Eurovision: the eternal first place of France


Lhe France has not won Eurovision since 1977 (Marie Myriam), despite the very good second place of Barbara Pravi last year, but every year it is at the top of the program… A literal first place since the credits of the show, the call sign of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) which organizes the show, is the work of a French Baroque composer: Marc-Antoine Charpentier.

Coronation, music and sport

The European Broadcasting Union, created in 1950 to bring together broadcasters from all over Western Europe, chose the prelude to its Te Deum (H 146) to identify its programs. This organization will then give birth to the network… Eurovision, which marks a big blow for its birth with the first event to be broadcast live on a global scale, on June 2, 1953: the coronation of Elizabeth II.

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The occasion of a first broadcast, before an event rich in baroque music, for this callsign. Which will soon be resumed when, in the effervescence of European construction, the leaders of the European Broadcasting Union imagine a meeting to exalt fraternity between peoples. Inspired by the Italian Festival of San Remoit will be the Eurovision song contest, the first edition of which takes place on May 24, 1956.

This sound credits still frames the other events broadcast by the network today, such as the New Year’s concert in Vienna. This famous prelude Te Deum also serves as the anthem of the Six Nations rugby tournament.

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A comeback

Several reasons led to the choice of these eight measures as a sound identity. First Marc-Antoine Charpentier is French, so from one of the founding countries, his music has the advantage of having fallen into the public domain for a long time and it is in tune with the times. Indeed, after having completely disappeared after his death in 1704, the composer benefited in the 1950s from the growing interest in Baroque music.

In January 1953, a brand new French record company, Erato, published the recording of a then totally unknown work, unearthed by the religious and musicologist Carl de Nys with the Orchester de chambre des concerts Pasdeloup under the direction of Louis Martini : the Te Deum of Carpenter.

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Triumphant trumpets and dazzling cymbals, the disc is a success and its prelude all in fanfare and splendor will know thanks to television an eternal posterity, eclipsing the work, the life and often the name of its author.

An almost unknown life

It must be said that the life of Marc-Antoine Charpentier is full of mysteries… Born in 1643 in the diocese of Paris, from a father who was a master writer, he left for Italy at the age of 24, perhaps to study painting, but It was ultimately Italian music that seduced him. In 1670, he returned to Paris and entered the service of Mlle de Guise as music teacher, he remained there for 18 years.

But at that time, another musician of Italian origin reigned supreme on the French artistic scene: Jean-Baptiste Lully, superintendent of music to King Louis XIV and master of music to the royal family. In 1672, he obtained a royal privilege which forbade “to sing any whole piece in France, either in French verse or other languages, without the written permission of the said Sieur Lully, under penalty of ten thousand pounds fine, and confiscation theaters, machines, decorations, clothes…” These restrictions cause his falling out with Molière, prompting the playwright to seek a new composer in the person of… Marc-Antoine Charpentier. The two men will collaborate in particular on the musical parts of the Imaginary illness.

The death of the royal composer in 1687 allowed Charpentier to consider composing for a wider circle than that of private performances. In 1690, he created an opera: Medeafor the Royal Academy of Music at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal, to a libretto by Thomas Corneille (Pierre’s younger brother), but the failure of this lyrical tragedy convinced the composer to devote himself to sacred music until his died, February 24, 1704.

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A protean work

A prolific composer with a very wide range of registers, Charpentier composed a considerable body of work, part of which was lost, the fault of a work that was mostly handwritten and little published during his lifetime. It is assumed, for example, that he composed six Te Deums, but we know of only four, including the famous H. 146, which celebrates a victory without knowing precisely the occasion of its composition. Taking the form of a grand motet, it was written between 1688 and 1698, when Charpentier was master of music at the Jesuit church of Saint-Louis.

Since its revival as Eurovision credits, Charpentier’s prelude has undergone various orchestrations and modernization attempts, some of which rather outrageous. The last version returned to more classicism (strings, flutes, oboes, trumpets, timpani), all in solemnity and in a little kitsch joy, perfect image of the competition that it oversees. On Saturday evening, you are therefore sure to hear at least one musical masterpiece of French Baroque. France, 12 points.


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Eurovision: the eternal first place of France


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