Albéric Magnard: Hymne à Vénus
Although now relatively unknown in modern programming, Albéric Magnard’s collection of works reflects the impressionistic and highly romantic stylings of turn-of-the-century French classical music. His expansive orchestral works, rich with harmony and textures, highlights his time studying under Vincent d’Indy and Jules Massenet whilst at the prestigious Paris Conservatoire.
Hymne à Vénus was composed in 1904, and is considered a musical essay. The work lasts around 13-15 minutes and is scored for a large orchestra.
The ominous rumblings at the core of Hymne à Vénus is what makes Magnard stand out from his contemporaries. Hymne à Vénus reflects all aspects of love, as the inspiration came from Venus, the Goddess of Love. The music ripples between different feelings of love, from tenderness, to uncertainty and then ending with elation.
Magnard’s rich string writing, coupled with the sparkling woodwind embellishments, creates a vivid canvas for the listener to base their thoughts on. The textures that Magnard experiments with in Hymne à Vénus reflects some of the other French greats such as Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, and Vincent d’Indy. The ever-developing rhythmic and harmonic structures keeps a rolling feel within the music.
As climaxes are reached there is a noticeable intensity within the music – something that Magnard is remembered for. The glorious climaxes are matched by soaring upper woodwinds that extra dimension to the music. The end of the work is the most richly scored, with the brass finally making their big entrance. The grand scale in the last minute of Hymne à Vénus is accentuated by the brass and timpani who bring the piece to a rousing conclusion.
Ⓒ Alex Burns