Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Liege and Lief


Georges Simenon, who walked with Varèse, was born in Liège, Belgium in 1903. César Franck was born in the same city in 1822. Liège is in the predominantly French speaking part of Belgium. Both Simenon and Franck moved to France to further their careers. Pupils of César Franck later founded the Schola Cantorum in Paris where Edgard Varèse studied for three years. Si Tu Dois Partir is a French-language cover of a Bob Dylan number by the English electric folk group Fairport Convention. In 1969 Herbert von Karajan recorded Franck's Symphony in D minor and in the same year Fairport released their influential album Liege & Lief. Unusually, Karajan's recording of the Franck Symphony for EMI was made in France with L'Orchestre de Paris. Fairport Convention's recording producer was Joe Boyd, who also produced Nick Drake and Boyd was at Newport in 1965 when Bob Dylan went electric. Playboy par excellence Karajan had a house in Saint Tropez, France and kept his yacht there. Two years after Dylan went electric Nick Drake was also in Saint Tropez, which was the Place to Be that year - even for an impecunious student. Richard Thompson of Fairport Convention, who played on two Nick Drake albums, is a Sufi adept who became a Muslim in 1975, and his first encouters with esoteric Islam were chronicled on another path. As the Sufi teacher said:
What you take as coincidence, or accident, very often is action: action taking place on a plane which is invisible to you.

* The header photo is my 1970 LP of the Franck Symphony. This recording only seems to be available as a specialist import CD from Japan. Happily, Liege & Lief is still in the catalogue.

* In 1971 French president Georges Pompidou (who had previously owned the conductor's Saint Tropez house) fired Karajan from the L'Orchestre de Paris for spending too little time with the orchestra. How times have changed...

* My closing quote comes from Among the Dervishes by O.M. Burke which I read on my recent travels in Morocco. Despite the provenance of this book being disputed, some sources attribute it to Idries Shah writing under a pseudonym and others question its veracity, it is remains essential reading for anyone interested in the Sufi path.

* The title of Fairport Convention's album actually has no connection with the city in Belgium; it uses two Middle English words, liege meaning loyal and lief meaning ready.

* Joe Boyd also produced the Incredible String Band who set the poetry of Thomas Traherne, as did Gerald Finzi.

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