Jordi Maso, piano
Déodat de Séverac
Scenes of Southern France
Cerdaña - En Languedoc


Cerdana (Cinq études pittoresques pour le piano) 1908-11

01. En Tartane (L'arrivée en Cerdagne) 7:23
02. Les fêtes (Souvenirs de Puigcerdà) 7:35
03. Ménétriers et glaneuses (Souvenir d'un pélérinage à Font-Romeu) 6:15
04. Les muletiers devant le Christ de Llivia (Complainte) 7:44
05. Le retour des muletiers 5:15

En Languedoc (1903-04)

06. Vers le mas en fête 8:12
07. Sur l'étang, le soir 7:39
08. A cheval, dans la prairie 3:48
09. Coin de cimetière, au printemps 8:02
10. Le jour de la foire, au mas 6:05
from the booklet:
The French composer Déodat de Séverac belonged to a family of long distinction. He was born in 1872 at St Félix de Caraman en Lauragais, in the Haute-Garonne, the son of a distinguished Toulouse painter, Gilbert de Séverac, his first piano teacher. His mother was descended from the Aragon family of Spain, while his great-grandfather had served as naval minister to Louis XVI, the family boasting a descent that went back to the ninth century. The boy studied at the Dominican College of Sorèze, established in 1854 on the site of an ancient Benedictine foundation, before embarking on a degree in law at the university in Toulouse. Before long he was able to move to the Toulouse Conservatoire, where he was a student from 1893 to 1896. On the recommendation of Charles Bordes, a former pupil of César Franck, he was accepted by Franck’s leading disciple, Vincent d’Indy, as a pupil at the Schola Cantorum in Paris, a choice of institution that he soon found preferable to the more rigidly conservative academic discipline of the Paris Conservatoire.

De Severac wrote his suite Cerdana, described as Five Picturesque Studies for the Piano, between 1908 and 1911. The district known in French as the Cerdagne and in Spanish as Cerdana, straddling the French-Spanish border in the Pyrenees, was originally the home of the Ceretani, from which its name is derived. In later history it included three baronies, Ceret, St-Laurent-de-Cerdans and Puigcerdà. The villages of the upper Cerdagne were ceded to France, together with Roussillon, in 1659, while the ancient capital, Llivia, designated a town and therefore exempted, remained and remains a Spanish enclave, its name derived from the classical Julia Livia. The five pieces of de Severac's suite start with En Tartane, arrival in the Cerdagne in a two-wheel carriage. It begins in open admiration of the countryside, with melodic hints of what is to come, as the journey moves rapidly on. The second piece Les fêtes is described as a reminiscence of Puigcerdà, proclaimed the capital of the Cerdana by Alfonso II in 1177 and on the Spanish side of the frontier which passes through the region. The festival preparations start tentatively, soon leading to livelier music of clear local provenance, with pictorial allusions to the scene of celebration that passes, in a musical language that often suggests that of Debussy, not least in the echo of a distant evening fanfare, as the piece draws to a close. The third of the set, Les menetriers et glaneuses, musicians and gleaners, depicts a pilgrimage to Font-Romeu, now a popular sports and ski resort. The chapel there once held a twelfth-century statue of the Blessed Virgin, while the place itself takes its name from a spring. The musicians play their guitars and, as always, there is more than a trace of Albeniz in the piano writing. In Les muletiers devant le Christ de Llivia, the muleteers before the statue of Christ at Llivia, the bells of the ancient fortified church are heard tolling in a vivid depiction of the scene, as the worshippers offer their moving prayers and petitions. In Le retour des muletiers the muleteers are heard travelling back over the mountain roads, in music essentially of the region, Catalonia and the Spanish Pyrenees, reflected through the prism of Paris.

The five piano pieces that constitute En Languedoc were written in 1903 and 1904. These are less specific in their geographical references, offering more generalised musical illustrations of the region of France known as Languedoc. Vers le mas en fête leads to the farmstead where the festival of the title is to be held, in often serene pianistic textures that are very much an extension of the language of Debussy and, to a lesser extent, of Ravel. Sur l'etang, le soir, illustrates the calm scene on the pond in the evening in generally more transparent textures. This is followed by A cheval, dans la prairie, riding in the open country, graphically illustrated in the rhythm, suggesting the lively movement of the horse, with an occasional pause to survey the countryside, before cantering on. Coin de cimetière, au printemps, a corner of the cemetery in spring, opens meditatively, moving on from serene contemplation in a country churchyard to a climax of romantic feeling, before subsiding into its opening mood. The set ends with Le jour de la foire, au mas, fair-day at the farmstead. This offers a characteristic depiction of the country fair, in piano textures from the world of Debussy and Ravel, always with the suggestion of local colour drawn from de Severac's own part of France, the old province of Languedoc.

Keith Anderson


...This music twinkles in a glimmering summer twilight of time, suspended in tranquillity.

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