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Pierre de BRÉVILLE

1861 - 1949

Composer, Journalist

Date of birth:
Date of death:

Born in Bar-le-Duc, Lorraine, Pierre de Bréville initially intended to pursue a diplomatic career. After studying at the Law Faculty, however, he turned to music. A pupil in Dubois’ harmony class at the Paris Conservatoire from 1880 to 1882, he eventually left the conservatory to study counterpoint, fugue and composition under Franck, becoming one of his most faithful disciples. From 1898 to 1902, he taught counterpoint at the Schola Cantorum, alongside other members in Franck’s circle—particularly d’Indy and Charles Bordes. Much later, he was to teach chamber music at the Paris Conservatoire, from 1917 to 1919. In 1882, Bréville attended the première of Parsifal at Bayreuth, where he met Bruckner and Liszt at Wagner’s family home, Wahnfried. In 1888, he returned to the Festspielhaus at the same time as Debussy and Fauré. His travels also took him to Scandinavia in 1889, where he spent time with Grieg, and Constantinople, in 1894—a stay which left its mark on his music. The composer regarded the opera Eros vainqueur as his opus magnum. Commissioned by the Opéra-Comique in 1900, this “Conte lyrique”, as it was called by Bréville, was finally premiered in Brussels at the Théâtre de la Monnaie, in 1910. He also left behind around one hundred songs: the early ones clearly influenced by Wagner and the later ones by Fauré and Debussy. Bréville finally devoted himself to instrumental music: among other things, he composed five sonatas for piano and violin. Although the composer’s career got off to a slow start, he made a name for himself as one of the leading figures in the musical life of his time and enjoyed a solid reputation from the early twentieth century until his death, in 1949. He was also the author of numerous critical texts and was secretary, then president, of the Société Nationale de Musique.