EUROVISION nowadays basically means the dreaded Song Contest. Started in 1952 as the European Broadcasting Union to bring the coronation of Elizabeth II to the Continent, for decades it broadcast anything worthwhile for which at least three national stations could be mustered. All that’s left besides the abyss of bad taste previously mentioned is the pinnacle of...Viennese taste which is the New Year’s Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic. I used to be a sucker for the all-male orchestra in morning suits, with their antiquated winds and gamba-grip basses; for the classic ballet interpolations; and for the intermission flyovers of Austrian landscapes.
Well, it’s all pretty much gone to hell with the rest of the world. I don’t mind ladies in the band at all, but the addition of moderns to the program, the clowning in the ballet scenes and the kindergarten jests in the intermission program have wrecked everything except the inevitable final encore: the “Radetsky March” with the audience clap-along, conducted by whatever celebrity the record labels are pushing in a given year. Nostalgia may not be what it use to be, but at that moment I can’t help remembering sitting on the couch with my children in our bathrobes, stuffed with breakfast rolls and coffee, following along: tacet/piano/forte/tacet/piano/fortissimo. The flowers even used to always come from Holland. Now they can be from any European hothouse.
But here’s what really aggravates me. The Eurovision theme music, the introductory march from one of Charpentier’s Te Deum’s, used to be played in a perfectly satisfactory modern-orchestra version which I researched online and found was arranged by a French organist and recorded by a French orchestra back in the ‘50s. Then at some point, maybe ten years ago, some wise-guy made a new, Historically Misinformed recording; too slow, but still too fast to accommodate their incorrect, rushed notes inégales. That’s what you hear now before any Eurovision show begins.
Charpentier’s piece is a French slow march, which lives on in the official parade march of the French Foreign Legion: Le Boudin. Its text, in praise of the blood sausage traditionally fed to the troops, contains as its refrain the immortal lines:
Pour les Belges il n'y en a plus.
Ce sont des tireurs au cul.
I thought I could find a version on YouTube with the tempo and flourishes formerly heard when tuning in to Eurovision. Hélas, il n’y en a plus.
January 1, 2023