Elsa Barraine (in 1940) - one of the true bright lights in Modern French music.
Elsa Barraine (in 1940) – one of the true bright lights in Modern French music.

. . . or click on the link here for Audio Player – Elsa Barraine – Symphony Nr. 2 – Paris Conservatory Orch. -Cluytens – circa 1953 – ORTF-Paris Radio – Gordon Skene Sound Collection.

Elsa Barraine is a name not heard very much lately. But in the 1930s, all the way through the 1950s, she was considered one of the outstanding French composers of the mid-20th century. During World War 2 her composition activities were curtailed as she was an active member of the French resistance, as well as head of singing for French National Radio. After the War she resumed composing as well as becoming Recording Director for the prestigious Le Chant de Monde Record company. In 1953 (around the time of this recording), she was appointed to the faculty at the Paris Conservatoire, a position she held until 1972.

Her Symphony Number 2 was composed in 1938 and, aside from this radio broadcast from around 1953 (no exact dates on these French Radio discs unfortunately) with the Paris Conservatory conducted by the legendary André Cluytens, there is another performance from the 1960s featuring Manuel Rosenthal.

This may very well be the premier recorded performance of this symphony, and it certainly amply sparks interest to hear what else this accomplished composer was doing. I had run one of her chamber pieces two years ago – and at the moment, these are the only two pieces of hers I know of. I am sure there is much more, and it will no doubt surface.

But for the time, here is a nice discovery of a work by a composer whose legacy has been overlooked in recent years which needs to be remedied.


Liked it? Take a second to support gordonskene on Patreon!