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Femmes de légende, three pieces for orchestra (Mel Bonis)




Salomé – Ophélie – Le Rêve de Cléopâtre


During the decade preceding the Great War, Mel Bonis made her mark on Parisian musical life. After staying away from salons and concerts since her marriage in 1883, busy with the education of her children, she reappeared in public at the turn of the century to champion her chamber music and piano pieces. Her first successes encouraged her to pursue her artistic path and try her hand at symphonic music. However, she then felt the need to complete her musical training — interrupted twenty years earlier — with Charles Koechlin (1908–1909). Although the manuscripts of the three pieces that now form the symphonic cycle Femmes de légende (Women of legend) — first published in 2018 — are undated, they were obviously written after these lessons in modern orchestration. The masterful orientalising style, the size of the orchestra and the symbolist ambition of the subjects leave no room for doubt. The piano versions of Salomé (for solo piano) and Le Rêve de Cléopâtre (Cleopatra’s Dream) (for piano duet) date from 1909. One explanation for the lack of circulation of these scores may lie in Mel Bonis’s bitter failure at the Concerts Colonne in 1910: deeply disappointed by the reception of her Fantaisie for piano, she might have thought of giving up composing. Although she did not do so, she nevertheless stopped promoting her symphonic works and orchestrating her seven pieces dedicated to great female figures (Omphale is only preserved as a draft).

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  • Femmes de légende, seven pieces for piano (Mel Bonis)
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  • BONIS, Mel (1858-1937)
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  • Courant – Musique pure et musique descriptive au XIXe siècle