Lucien Denis Gabriel Albéric Magnard (French pronunciation: [lysjɛ̃ dəni ɡabʁijɛl albeʁik maɲaʁ]; 9 June 1865 – 3 September 1914) was a French composer, sometimes referred to as a "French Bruckner", though there are significant differences between the two composers. Magnard became a national hero in 1914 when he refused to surrender his property to German invaders and died defending it.
Lucien Denis Gabriel Albéric Magnard
June 9, 1865
|Died||September 3, 1914 (aged 49)|
"Manoir de Fontaines" at Baron
|Guercoeur, opera (1897–1900), Op. 12|
Magnard was born in Paris, the son of Francis Magnard, a bestselling author and editor of Le Figaro. Albéric could have chosen to live the comfortable life that his family's wealth afforded him, but he disliked being called "fils du Figaro" and decided to make a career for himself in music, based entirely on his own talent and without any help from family connections. After military service and graduating from law school, he entered the Paris Conservatoire, where he studied counterpoint with Théodore Dubois and went to the classes of Jules Massenet. There he met Vincent d'Indy, with whom he studied fugue and orchestration for four years, writing his first two Symphonies under d'Indy's tutelage. Magnard dedicated his Symphony No. 1 to d'Indy; and the two men always respected each other, despite their marked political differences (Magnard was pro-Dreyfus).
Francis Magnard did what he could to support Albéric's career while trying to respect his son's wish to make it on his own. This included publicity in Le Figaro. With the death of his father in 1894, Albéric Magnard's grief was complicated by his simultaneous gratitude to and annoyance with his father.
In 1896, Magnard married Julie Creton, became a counterpoint tutor at the Schola Cantorum (recently founded by d'Indy) and wrote his Symphony No. 3 in B-flat minor.
Magnard published many of his own compositions at his own expense, from Opus 8 to Opus 20. Similar to the oeuvres of Paul Dukas and Henri Dutilleux, Magnard's musical output numbered only 22 works with opus numbers.
In 1914, at the beginning of World War I, Magnard sent his wife and two daughters to a safe hiding place while he stayed behind to guard the estate of "Manoir de Fontaines" at Baron, Oise. When German soldiers trespassed on the property, Magnard fired at them, killing one soldier, and they fired back before setting the house on fire. It is believed that Magnard died in the fire, although his body could not be identified in the ruins. The fire destroyed all of Magnard's unpublished scores, including the orchestral score of his early opera Yolande, the orchestral score of Guercoeur (the piano reduction had been published, and the orchestral score of the second act was extant), and a more recent song cycle.
Guy Ropartz, who had led a concert performance of the third act of Guercoeur at Nancy in February 1908, reconstructed from memory the orchestration of the acts that had been lost in the fire. The Paris Opéra gave the work a belated world premiere in 1931. (A complete recording of Guercœur was released by EMI Angel/Pathé Marconi in 1990. It features Hildegard Behrens, Nadine Denize, José van Dam, and Gary Lakes, with the Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse conducted by Michel Plasson.)
Magnard's musical style is typical of contemporary French composers, but occasionally, as in the four completed symphonies, certain passages foreshadow the music of Gustav Mahler. His use of fugue and incorporation of chorale, together with the grandeur of expression in his mature orchestral works, have caused him to be called a "French Bruckner". Although Bruckner used cyclical forms long before d'Indy "trademarked" the concept to César Franck's name, Magnard's handling of cyclical form is more Franckian than Brucknerian. In his operas, Magnard used Richard Wagner's leitmotiv technique.
Magnard's chamber works include a string quartet, a quintet for piano and winds, a piano trio, a violin sonata (in G, opus 13), and a cello sonata (in A, opus 20). A few more were published posthumously, including the Quatre poèmes en musique, four songs for baritone and piano.
- Trois Pièces pour piano, Op. 1
- Suite dans le style ancien, Op. 2, for orchestra
- Six Poèmes, Op. 3, for voice and piano: 1. "À elle"; 2. "Invocation"; 3. "Le Rhin allemand"; 4. "Nocturne"; 5. "Ad fontem"; 6. "Au poète"
- Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 4 (1890)
- Yolande, Op. 5, opera (1888–1891)
- Symphony No. 2 in E, Op. 6 (1893)
- Promenades, Op. 7, for piano (1894)
- Quintet in D minor, Op. 8, for piano, flute, oboe, clarinet & bassoon
- Chant funèbre, Op. 9 (1895)
- Overture, Op. 10 (1895)
- Symphony No. 3 in B-flat minor, Op. 11 (1896)
- Guercoeur, Op. 12, opera (1897–1900)
- Sonata in G, Op. 13, for violin and piano (1903)
- Hymne à la justice, Op. 14 (1903)
- Quatre Poèmes, for baritone and piano, Op. 15 (1903)
- String Quartet in E minor, Op. 16 (1904)
- Hymne a Venus, Op. 17 (1906)
- Trio in F minor, Op. 18, for piano trio (1905)
- Bérénice, Op. 19, opera (1905–1909)
- Sonata in A major, Op. 20, for cello and piano (1912)
- Symphony No. 4 in C-sharp minor, Op. 21 (1913)
- Douze Poèmes, Op. 22
- En Dieu mon espérance
- À Henriette
Albéric Magnard, La Musique de chambre, Timpani Records, 4 CDs (Oct. 2014)
- CD 1: Violin Sonata in G major, Cello Sonata in A major
- CD 2: Piano Trio in F minor, Piano Quintet in D minor (for piano and wind instruments)
- CD 3: String Quartet in E minor
- CD 4: (spoken word; discussion in French of works with music excerpts between Harry Halbreich and Stéphane Topakian)
The four symphonies have been recorded by:
- The Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse, conducted by Michel Plasson (EMI Classics, 1983/1987/1989)
- The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Jean-Ives Ossonce (Hyperion, 1997)
- The Malmö Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Sanderling (BIS Records, 2000)
- The Freiburg Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Fabrice Bollon (Naxos Records, 2019/2020)
- M.-D. Calvocoressi, "Albéric Magnard" The Musical Times October 1, 1921, p. 683. "To all appearances, Albéric Magnard was born with the traditional silver spoon in his mouth. The only son of the wealthy influential editor of a leading Paris daily paper, it seemed as though none of the difficulties with which earnest-minded composers generally have to contend were to exist for him. Indeed, his first works were welcomed with an eagerness whose real motives he was not long in suspecting."
- Malcolm MacDonald, "Magnard, (Lucien Denis Gabriel) Albéric", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001).
- Andrew Thomson, CD review, The Musical Times September 1992, p. 458
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