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France and Ireland

Notes and Narratives


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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‘De la musique avant toute chose’: Poldowski’s Settings of Verlaine’s Poetry


In his seminal book of 1899 entitled The Symbolist Movement in Literature, author Arthur Symons writes of his friend: ‘With Verlaine the sense of hearing and the sense of sight are almost interchangeable. He paints with sound and his line and atmosphere become music’.1 Thus the ‘prince of poets’ belongs not only to the realms of literature but also to the French art song or mélodie as it is known. The poetry of Verlaine plays an important role in the history of French art song. The most celebrated settings by Gabriel Fauré, Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel represent only a small percentage of the vast corpus of songs, which were composed between the period of the poet’s lifetime and the present day. The image-laden works, particularly from Verlaine’s earlier collections, have continued to resonate with composers to this day, including popular-genre artists such as the singer/songwriter, Léo Ferré. To date, however, the composer Lady Irène Dean Paul (1879–1932), known professionally as Poldowski, is the most prolific creator of musical settings of Verlaine’s poetry. Her twenty-two settings are derived from a variety of his collections. The name Poldowski conceals what is a particularly rich and interesting Franco-Irish connection.

Born in Brussels in 1879, Irène Régine Wieniawska was youngest daughter of the celebrated violinist and composer, Henryk Wieniawski and his Irish wife, Isabella Hampton. She never knew her famous father due to his untimely death in 1880 yet, ironically, she was the...

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