The music of Maurice Emmanuel this weekend – a name which may not ring any bells, but a prolific composer who was very active during the early years of the 20th Century. It’s only been in recent decades that his music has gone neglected and his life as a composer is somewhat shrouded in mystery. That only 30 or 45 of the considerably larger number works have survived only confirms the mystery to a degree.
This weekend it’s Overture pour une Conte Gail, a work first performed in 1920 at a concert in Vichy conducted by Philippe Gaubert. This performance is features the legendary French Conductor/Composer/professor Eugène Bigot, leading the French National orchestra in a radio performance from circa 1955.
Unfortunately, like so many of these French broadcasts, there are no date of performance, so much of it is guesswork. But The FNO under Bigot handle this piece with loving care and certainly make a good case for an investigation of other works by Emmanuel as a composer who should not be subject to neglect. As a contemporary of Dukas, Ravel,Debussy and Roussel, Emmanuel’s contribution to French music during the first decades of the 20th century may have been overshadowed by his contemporaries, but it was valid and well-conceived nonetheless.
The Overture pour une Conte Gai is a short work; just over 5 minutes. It was written in 1890 but went unpublished until its premier in 1920. But since its premier, it has received a number of performances, both in the concert hall and on the radio from the 1930s to the late 1950s.
Needless to say, here is a composer that, if you’re not familiar with, you really should check out for more hidden gems.
But in the meantime, enjoy this one.