- This August 24, 2016, Léo Ferré would have been a hundred years. A good excuse to remember one of our most brilliant songwriters of the last century. A poet whose work rich, intense, deep, bloated, remains so little mysteriously taken over by the younger generations.
- In 2000, I was invited to spend a night in his retreat Tuscany Castellina In Chainti to meet his wife, Marie-Christine, and their three children: Mathieu, Marie-Cécile and Manuela.
- This article was originally published in 2000.
What remains there of Léo Ferré since his death July 14, 1993, this dreary season in which he has gone to rest near his parents in the family vault in the cemetery of Monaco? A portrait, that of a protest singer of the learned physical inspired with its fine lines and austere, his white mane and his implacable gaze. And abundant work that nostalgic always relish, and younger learn to love.
Léo Ferré was made popular in the 1950s and 1960s with “Paris canaille”, “Jolie Mome”, “Sir William”, “the artist of Life,” “Anarchists”, ” with time “,” this is great “, etc., this long series of unforgettable songs. But these iconic titles have hitherto obscured another important part of the work: we know nothing of the compositions performed in his retreat in Tuscany during his last years
This period begins around. 1970, when Léo Ferré separates Madeleine, his second wife, to live openly a budding love affair with Marie-Christine Diaz Alfonso, a graceful Spanish thirty years his junior, met at Gourdon in Lot . Leo’s crazy, it is perceived in these songs dedicated to him as “Christie”, “It is not serious when one is 17 years old”, “When you read me” or “I give you”, which s’ ends with these lines speak for themselves:
“these silences lost after a speech / and these broken wings each time it flies / the time that takes no longer than / Three two? ? a? zero! I give you all this, Mary. “
Soon, Leo and his young mistress decided to leave France for Italy. They first rented a house near Florence before acquiring a large house in Tuscany in the countryside, twenty kilometers from Siena and just minutes from the nearest village, Castellina in Chianti. The couple now lives in the heart of this place of silence and tranquility which, perched high atop the “Hill of mulberry” overlooks hectares of vineyards and olive trees hundreds. Here the grape produces red and white wines of the Chianti Classico, the Ferré cultivate later.
Hours reread Aragon
On 29 May 1970 a first child named Mathieu born of this union still adulterous. Leo hides neither his feelings nor his pride to finally be father. “My son is more beautiful than the Ninth Symphony!”, He exclaims. Once released of Madeleine, a year almost to the day after their divorce was finalized, Leo wife Marie-Christine, March 5, 1974.
Distracted or otherwise eager to get married, the engaged arrive a little early at the rendezvous. “The ceremony was very simple, says Marie-Christine:
” We were dressed like everyday and had invited some relatives. For the record, I remember that we arrived at Castellina framed witnesses when the mayor, very fun, we announced that we were early for a good week. We returned a week later. “
Officially incorporated, the family will still grow with the birth of Marie-Cécile 20 July 1974 and the arrival of Manuella less than four years later.
Italian sun, the Tuscan years unfold pianissimo. early morning Leo accompanies his children to the gates of the small school. the day he smokes Celtic while working at the piano, in his printing or shut up in the shadow of his narrow office installed in the lower part of the house. there he spends hours read Ronsard and Aragon, who still inspire.
in these moments -There, children are invited to leave the master work, encouraging an early age to gain independence of mind. “I do not come in your garden, you do not come into mine” their répète- . does As for Marie-Christine, she remains herself away: “he was big enough and smart to know what he had to do. We had already made him change so much in the past? “
” His presence was provoking “
After the death of the father, remained in its place in the home of Castellina in Chianti. Today we find his poetry collections in the library, his scores, his reels and cassettes carelessly scattered around tape recorders and pianos. for his young children, modest and honest, the memory is so vivid they struggle to retain their sobs when it comes to talk about him.
“Here, when my father was alive, there was always music and love in air says Manuella, the beautiful youngest daughter who is studying art at Carrara. “At the time I was too young to realize who it was, but today it is not a day goes by that I listen to his songs. His lyrics lead me, they often helped me in delicate times. ”
Marie-Cécile, a student in comparative literature, grief bordering on anger. “His presence was very exciting, it was he who made me want to know the literature Shit, this is damage, it is so much like him and me? I like reading, for example. and I live in Paris for three years and I know he would have loved this apartment? I have shown him a lot of things! “
the bottom table, Mathieu now occupies the place of the family head. The eldest son also took the direction of Memory and the Sea, a publishing company founded by Leo in 1992 for freely manage the publications of books, textbooks, partitions, etc. As such, Mathieu has undertaken for some time a systematic study of the archives, on the whole discography, books (novels or collections of song texts), scores, etc.
“I want to do everything in my power to ensure that the work of my father to be recognized at fair value and in all its richness “ he explains. Mathieu also tries to find any new songs in the bands, tapes and writings.
“Metamec”, “Death … Death … Death”
Through these research, he recently discovered a flyer on a disc project (probably double or triple album) for September 1992 and entitled “Metamec”. This should ideally include seventeen tracks, but despite his best efforts, Mathieu could muster only nine titles soberly recorded, with only recourse voice and piano while Ferré projected to be accompanied, as he often did in his last years by the Symphony Orchestra of Milan.
there are rivers poems ( “Metamec” or “Death … Death … Death … “), a tribute to Zaza, the companion of the famous Pépée, the two chimpanzees singer his wife Madeleine was murdered in April 1968 at the age of dementia, or this” Opus X “, a piece for piano that will forever remain an enigma . “At the time of its composition, Leo was thinking of a particular text?” Asks Matthew.
This album inaugurates a series of unpublished publications, reprints of albums (mostly in their original sleeve) and books, all made between 1975 and 1992, the outputs will be distilled throughout this year.
hundreds of worms
in that period, Léo Ferré returned to his first two passions, music and poetry, curbed the days of its glory, when it was necessary to sing the lyrics and melodies calibrated to be heard of the show- biz. By listening to this unknown together, we discover a free of these constraints artist. Ferré develops conventional agreements inspired by Ravel, Beethoven or Wagner.
The “small” music gave way to large philharmonic and symphony orchestras as the singer directs himself, wand in hand. As for the texts, when they are not coming from Rimbaud’s poetry, Verlaine, Baudelaire or Apollinaire, they approach. Ferré takes special care in the choice of words and their musicality, letting go his pen to write to hundreds. We are far from the three regulatory minutes.
“Metamec” probably not “the last Ferré.” Other novel will appear in the coming years. We already know that Marie-Christine has a cassette offered by legacy Leo, who told him: “They are yours, you’ll do whatever you want.” It contains a considerable amount of Baudelaire’s poems, Apollinaire, Rimbaud and Verlaine illustrated Ferré signed music. Marie-Christine promises to share a future date with the admirers of her husband. “It would be selfish to keep them, she said, especially since I know they eagerly await them.”
Léo Ferré was born August 24, 1916 in Monaco. At 10, he discovered Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, which triggered his passion for music. After studying political science and learning the piano, he began his singing career in Monte Carlo as the Forlane. In 1945, he met Edith Piaf is crucial: it encourages and begins to turn into cabaret music hall; then, in 1946, he met Jean-Roger Caussimon: this is the beginning of a fruitful collaboration. His songs will also be sung by Marie Lebas, Catherine Sauvage and Juliette Greco.