MESSAGER André, Solo de concours for solo clarinet

Starting in 1897, the French Ministry of Education commissioned a new solo de concours for the annual competition at the Paris Conservatoire. Within a few years, these included works by Charles-Marie Widor, André Messager, Augusta Holmès, Reynaldo Hahn and Debussy (the Première rhapsodie). Messager’s piece was written for the competition in 1899. By this time, he had become an extremely successful theatre composer, with works such as the ballet Les deux pigeons and the comic opera Véronique, but in 1898 he agreed to become conductor of the Opéra-comique in Paris and for several years had much less time for composing. He conducted the first performances in France of Puccini’s Tosca and Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel as well as the world premieres of Charpentier’s Louise and, most importantly, Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, a performance which prompted Debussy to describe Messager as ‘the ideal conductor’. A lifelong friend of Fauré, Messager was an astonishingly versatile musician and his Solo de concours is an attractive demonstration of his ability to test virtuosity at the same time as producing memorable melodies. An Allegro non troppo gives way to a central Andante before a return of the opening material and a brief, brilliant coda.  

 

© Nigel Simeone 

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