Back to France this week for music of a highly prolific, but almost totally unknown composer outside his native France; Roger Calmel (1920-1998). During his lifetime, he composed over 400 pieces of music, covering almost every genre,from Chamber Music to Opera.
Originally from the Languedoc, he undertook his first musical studies in Béziers, in particular with Paul Fouquet.
In 1944, he moved to Paris to study composition at the César Franck school, before entering the Paris conservatory and winning first prize in several classes as of Counterpoint and Fugue (Plé-Claussade Class), Aesthetic class (Oliveir Messiaen class) and Composition class (Darius Milhaud class). His training benefited also from Pierre Shaeffer’s influence.
The next few years witness the birth of his first major works. His personal musicality stood up through an atonal essence language that renounces neither polytonality nor tonal pivot usage.
He won the Musical Grand Prize of Paris (1958), the First Prize of the Concerts-Réferendum-Pasdeloup, the First Prize of the French musical confederation (1959), the Grand Prize of the Divonne Composition International Competition (1960), and the Grand Prize of the French Institute of chamber music (1976).
For many years Roger Calmel taught at French Radio and Television children’s choir school, before becoming the head of the Darius Milhaud music conservatory in the XIVth arrondissement in Paris.
From 1991 to 1998, he worked as an inspector in Ateliers Musicaux for the Paris council. Those pedagogic activities had, without any doubts, an influence on the musician’s career. Since then, and following the requests made by the “A Coeur joie” movement, Pueri Cantores and many other festivals and choirs, he spent a large part of his time writing several works based on vocal music.
Over many years, he also acted as artistic director of the Côte Languedocienne festival, a festival that he set up in Sérignan.
The Organist, Pierre Cochereau is considerably better known. He was born on July 9, 1924, in Saint-Mandé, near Paris. In 1929, after a few months of violin instruction, he began to take piano lessons with Marius-François Gaillard. Marguerite Long became his piano teacher in 1933, and three years later, Paul Pannesay. In 1938, Cochereau was introduced to the pipe organ by Marie-Louise Girod, a student of Marcel Dupré. He continued his organ studies with André Fleury and Paul Delafosse, whom Cochereau succeeded as titular organist at St. Roch in Paris in 1942.
After one year of law studies, Cochereau decided to dedicate himself to a musical career, and entered the Conservatory of Paris in 1943. He left the Conservatory in 1949 with first prizes in harmony (class of Maurice Duruflé), music history, fugue and counterpoint (class of Noël Gallon), composition (class of Tony Aubin), and organ (class of Marcel Dupré).
In September 1948, Cochereau made his first recital tour to Hungary. One year later, he married Nicole Lacroix, a pianist and composer, with whom he had two children: Jean-Marc (1949–2011), conductor and late director of the Tours Conservatory, and Marie-Pierre, a professional harpist.
In 1949, at age 26, Pierre Cochereau was appointed director of the Le Mans Conservatory, where he stayed until 1956. In 1955, he succeeded Léonce de Saint-Martin (1886–1954) as titular organist at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
In 1956, his recording of Marcel Dupré’s Symphonie-Passion, Op. 23 was awarded the Grand Prix du Disque. The same year, Cochereau made his first of 25 recital tours to the United States.
In 1961, Cochereau became director of the Nice Conservatory, which he left in 1979, accepting the directorship of the Lyon Conservatory.
Pierre Cochereau died on March 6, 1984, in Lyon after suffering from a cerebral hemorrhage. He was buried at the Cimetière Belleville in Paris.
This performance of Calmel’s Concerto for Organ, Strings and Percussion was recorded for the ORTF Overseas Transcription division, shortly after its premier in 1968. It may be the only known recording of this work, certainly there are none currently in print.
Ready to explore some unfamiliar territory? Hit the play button and see you next week!