Music of relatively unknown French composer Maurice Delage this weekend. The presumed broadcast premier of Bateau ivre (1954) after the poem by Arthur Rimbaud. The French National Orchestra is conducted by Gaston Poulet.
Maurice Delage (1879–1961) was a French composer and pianist who showed a profound interest in the music and culture of the Far East. Delage began his study of music and composition during the post-Romantic period which was a time of great change. New musical and artistic thoughts were being experimented with, especially by composers and artists who were thought to be very radical and extreme in the directions that they were following. There were different schools of thought that were slowly being introduced from areas other than the dominance of France, Russia, Germany, Flanders, and Bohemia. This was a time for Spain, England, the United States, and India to influence the ending of one era and the beginning of another.
He was a student of Ravel and a member of “Les Apaches,” an assemblage of 14 musicians, artists, and writers (hooligans) who met weekly to discuss and commiserate about the culture and politics of the 1900s. From the music and culture of Europe, Delage turned to a more exotic sound in his works after being influenced by his travels to India and the East. Ravel’s “La vallée des cloches” from Miroirs was dedicated to Delage while the rest of the collection was inscribed to the members of Les Apaches.
Maurice Delage was not known as a prodigious composer nor a musician who could write quickly and easily, yet, he displayed an extraordinary capacity for integrating music as a universal language. This became apparent in his works which reflected the cultures and traditions of non-European peoples. The work “Quatre poemes hindous,” which was written for piano and a vocalist, and also for violin, viola, cello, and vocalist, displayed his interest in the civilizations of India and the East and his impetus to share these insights with those from a western culture. Through such works in which he improvised Indian tonalities and harmonies within a western format, European appreciation of another culture was facilitated through the music of Maurice Delage.
Here is what very might be the premier performance of this work, as performed by the French National orchestra, led by Gaston Poulet in this broadcast by the ORTF in Paris from 1954.