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France and Ireland

Notes and Narratives

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Edited By Una Hunt and Mary Pierse

The rich association between Ireland and France is embodied in music, art and creative writing from both countries and this collection provides a tantalising selection of these interweaving influences. The book presents a vivid picture of interactions between composers, performers, poets and novelists on each side of the Celtic Sea. Surprises abound, with music unexpectedly linking Ireland and France through George Alexander Osborne and Frédéric Chopin, through Thomas Moore and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, through Irish-inspired French opera and a French-directed Irish orchestra. Words and music meet in a Kate O'Brien novel, a musical interpretation of Verlaine and a selection of Paula Meehan's poetry, while the encounter between wine and music creates new possibilities for artistic and cultural expression. Exploring the works and influence of a wide range of figures including James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Jacques Derrida, J.M. Synge, Hélène Cixous, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Hector Berlioz, Maurice Ravel, Neil Jordan and John Field, the essays collected here uncover a wealth of artistic interconnections between France and Ireland.
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George Alexander Osborne, Paris and the Pluie de Perles

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George Alexander Osborne (1806–1893) is not likely to be a familiar name. This Irish pianist-composer lived through most of the nineteenth century and had a long and productive career as a musician. Unusually, Osborne carved out an illustrious career as a pianist in Paris, one of the first performers from Ireland to do so, before later making a significant contribution to London’s musical life. The influences that came to bear on his pianistic style and compositions were dominated by trends in France rather than England, particularly in the earlier part of his professional career. This fact would in turn have a bearing on his musical achievements in later life and on his relative lack of success in Britain at a time when German music held sway.

It is perhaps worth mentioning that no Irish pianist had made his or her mark in France before Osborne, except possibly John Field (1782–1837), but then only by reputation. Field left Ireland around the age of 10 and spent his entire adult life in Russia. A few years before his death, he visited Europe and performed in Paris, but it seems that Frédéric Chopin (1810–1839) who was living in the French capital and who had admired Field’s music back in his native Poland, was deeply disappointed with his performance considering it to be crude and lacking in fluency.1 Field was, by then, probably quite ill and certainly past his best, but it is also likely...

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