The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical Music: Meditate on this — NPR asks if French opera composer Jules Massenet be rediscovered, revived and performed for more than his famous “Meditation”?

September 16, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

These days, about the only piece by the 19th century French composer Jules Massenet (below, in a photo from Getty Images) you hear often is the lovely “Meditation” from the opera ‘Thais,” usually scored for violin and orchestra or violin and piano but also available in transcriptions.

But recently the director of NPR’s “Deceptive Cadence” classical music blog Tom Huizenga (below) made the case for rediscovering and reviving Jules Massenet. The occasion was the centennial of Massenet’s birth and the issuing of a 23-CD box set by Decca, from which he took  samples. He also cited some interesting statistics about the popularity of performances of Massenet’s usually sentimental works.

True, Massenet was an unabashed sentimentalist, but he certainly had an undeniable great gift for melody and harmony. He knew how to write a line that sings and music that pleases.

Huizenga’s essay is even filled with several audio snippets to help make his case and to help you decide or reach a verdict.

Here is a link:

Maybe it is just more proof that the great rediscoveries made in the 17th and 18th centuries, in the Baroque and Classical periods, that took place over the past several decades with early music and period instrument groups are now reaching into the 19th and early 20th centuries.

We will see.

Let’s think about it. Let’s meditate on it.

And while we do, here is the popular, famous and beautiful – though some would even say banal or trite – “Meditation” from “Thais,” first from superstar violinist Itzhak Perlman with an orchestra, then from superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma with pianist Kathryn Stott. You can decide which version you like more,  and then let us know in the COMMENT section along with what you think of Massenet:

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