Henri Sauguet: Springing Surprises

By Wood, Marc | Musical Times, Spring 2001 | Go to article overview

Henri Sauguet: Springing Surprises


Wood, Marc, Musical Times


In his second article MARC WOOD introduces the music of another neglected French petit-maitre

LIKE SO MANY FRENCH composers of the mid-twentieth century, Henri Sauguet is mostly known to British audiences as just a reference in a textbook, mentioned in association with the circle of composers influenced by Satie. His music is virtually never played in Britain and remains largely unrecorded on British record labels. The centenary of his birth, on 18 May 1901, provides a welcome opportunity to re-evaluate the life and music of this quintessentially French composer, whose oeuvre contains not a few surprises.

Sauguet was born Henri Pierre Poupard in Bordeaux in 1901, only later taking his mother's maiden name as his surname on the insistence of his father, who feared that his family name be besmirched by association with avant-garde musical antics. Sauguet displayed an interest in music from an early age, becoming a choral scholar and studying the organ. Much taken with the church, he thought at first of becoming a priest, before being appointed as a church organist at the age of just fifteen. For the young Henri, the organ was the main medium through which he heard music: he was bowled over by the music of Debussy despite having heard it only on the organ, an instrument for which it could not be less suited.

At the age of sixteen, inspired by Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande, Sauguet attempted his own Maeterlinck opera, one based on the Belgian symbolist's esoteric drama Aladine et Palomides; only a Prelude from this piece now survives. The following year Debussy died, an event which greatly upset Sauguet, but he none the less continued to write music. Eventually a friend showed one of his compositions to Joseph Canteloube (18791957), the renowned composer of the Chants d'Auvergne, who offered to teach him in his home town of Montauban and even found him a job in the Prefecture there so that he could stay with him and study for a year. Under the influence of Canteloube, Sauguet developed an interest in the local folk music and also in the similarly folk-inspired music of Deodat de Severac (1872-1921) and moved away from the harmonic richness and ambiguity of Debussy. Presaging his later development, Sauguet also became fascinated by the description of Les Six written by Henri Collet and accordingly purchased Cocteau's seminal collection of aphorisms Le coq et l'arlequin. Following the vogue for music inspired by black jazz musicians, he wrote a Danse negre for piano duet.

THE concept of Les Six obviously influenced Sauguet profoundly, for, upon returning to Bordeaux at the end of the Great War, he formed his own Bordeaux version of the group, Les Trois, with two of the other leading lights of Bordeaux musical life Louis Ernie (a poet and musician acquainted with Cocteau and other leading artistic figures) and Jean-Marcel Lizotte (a contemporary of Milhaud and Honegger at the Conservatoire national de Paris). Sauguet was very much the least experienced of the three: like his friends Satie and Poulenc, he had not enjoyed a conventional academic musical training, nor had he yet been to Paris, the artistic centre not only of France but of Europe. The group presented a joint concert at the salle Delmouly in Bordeaux on 12 December 1920, at which Sauguet and Lizotte performed the two-piano version of Satie's Parade in addition to works by Les Trois and Les Six. Emi had invited Cocteau to attend, but he was unable to, and so Emie proceeded to read out a supportive message purporting to be from his friend. He later admitted to his colleagues that he had in fact concocted the speech himself from extant press-- cuttings, poems and speeches by Cocteau - a jape that Jean himself would doubtless have appreciated.

Sauguet, ever confident, sent the manuscript of a song to Darius Milhaud, who advised him to keep on composing. At this time Sauguet claimed that he and his colleagues in Les Trois were writing aggressive music, but that he wanted to write more pleasing music and go to Paris to join the musical scene there. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Henri Sauguet: Springing Surprises
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.