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ClassicsOnline Home » MAILLARD, R.: Surviving after Hiroshima / Concerto Grosso / Concerto da Camera No. 2 (Jouffroy, Royal Philharmonic, Dervis-Bournias)
Awarded the Prix de Rome in 1955, René Maillard achieved fame as a young French composer with works such as the virtuosic, Baroque-inspired Concerto Grosso and the Concerto da Camera No. 2, which combines classical and folk elements, before taking up an executive career outside the world of music. Returning to composition in 2000, Maillard has continued to create new works of power and beauty such as Surviving after Hiroshima, based on the dramatic true story of Kyoko Hama.
By Jack Sullivan
American Record Guide
René Maillard (b. 1931)
Surviving after Hiroshima • Concerto Grosso • Concerto da Camera No. 2
Shortly after René Maillard had received his Prix de Rome, the realities of life quickly got the better of his ‘great expectations’. The self-sufficiency and philosophical independence that he had always demonstrated forced him to change direction and reenter ordinary life. Nevertheless the few works that he had had the time to write showed that he was already fully master of his art. Belonging to no particular clique, he gave expression to his profound sensitivity and natural imagination. His Concerto da Camera No. 1, written in 1953 and given its first public performance at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris on 21 May 1954 by Bernard Wahl conducting the Versailles Chamber Orchestra, met with a certain success at the time; here was a sincere, direct work, intended for an almost popular audience. After a pause lasting more than forty years, René Maillard returned to composition at the beginning of the new millennium.
Born on 8 April 1931 in Bois-Colombes, on the outskirts of Paris, René Maillard received his secondary schooling at the Collège Gay-Lussac in Limoges during the Second World War. He remembers perfectly his very first violin teacher in that city, Charles Paillier, whom he continues to hold in high esteem. He went on to become a student of Arthur Hoérée (1897–1986), professor of composition at the Ecole Normale de Musique and friend of Albert Roussel and Arthur Honegger, whom he described as a ‘brilliant character’. He also attended the Versailles Conservatoire, where he benefited from the teaching of Aimé Steck (winner of the Prix de Rome in 1922) in his composition class, before entering the Paris Conservatoire. There, he studied harmony, counterpoint and fugue with Samuel-Rousseau and Noël Gallon, obtaining first prize in each before enrolling in Tony Aubin’s composition class. In 1955 he competed for the Prix de Rome with Le rire de Gargantua, a lyric scene on a libretto by Randal Lemoine based on Rabelais, which was awarded the ‘Second Grand Prix’. The work was performed on 28 June 1955 by the Orchestra of the Opéra-Comique under the direction of Jean Fournet, with soloists René Bianco, Louis Rialland and Jacqueline Cauchard.
René Maillard had not waited for his Prix de Rome before courting the Muse. In particular he had already composed an Essai chorégraphique for piano (1949–50), given its première in 1950 at the Théâtre Montansier in Versailles, a wind quartet (1950) and a very fine piano sonata (1951), which was performed at the Salle Cortot of the Ecole Nationale de Musique on 16 April 1953, by Hélène Pignari. This, moreover, was the first public appearance of the Groupe Pentacorde, made up of five young composers of varied aesthetic proclivities: René Maillard, Pierre Doury, Jacques Boisgallais, Bernard Wahl and the Canadian Clermont Pépin, who sometimes performed at Pierre d’Arquennes’ Triptyque concerts. On this occasion the music critics praised the work’s incisive style, studied rhythm and very keen sensitivity. On 31 March 1955, Jean Della Valle played the Sonata in the same hall. This piano work, also broadcast on 21 March and 13 May 1953, was followed shortly thereafter by the Sonata No. 1 for viola and piano, performed on 15 February 1954 at the Cercle Paul Valéry by Colette Delagarde and Denise Chirat. Another sonata written during the same period, for violin and piano, was given its first public performance by Robert Quattrocchi and André Collard on 1 June 1954 at the Salle Cortot, as part of the Groupe Pentacorde concerts. Maurice Fueri and Jean Hubeau also performed it later on in broadcasts on 17 February and 15 May 1957. Revised in 2006, this new version received its première in Paris on 28 April 2006 with Geneviève Laurenceau and Lorène de Ratuld.
René Maillard’s Concerto da Camera No. 1 dates from this period. One of his major works, it was revised in 2010. Composed for strings alone in two months during the summer of 1953, this piece was conceived in the spirit of a concerto grosso, with an important part for the orchestra’s solo instruments. It consists of three movements: a Moderato, written in sonata form with two themes; an Andante non troppo, using a single theme presented by the soloists then taken up by the various sections of the orchestra; and finally, an Allegro assai with a main subject and, in the background, allusions to folklore. Broadcast on 4 May 1954 by the Armand Belai Chamber Orchestra, then by that of Gérard Devos, this Concerto was next performed at the Ecole Normale de Musique on 21 May, then by Louis de Froment conducting the ORTF Chamber Orchestra on 23 December 1956, and later, on 15 May 1958, by the Orchestra of Nice. 1956 was particularly rich creatively, with a String Trio, revised in 2005, Le Rouge-gorge, a song on a poem by Paul Fort, a Serenade for wind quintet and a lyric scene for soprano, tenor, baritone and orchestra on a libretto by Charles Clerc after Molière’s Le mariage forcé, given its première at the Paris Opéra on 27 June 1956.
