January 5, 1879 - May 8, 1951
born in Paris, France, composed during the Modern period
Marcel Tournier is among the relatively few important composers who were also virtuoso harpists. Not surprisingly, his output is dominated by the harp, though he did compose choral and stage works, as well as other instrumental compositions, including chamber and piano pieces. Tournier's music is largely Impressionistic, though his melodies were often tinged by a Romantic spirit. While there are a fair amount of concert performances and recordings of his works, Tournier's music has generally remained outside the standard repertory, though there is at least one piece, the Etude de Concert "Au Matin," that appears regularly in concert and on recordings. But Tournier's fortunes could well be changing for the better, since many recordings of his music have been issued since the turn of the new century.
Marcel Tournier was born in Paris on January 5, 1879. His was a musical family, consisting of four brothers and two sisters. His father was a luthier and encouraged his sons to play a stringed instrument. Young Marcel exhibited unusual talent and enrolled at the Paris Conservatory at age 16 to study harp. His teachers there included Alphonse Hasselmans and Raphael Martenot.
Tournier entered the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Paris in 1897 to further his harp studies. He won first prize in harp performance there two years later, but then decided to focus on composition. His most important composition teacher over the next several years was Charles-Marie Widor.
1909 was a watershed year for the young composer: Tournier won second prize in composition for his Cantata La Roussalka at the Prix de Rome and captured the Rossini Prize for his cantata Laura et Petrarch. From the early 1900s, Tournier worked as harpist for the Concert Lamoureux Association Orchestra. In 1912 he succeeded his harp teacher Hasselmans on the faculty at the Paris Conservatory. Tournier would hold this position until his retirement in 1948. Tournier's wife Renée Lénars (they married in 1922), also a virtuoso harpist, served on the faculty with him there from 1912-1933.
Tournier remained active as a composer at the conservatory. Among his more notable compositions during this period was the 1922 Towards the fountain in the wood, for solo harp. He also wrote his popular Au Matin Etude in 1925, the same time he launched a series of pieces, Images, which would be issued in four suites between 1925-1932. Tournier died in Paris on May 8, 1951. ~ Robert Cummings, Rovi