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Postcard from Paris

From the Court of Louis XIV at Versailles to Notre Dame to the Bois de Boulogne – join us on a tour around Paris, with a rich menu of Gallic delights to tickle the musical palate.Read more…

The French capital has been home to some of the world's finest composers and has also witnessed the occasional riot and musical revolution. On this journey, we begin in glorious Versailles, where Lully and Rameau reigned supreme, before moving on to central Paris.

Many great composers travelled to Paris. In 1778, the young Mozart was on an unsuccessful job hunt, but scored a huge success with his "Paris" Symphony, while Haydn composed a set of six, commissioned by the Chevalier de Saint-Georges. In terms of symphonic form, François-Joseph Gossec and Étienne Méhul were early French standard bearers, although few in the 19th century followed that route.

Opera was more important to the French, both Grand Opéra at the Salle Peletier and the Palais Garnier, but also at the jewel box which is the Opéra Comique. Opera also drew foreign composers. Gluck revised his 'Orfeo ed Euridice' in French, while Rossini, Meyerbeer and Verdi all composed there. Even Wagner bowed to Parisian taste by adding a Venusberg ballet to his 'Tannhäuser'… although stubbornly placed it right after curtain-up rather than the preferred Act 3!

Swagger along the boulevards to Offenbach and call in at St Sulpice, where Saint-Saëns was christened and where, in Massenet's 'Manon', our naughty heroine seduces the abbé, Des Grieux.

In the early 20th century, Paris was the home to Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes which commissioned such works as Ravel's 'Daphnis et Chloé' and Stravinsky's 'The Rite of Spring'. The 1913 premiere of the latter caused a scandal, with noisy arguments breaking out among the audience of the Art Deco Théâtre des Champs-Élysées.

The postwar joie de vivre of Paris in the "Années folles" 1920s is captured in the music of Les Six, a group of French composers who were based in Montparnasse. We hear sparkling scores by Milhaud, Poulenc and Germaine Tailleferre, and samples of Georges Auric's film music. The Roaring Twenties also inspired Gershwin, whose 'An American in Paris' draws on his lively experiences in the French capital. Bon voyage!

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