Chasse Fantastique for orchestra
Chasse Fantastique for orchestra
Symphonic poem (1886-87)
Who would still remember Ernest Guiraud today, if he had not completed Offenbach’s Contes d’Hoffmann (Tales of Hoffmann) as well as the recitatives for Bizet’s Carmen, and if he had not been Claude Debussy’s teacher?
His father, Jean-Baptiste Guiraud (1803-1864), himself a composer, had been awarded second prize in the Grand Prix de Rome in 1826. In the face of the difficulties he encountered when trying to make a name for himself in Paris, he emigrated and settled in New Orleans in 1832. Although this city had been annexed by the USA in 1803, it was home to a significant French community which enthusiastically patronised the “Théâtre d’Orléans”, where the musician was appointed Director. Ernest Guiraud was born on 23rd June 1837 in the capital city of Louisiana. The child displays an extraordinary talent for music at an early age, and in 1849 Jean-Baptiste Guiraud and his son depart for Paris where they will stay until 1852. In Paris young Ernest sets to work on the libretto of an opera, Le Roi David, which he swiftly sets to music and which has its successful premiere in April 1853 in New Orleans, the city of his birth. Conscious of his son’s need for further professional development, the father sends him back to Paris in 1853, where he enters the Conservatoire. There he becomes a student of Antonin Marmontel for piano studies, but most importantly his composition teacher is Fromental Haléy. His fellow-students are Camille Saint-Saens, Jules Massenet, and in particular Georges Bizet, the two forming a brotherly friendship.
In 1859 Ernest Guiraud is nominated for the Prix de Rome, which enabled young practitioners of the arts to live in Rome for three years at the cost of the French state. To win the prize the candidates have to pass a variety of examinations; the last of these comprises the composition of a cantata for three voices and orchestra to a set text. Ernest Guiraud’s Bajazet ou le joueur de flûte is immediately and unanimously awarded the Grand Prix’s first prize. The Rome years are a wonderful period for Guiraud. There he composes tirelessly – like all ‘Prix de Rome’ prizewinners he’s obliged to produce a certain number of works – and he completes a Messe Solennelle and the opera buffa Gli Arenturieri as well as an orchestral overture. In 1863 he returns to Paris, where the following year his comic opera Sylvie is performed in the Opéra Comique Theatre; next, in 1869, comes En prison, then in 1870 Le Kobold, a ballet-opera whose stage run is interrupted by the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War. Meanwhile, in 1868, the Ministry for Fine Arts announces a competition for the composition of a grand opera in three acts: La coupe du roi de Thulé.
To general disenchantment, the first prize is awarded to an insignificant composer, Eugène Diaz de la Peña, the son of a painter who was famous at the time. Massenet and Guiraud had to content themselves with a second and third prize, Bizet with seventh prize. Although the composer of Carmen is able to incorporate elements of his work into later compositions, Guiraud’s participation seems to have borne no further fruit…
Read full preface / Komplettes Vorwort lesen > HERE