The music of Maurice Emmanuel this weekend. The second piece in a series of pieces performed during the 100th birthday celebrations for Emmanuel held in 1962. This Sonatine Number 6 was dedicated to her and was written in 1925.
Yvonne Lefébure (29 June 1898, Ermont – 23 January 1986, Paris) was a French pianist and teacher. Born in Ermont, she studied with Alfred Cortot at the Conservatoire de Paris, taking a premier prix in piano and numerous other subjects. She performed with the Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux and the Orchestre des Concerts Colonne and in recital. She performed at the first Prades Festival in 1950. She taught at the École Normale de Musique, Conservatoire de Paris and Conservatoire Européen, and gave masterclasses at her own festival in Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Among her pupils were Dinu Lipatti, Samson François, Imogen Cooper, Janina Fialkowska, André Laplante, Branka Musulin, Catherine Collard, Michaël Levinas, Françoise Thinat (fr), Jean-Marc Savelli, Évelyne Crochet (fr), Hélène Boschi, Martin Hughes and Avi Schönfeld. Aside from her stellar list of students, she was also the recipient of numerous dedications of contemporary works, the piano music of Maurice Emmanuel being among them.
Maurice Emmanuel (2 May 1862 – 14 December 1938) was a French composer of classical music born in Bar-sur-Aube, a small town in the Champagne-Ardenne region of northeastern France. It was there where he first heard his grandfather’s printing press which according to his granddaughter, Anne Eichner-Emmanuel, first gave him the feeling of rhythm.
Brought up in Dijon, Marie François Maurice Emmanuel became a chorister at Beaune cathedral after his family moved to the city in 1869. According to his granddaughter, Anne Eichner-Emmanuel, he was influenced by the brass bands on the streets of Beaune and by the “songs of the grape pickers which imprinted melodies in his memory so different from all the classical music he was taught in the academy of music.” Subsequently, he went to Paris, and he entered the Paris Conservatoire, where his composition teacher was Léo Delibes. However, Delibes’ strong disapproval of his early modal compositions (Cello Sonata, Op. 2, Sonatinas No. 1, Op. 4 and No. 2, Op. 5) caused a rift between them and subsequently caused him to study with Ernest Guiraud also at the Conservatoire. At the Conservatoire he came to know Claude Debussy who was also a pupil there. In addition, he attended the Conservatoire classes of César Franck, about whom he wrote a short book in 1930 (César Franck: Etude Critique).
Emmanuel pursued a notable academic career. He wrote a treatise in 1895 on the music of Ancient Greece, and was appointed professor of the history of music at the Conservatoire in 1909. His students included Olivier Messiaen and Henri Dutilleux. Emmanuel’s interests included folksong, Oriental music, and exotic modes — his use of these modes in various of his works had appalled Delibes, who had vetoed his entering for the Prix de Rome. Other appointments included choirmaster at the church of Sainte-Clotilde from 1904 to 1907, assisted by Émile Poillot, during the tenure of organist Charles Tournemire.
The compositions of Emmanuel, seldom heard today even in France, include operas after Aeschylus (Prométhée enchaîné and Salamine) as well as symphonies and string quartets. Probably the creations of his most often performed now are his six sonatines for solo piano, which (like many of his other pieces) demonstrate his eclectic academic interests. The first of the sonatines draws on the music of Burgundy, while the second incorporates birdsong, the third uses a Burgundian folk tune in its finale, and the fourth is subtitled en divers modes hindous (“in various Hindu modes”).
There is one other piece performed at this concert which I will run in the next few weeks. If you missed it – I ran his Sonatine Number 3 several months ago, as both were on the same program.
Six minutes – but six pretty joyous ones.