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Pierre De Breville

February 21, 1861 - September 24, 1949
born in Bar-le-Duc, Meuse, composed during the Modern period
French composer Pierre de Bréville originally prepared to take a law degree in order to join the diplomatic corps and please his parents, but changed his mind and went into music instead. Bréville studied at the Conservatoire with Theodore Dubois, but was most significantly impacted by his later studies with César Franck and considered himself among Franck's "circle." Bréville traveled to Bayreuth alongside Debussy and Fauré in 1888 and made the acquaintance of Vincent d'Indy there, met with Liszt somewhat earlier, and was acquainted with Edvard Grieg. A trip to Constantinople in the early 1890s accounts for a certain "Orientalist" strain found in Bréville's music, particularly as exemplified in the symphonic poem Stamboul (1895). Bréville remained close friends with d'Indy, who named him to his first teaching position at the Schola Cantorum in 1898; together they worked along with other members of the "Bande de Franck" to complete Franck's unfinished opera Ghisèle.

Bréville was best known in his lifetime as a teacher and critic; he wrote for Mercure de France and other publications throughout his career and taught at both the Paris Conservatoire and the Schola Cantorum; he succeeded d'Indy as head of the Société Nationale de Musique. Bréville also wrote a significant memoir of Franck, Les Fioretti du père Franck, which appeared in serialized form in Mercure de France between 1935 and 1938. As to his compositions, Bréville considered the opera Eros vainqueur, completed in 1905, to be his most important achievement; it was not given in a full-scale production until 1932, but an early concert performance presented in 1910 featured soprano Claire Croiza, who also championed Bréville's songs and other works. Bréville's worklist is geared in the main toward vocal music, and his songs -- mainly the earliest ones from the 1880s and '90s -- gained the greatest amount of traction among any of his works during his lifetime. In addition to the songs, Bréville composed another unfinished opera St. François d'Assise, incidental music for plays, an overture and a handful of symphonic poems, sacred and secular music for chorus, chamber music (including five sonatas for violin and piano; the first (1918) being exceptionally important), and works for piano and organ; his last completed piece, in 1946, was a saxophone quartet. Stylistically, Bréville moved from Franckian post-romanticism to a mildly impressionist idiom, but little of Bréville's music has been heard since his death in Paris at the age of 88. ~ Uncle Dave Lewis , Rovi
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