HOLMÈS Augusta, La vision de la reine

Born in Paris to an Irish father, Augusta Holmès added the accent to her surname and became a French national. Though they were never officially married, Holmès and the poet Catulle Mendès lived together from 1869 until 1886, and had five children together, three of whom are depicted playing and singing music in Renoir’s charming painting, The Daughters of Catulle Mendès (in the Metropolitan Museum, New York). Influenced since childhood by Wagner, and counting Liszt among her friends, Holmès’s most important teacher was César Franck with whom she studied from 1876, and to whom she was devoted. La vision de la reine is scored for female voices (soloists and chorus) accompanied by piano, cello and harp, on a text by the composer herself. The score has a dedication to Daniel Colonne and was written to celebrate his birth in 1892. Daniel was the son of the conductor Edouard Colonne and his wife, the singer Eugénie Vergin, and this ‘allegorical cantata’ (as it was described by the publisher) was first performed at the Colonne home in 1893 by an ensemble including Holmès herself (piano), Marguérite Achard (harp) and Jules Loeb – dedicatee and first performer of Fauré’s Élégie – who played the important cello part. In this remarkable cantata, a queen sits by the cradle of her son and listens to the voices of heaven, wisdom, nature, love and homeland before a final choral lullaby in which all the voices and instruments ask for blessings upon the new-born child. 


© Nigel Simeone 


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