Raphael Fumet (1898 - 1979)
Music for Flute
Trio for flutes
Quatuor for flutes
Son of the composer Dynam-Victor Fumet (1867-1949), brother of the writer Stanislas Fumet and father of the flautist Gabriel Fumet, Raphael Fumet showed his exceptional gifts as a pianist and improviser at a very early age. Parallel to his studies with Vincent d"Indy at the Schola Cantorum, he worked at a number of Paris cinemas, where he was able to improvise directly on the organ to accompany the silent films of the period. His charisma as a musician won him the friendship of many artists, mainly in Montparnasse. He was associated in particular with painters and sculptors still unknown, such as Soutine, Jeanne Hebuterre, Modigliani, Juan Gris, Joseph Bernard and others.
By nature very independent and with little interest in the bitter divisions occasioned by the aesthetic quarrels of his day, Raphael Fumet withdrew first to the country, to the famous College de Juilly in seine-et-Marne, where he stayed for ten years as director of music. After the disaster of 1940, he left Juilly with his family and settled at Angers, where he taught piano and harmony at the Conservatoire and served as organist at the Church of St Joseph, continuing there the tradition of his father in almost total isolation.
Persuaded that his compositions had little chance of being understood by official institutions, Fumet made practically no attempt to promote his music. "I no longer believe in the success of serious music?, he wrote to a friend, "modern man wants to enjoy in music something completely alien to harmony, in the universal sense of the word: he wants the sensual or the "scientific" but never love that is like the trees and flowers, which seem to him out of fashion and of no interest."
If the time in which we live seems to be one of total freedom of artistic expression, some will probably be surprised that music of a quality as impressive as that of Raphael Fumet has up to now always been systematically excluded by various reading committees or other channels giving access to wider diffusion. It is true that his work is difficult to classify in what is now generally called the historical evolution of contemporary music, a fact that seems to allow him greater strength and originality.
Although condemned to write music in silence until his death in Angers in 1979, without ever hearing an echo of what he composed or ever having anything published, Fumet has left us, in spite of inevitable discouragement, a certain number of works that are significant in their diversity and which bear witness to the anti-conformist freedom of their composer in his search, against all odds, for musical beauty. These include several symphonic works, particularly the great Symphonie de l"ame (Symphony of the Soul), twice performed by the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Pays de Loire, organ and piano pieces, a string quartet, first performed by the Via Nova Quartet and then by the Budapest Quartet, a wind quintet, broadcast by members of the French Orchestre National, and various chamber works.
Ten years after his death and thanks to the support of the Fondation Paribas, a compact disc by Jean-Paul Imbert was dedicated to the organ works of Raphael Fumet, coupled with those of his father. Paradoxically, above all if one accepts the pessimistic views of the composer on the understanding of his music by official institutions, this recording won considerable international critical success, both in Europe and in the United States.
Apart from the Cantate biblique, written for a film, Raphael Fumet"s flute compositions were written at the request of his son, the flautist Gabriel Fumet. The Cantate biblique, for four flutes and cello, was written for a film showing pictures of Israel under the title Entre ciel et terre (Between Heaven and Earth). In this musical fresco, an evocation of the holy places, the composer"s inspiration was drawn from what he himself called "interior horizons", which doubtless explains his more traditional musical language, although clothed in a perfectly original form, as much in the very unusual instrumentation as in the unexpected choice of means of expression that recall the form of the cantata. The great success of this music, originally intended as an interior commentary on biblical scenes, encouraged the composer to make of it a separate work in itself.
The Trio for flutes was written in 1935 for Fumet"s chamber-music class at the Angers Conservatoire. The work demonstrates exceptional richness of texture with the means employed.
In 1958 the Baroque renaissance began to take off, thanks to recordings. Fumet was aware of this and in his Diptyque baroque shows an interest in the blending of two timbres rarely heard together, that of the flute and of the viola, making use of the spirit of the Baroque, while keeping a surprising originality in a style already so familiar.
At the limit of total consciousness, Interpolaire, with its unusual title, attempts to resolve difficult relationships of tonality and a completely free melodic range. Here tonal attraction remains, even if the melody tries to escape to reach again its own sphere, a feature that explains the title Interpolaire, between the poles of attraction of tonality .
Fumet"s Quatuor pour flutes (Quartet for flutes) was written at the same period as the Cantate biblique. It reflects a new poetry, full of freshness and invention, in a musical language more contemporary in its clashes of stress, although always part of natural life.
Lacrymosa was originally written for viola and piano, with the present version for flute and piano, by Fumet, slightly different. A faultless melody, simple and serious, is set against extraordinary harmonies that, in spite of their apparent simplicity, bear witness to the composer"s powers of aural perception.
The Ode concertante, for flute and string orchestra, is characterized by the astonishing dimension of the role allotted for the first time to the flute. At a time when this instrument was enjoying particular success, it was important to write a work that was completely different in which it could rival the violin or the voice, as much by the depth of the musical content entrusted to it as by the range, which explores all possibilities. The composer himself wrote as follows:
"The Ode concertante came about, in the first place, as the result of long reflection on the difficult relationship between the techniques of strict harmony and a melody freed from tonal restrictions and rhythmic symmetry. Atonalism too has so often become a troublesome discipline! And yet! What is more atonal and more exemplary than the song of birds, so free, rising above the rooted forms, such as trees, to discover new horizons? ... Shall I take this image, this ideal example, to translate into words what I have tried to do in terms of sound? My purpose as a composer has nothing literary about it! But the form of my Ode is not traditional, therefore it escapes, perhaps, from the traditional rules of musical analysis."