation smiles? asks the English composer William Croft (1678-1727) in his hymn What are you?
With a tender and sensitive expressiveness, this piece was on the program of the concert given by William Christie and his aptly named Flourishing Arts, during the spring kick-off of his artistic and landscape season. It continues this weekend with musical walks in the gardens that the harpsichordist and conductor has developed in his Vendée estate in Thiré, before, from August 19 to 26, his summer festival as a point of of organ.
In the shade of the plane trees…
“William designed his gardens ex nihilo in the Baroque spirit, like a living room of music and greenery, with its intimate groves and larger spaces,” explains gardener and landscaper Marc Barbaud, horticultural adviser to William Christie. He likes what is perfect and it has been 25 years since he planned the precise development of each species, the location of each topiary. »
With, in apotheosis to welcome the great evening shows, a body of water shaded by large plane trees around which the listeners take place. Instrumentalists and singers evolve on a platform placed on the lake, observed by two large impassive swans. It therefore seems only natural that the academy for young talents that the chef founded in 2002 should be called “Le Jardin des voix”…
An endless cycle of life and death
“Pleasure for the eye and comfort for the soul”, according to the pretty expression of the English landscape gardener Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932), the garden is a catalyst for sensations – hearing being very much in demand – and reflection. Life germinates there, blooms, matures, withers and dies before being reborn, in a permanent cycle that recalls the finitude of all things but also filiation and memory. All things that the note that opens, swells, blossoms before dying out in the silence shares with the plant.
“Man (…) has only a short time to live, prey to many torments. It springs up and is cut like a flower”, laments the composer Henry Purcell (1659-1695) in Man that is born of a woman, a piece written for the British Royal Chapel.
Bitter philosophy which we can however console ourselves with the sound of a Mozart serenade. Or by remembering that, in the opera Atys inspired in Lully by mythology, the goddess Cybèle transforms the shepherd whose death she caused into a tree with evergreen foliage, a symbol of eternal life: “Atys, be forever the object of my love: take up a new spell, become a lovely Tree, which Cybèle will always love. »