May 13, 2017

Emmanuel Macron: opera lover!

Vive Macron!

Let's put politics aside, all right? For one thing, my employers wouldn't appreciate it; for another, this is an opera blog. But count me as a BIG fan of Emmanuel Macron, President-elect of France, for reasons having nothing to do with his views on immigration, France's unemployment rate or economics.
Macron: Un politicien qui aime la musique.
(photo by Copyleft)

The dude is seriously into music. What's more, he expresses himself intelligently and eloquently on the subject. An interview of Macron by NPR, available at this link, is making the rounds on the Web, and what it reveals about his musical tastes will be uplifting news to classical musicians and music-lovers. 

He is an amateur pianist, with particular fondness for the music of Schumann ("It has images and feelings I can't find anywhere else") and Liszt, whose Années de pèlerinage he calls "incandescent". Another idol is J. S. Bach, praising his music for its precision and spirituality, calling the composer "a passenger between several worlds, indefinable and brilliant".

But his passion for music, happily (in the context of this blog), also extends to opera. His comments on Rossini are worth quoting at length:

"I have a great admiration for Rossini. For me, (his music) occupies an essential place in music history. His freedom, his life and his genius have always impressed me. He took the opera out of his yoke by offering a new freedom to the voice; he completely reinvented the lyrical song. From Barbier  to Voyage to Reims to Cenerentola, he has created an irresistable style, but I am also sensitive to his serious operas such as Mosè or Maometto II, which are given so rarely.

This doesn't sound like a faker trying to toss around a few titles to create a faux image of cultivation; it sounds like the fruits of a lifelong and abiding interest. As his hero Schumann would have said, "Hats off, gentlemen!"

Lest you think I swoon over a French politician's erudition as a sneaky way of throwing shade on American politicians, I hasten to assure you that many U.S. Presidents have shared Macron's love of classical music. Here are a few, just in case you weren't aware:

THOMAS JEFFERSON was interested in, well, everything, so naturally he had a lively interest in music. He went so far as to aver that music "is the favorite passion of my soul, and fortune has cast my lot in a country where it is in a state of deplorable barbarism." His music library was extensive, Like Macron, he was an enthusiastic amateur instrumentalist. He played the violin; in his youth he devoted three hours a day to practice and was adept enough to participate in concerts at the Governor's Palace in Williamsburg as a student.

JIMMY CARTER made classical music a constant element of life in the West Wing during his term in office. Okay, the only instrument he tried to play was the ukulele, but he managed to lure no less an artist than Vladimir Horowitz to perform at the White House, which was considered a major coup. We also are told (by wqxr.org,) that Carter's familiarity with Wagner's Tristan und Isolde somehow played a role in his naval career. I'll have to ask the President about that the next time we have coffee...

RICHARD NIXON enjoyed playing the piano. I have found no evidence of any interest in opera, but on the other hand, did Jimmy Carter ever compose a piano concerto? He did not. NIXON DID. Sort of. Click here to view a clip from Jack Paar's Tonight Show to see a video of Nixon performing his own music, accomapnied (in the words of Paar) by "fifty Democrat violinists". Is his touch on the keyboard a bit percussive? Sure, but it must have taken some guts to play for a nation-wide audience. I give him props.

WOODROW WILSON is a POTUS who has fallen out of favor with historians of late for unfortunate views on race relations. But music lovers can still appreciate that he sang in a glee club as a young man, played the violin middlingly well, and did produce an admirable quote during the adversities of World War I: "Music, now more than ever before, is a national need".

And finally,

DWIGHT EISENHOWER is included solely as an appreciator, not as a musical amateur. Believe it or not, he and First Lady Mamie Eisenhower produced and released a record during their time at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Titled "The President's favorite music: Dwight D. Eisenhower", it's a compilation of Bach, Beethoven, Strauss and (yay opera!) selections from Porgy and Bess. This record is still available for purchase from third-party sellers via Amazon. You can get yours at this link.

Hey - man cannot live by Gross National Products alone, am I right? And once again: Vive Macron!

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