Jules Massenet

Biography

Born: May 12, 1842; France   Died: Aug 13, 1912; France   Period: Romantic
Today Jules Massenet is best known for the operas Manon and Werther and the solo violin Méditation, from Thaďs. During his lifetime, however, Massenet was one of the most prolific and celebrated operatic composers on earth. The public anxiously awaited his output, and Massenet became both wealthy and famous practicing his craft. His legacy endures because of his ability to create music which portrays the intimacy of human relationships and the Read more emotions and conflicts that arise from them. His gift for melody is reflected in a variety of arias that are among the most beautiful in the French operatic repertoire. He was also a brilliant orchestrator, a skill which allowed him to capture the moods and colors of a wide variety of places and eras. In addition to opera, Massenet composed songs, oratorios, ballets and orchestral works, as well as chamber music and works for solo piano.

Massenet was born in Montaud, France, to the family of a struggling metal worker. At the tender age of 10, he was admitted to the Paris Conservatory, where he studied with famed operatic composer Ambroise Thomas. In 1863, Massenet won the Prix de Rome, a prize which allowed him to travel and study in Italy. There the young man experienced the sounds and textures of the region and began to compose in earnest. While in Italy, Massenet met Liszt, who introduced him to his future wife, Mademoiselle Sainte-Marie.

Massenet's first opera, a one-act entitled La Grand' Tante (The Great Aunt), was produced (with only moderate success) at the Opéra-Comique in 1867. In 1877 Massenet's exotic opera Le Roi de Lahore (The King of Lahore) had a highly successful premiere at the Paris Opera, marking the beginning of his ascendancy as France's most prolific and celebrated operatic composer.

In 1878, his former teacher, Thomas, invited him to become a professor at the Paris Conservatory. Massenet achieved considerable success as a teacher, influencing an entire generation of French composers, including Gustav Charpentier and the song composer Reynaldo Hahn.

A highly prolific composer, Massenet worked continuously throughout his life, completing a great deal of music in addition to his 25 published operas. His approximately 250 songs often reflect the same melodic ingenuity and expressiveness that define his operatic works. Massenet composed several song cycles, including Poéme d'Avril (April Poem), which is often identified as the first French song cycle. Among the most famous of his solo songs are "Ouvre tes yeux bleus" (Open your blue eyes) and "Si tu veux, Mignonne" (If you wish it, sweetheart). The composer's First Orchestral Suite (originally entitled Symphony in F) premiered in 1867. This was the first of seven suites by Massenet, with programmatic subjects ranging from Alsace (Scčnes alsaciennes, 1882) to Hungary (Scčnes hongroises, 1871), and from Shakespeare (Scénes dramatiques, 1875) to Fairyland (Scčnes de féerie, 1881). The most famous of his orchestral suites, Scénes pittoresques (Picturesque Scenes), was first performed in Paris during March of 1874. Massenet also composed several ballets, including La Cigale, Espada, and Les Rosati. In addition to Marie-Magdeleine, his oratorios include Čve (1875) and La Terre promise (The promised land, 1900). He wrote a considerable amount of incidental music for plays, including Sardou's Le Crocodile (1886) and Racine's Phčdre (1900). His only piano concerto was first performed in 1903 and receives occasional modern performances. Read less

Neeme Jarvi Conducts Massenet
Release Date: 05/27/2014   Label: Chandos  
Catalog: 5137   Number of Discs: 1
On sale! $19.99
SuperAudio CD: $15.99
In Stock
MP3 Available
On sale!   $19.99   SuperAudio CD:  $15.99 Add to Cart

MP3:  $9.99 Add MP3 to Cart

Ravel, Debussy & Massenet / Bavouzet, Tortelier, BBC Symphony Orchestra
Release Date: 11/16/2010   Label: Chandos  
Catalog: 5084   Number of Discs: 1
On sale! $19.99
SuperAudio CD: $15.99
In Stock
MP3 Available
On sale!   $19.99   SuperAudio CD:  $15.99 Add to Cart

MP3:  $9.99 Add MP3 to Cart

Opera In English - Massenet: Werther / Mackerras, Et Al
Release Date: 06/27/2000   Label: Chandos  
Catalog: 3033   Number of Discs: 2
On sale! $29.99
CD: $22.99
In Stock
On sale!   $29.99   CD:  $22.99 Add CD to Cart

Dancla: Petite Ecole De La Melodie; Saint-saens, Massenet / Rimonda, Canziani
Release Date: 03/31/2009   Label: Chandos  
Catalog: 10510   Number of Discs: 1
On sale! $18.99
CD: $14.99
In Stock
MP3 Available
On sale!   $18.99   CD:  $14.99 Add CD to Cart

MP3:  $9.99 Add MP3 to Cart

Work: Thaďs: Meditation

 

About This Work
With the very slight exception of the Suites, Jules Massenet (1842-1912) was an opera composer who wrote virtually no independent orchestral music that survives in the concert hall. The one great exception is his Méditation from his opera Read more Thäis (1894). Based on the novel by Anatole France, Thäis poses the question that haunts most of Massenet's serious opera: which is better, sacred or profane love? While the answer to that question is usually profane love while alive and sacred when dead, in the Méditation, Massenet opted for the latter for at least five minutes and, in so doing, created his one successful orchestral piece, albeit an orchestral piece in the form of a slow movement for violin and orchestra. With its long-breathed ethereal melody, its iridescent harmonies, its evanescent rhythm, and its incandescent climax, Massenet's Méditation is a hymn to sacred love that is completely convincing as long as it lasts. While other arrangements of the work exist, even the most faithful of them, a transcription for violin and piano frequently encountered on the recitals of especially gifted students, cannot hold a candle to the pseudo-sublime original.

-- James Leonard
Read less

Select a specific Performer, Conductor or Ensemble or browse recordings by Formats & Featured below

ArkivMusic Recommendation

Performers

Ensembles