André Charles Prosper Messager (30 December 1853 ? 24 February 1929), was a French composer, organist, pianist, conductor and administrator. His stage compositions included ballets and 30 opéra comiques and operettas, among which Véronique, had lasting success, with Les p'tites Michu and Monsieur Beaucaire also enjoying international success.
Despite financial obstacles, Messager pursued studies in piano and composition, with teachers including Camille Saint-Saëns and Gabriel Fauré. He became a major figure in the musical life of London as well as Paris, both as a conductor and a composer. Most of his Parisian works were produced in London, where several of them had long runs and numerous revivals, and he wrote two operatic works in English. He was the only French composer to write an original Savoy opera. Towards the end of his career, he composed musical comedies for Sacha Guitry and Yvonne Printemps.
As a conductor, Messager held prominent positions in Paris and London, at the head of the Opéra-Comique, the Paris Opéra, the Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, and of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Although as a composer he is known chiefly for his light works, as a conductor he presented a wide range of operas, from Mozart to Richard Strauss, and he acquired a reputation as a conductor of Wagner. In Paris he conducted the world premieres of Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande, Massenet's Grisélidis and Charpentier's Louise. At Covent Garden, he gave the British premieres of operas by Saint-Saëns and Massenet.
The biographer John Wagstaff writes that Messager's music is notable for its fine orchestration, easy-flowing melody, and skilfully written music, dance-like in character. Messager's operettas are in the tradition of Offenbach, Hervé and Lecocq, and some saw him as the last of their line. Wagstaff quotes Messager's biographer and pupil Henry Février: 'La Basoche was the last great French opéra comique of the 19th century, and Messager?s next opérettes, especially Les p?tites Michu and Véronique, certainly show a difference in style from the earlier works, bringing an altogether fresher approach to the genre.' Although, as Wagstaff notes, Messager?s contribution to French music as a composer was recognised by his musical contemporaries internationally, his fame as a composer of light music has tended to obscure his considerable standing in contemporary serious musical circles. The leading composers of the time valued his friendship and advice. Fauré said of him, 'familiar with everything, knowing it all, fascinated by anything new'. Messager's younger colleague, the composer Reynaldo Hahn, wrote, 'I doubt if any musician has ever loved music as much as André Messager did. It would simply be impossible to have wider musical interests than he did. Right up to the end of his life too.'
1898 Paris theatre posterBaker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians says of Messager, 'His style may be described as enlightened eclecticism; his music was characteristically French, and more specifically Parisian, in its elegance and gaiety.' The English musicologist Gervase Hughes wrote, 'He combined melodic richness and economy of means with the fluid grace of Jules Massenet, the aristocratic elegance of Camille Saint Saëns and the refined subtlety of Gabriel Fauré'. Text source : Wikipedia (Hide extended text) ... (Read all)
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