In 1957, René Maillard joined EMI France as artistic director. For three years he was, in a sense, the ‘façonnier’ or ‘shaper’ (to use his term) of great artists such as Samson François, Paul Tortelier or even Villa-Lobos. But this type of work hardly corresponded to his aspirations; in addition, the job did not pay well and left him not a moment’s respite for composing. Greatly vexed and increasingly running up against an institutional system which discouraged young composers from performing, René Maillard resigned from EMI, gave up any thought of a musical career and resolved to pursue his professional life in a completely different field. He was recruited as a senior executive by an important American pharmaceutical laboratory (later absorbed by Laboratoires Roche) where, in particular, he ran the sales and training sectors. Shortly before abandoning music with regret, he nonetheless composed an orchestral work entitled Tre partite attaccate (later renamed Concerto da Camera No. 2), first performed by Serge Baudo at the Aix-en-Provence Festival on 23 July 1960, and above all, a Contre Pas for wind quintet and string orchestra (revised in 2003 with the addition of a finale, Adagio moderato - Allegro molto e giocoso, and renamed Concerto Grosso). Commissioned in 1961 by the French State, it was not performed at the time owing to lack of money for the orchestral parts. It would be nearly a half-century before it was played and recorded (2009). He also wrote a few other works in the 1950s or 1960s, in particular a three-part Suite sur des thèmes populaires for orchestra (1958–59), Le Nid à cousins, La Danse des Farfadets (commissioned by French Radio (l’ORTF), and published by Sofirad), Pour la fête du Printemps (l’ORTF, Paul Bonneau) and light music (Editions Salvet), recorded by EMI and Barclay.
Subsequently, after he had retired and settled on the Côte d’Azur where he gave himself over to his lifelong passions, golf and bridge, and after a hiatus of more than forty years René Maillard returned to composition at the beginning of the millennium, at the prompting of Nicolas Bacri. He wrote a second sonata for viola and piano for the Arnaud Thorette-Johan Farjot duo, a Petite Suite for two double basses, a string quartet premièred on 2 February 2005 by the Ensemble Syntonia, and revised his String Trio at the request of the Solistes de Cannes Trio (Berthilde Dufour, Eszter Biro and Philippe Cauchefer), who gave the first performance on 21 February 2005 at the Théâtre des Variétés in Monaco. In late 2003 Nicolas Bacri asked him to join Cantus Formus, the composers’ association that he had just founded. It was in the course of one of this group’s concerts, on 13 October 2004 in Paris, that his Viola Sonata No. 2 had its première. Since then, composition has continued to occupy him and, happily, he has written several additional works, including three pieces for organ: Sonata (2007), Toccata (2008) and Hymn to Saint Denis (2010); three pieces of chamber music: Nocturne for cello and piano (2005), Sonate en duo for violins (2005, recorded by Triton) and Prélude, aria et fugue for cello and organ (2007); two pieces for solo piano: a Toccata (2009) and Poèmes (2010); vocal works: Cinq mélodies on erotic poems by Jean-Marc Stricker (2006, first performed in April 2006 at the Péniche Opéra) and Fébrilité, a cycle of three songs on poems by Dominique Pagnier (2008), as well as a cantata for mezzo-soprano, chorus and orchestra, on a poem by Monique Charles based on the true story of Kyoko Hama, entitled Survivre après Hiroshima (2006–07). Subtitled A message of hope, this hymn to life and song of hope is a striking, profoundly human work in which are found all the composer’s qualities: sensitivity, clarity of discourse, a rich orchestral palette and timeless writing which abounds in new ideas. In it one hears the continuity of the French musical tradition as represented by d’Indy, Dukas, Ravel and Florent Schmitt. René Maillard’s published works are available from Le Chant du Monde or Delatour France.
Denis Havard de la Montagne
English version by John Tyler Tuttle
Surviving after Hiroshima, Op. 24: A message of hope
Surviving after Hiroshima relates the poignant story of Kyoko Hama, aged twenty in 1945, fleeing the destruction of Osaka to seek refuge with relatives in Hiroshima. She would not escape the atrocity caused by the explosion of the first atomic bomb and owes her life only to the precarious shelter that protected her from the lethal rain. Kyoko still lives in Osaka, where her daughter teaches philosophy. She herself currently gives lectures on her past, lectures that have been highly praised in the Japanese popular press. This cantata is a song of hope, a hymn to life: surviving against hatred and war in a world of mankind reunited at last.
Concerto Grosso for Wind Quintet and String Orchestra
Maillard’s Concerto Grosso adopts the baroque form where the orchestra is divided into two groups: the soloists or concertino and the rest of the orchestra, the ripieno or grosso. In the first and third movements, the solo group carries on a constant dialogue with the string orchestra. In the second movement, Tema con variazioni, the individual interventions are spread out, each soloist trying to outdo the others in brilliance up to the fifth variation, the crowning piece in dazzling runs. The work ends with a fast movement, its themes being projections of those heard previously and leading to a majestic conclusion in the form of a hymn.
Concerto da Camera No. 2 for String Orchestra
Concerto da Camera No. 2 is structured as a classicalstyle divertimento in which the orchestral soloists play an important rôle. After their initial statement, the main themes introduce secondary themes which are often inspired by folk-music. These are then taken up by the whole orchestra. The final movement begins with a fugal exposition on an incisive rhythm and concludes with a reminder of the main themes with the addition of a trumpet ad libitum. The work was first performed at the 1960 Aix-en-Provence Festival, under Serge Baudo.
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MAILLARD, R.: Surviving after Hiroshima / Concerto...