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Jean Cras


1879 - 1932


Date of birth:
Date of death:

Jean Cras, who was born and died in Brest, was inextricably bound up with the sea, even more so than Rimsky-Korsakov and Roussel. Although he revealed a gift for music fairly early on, he continued the family tradition by entering the Naval Academy in 1896 (his father was a surgeon in the navy). During a stay in Paris in 1900, he met Duparc who, impressed by his talent, gave him lessons virtually on a daily basis for three months (this was to be his only formal training in composition). He nevertheless continued his military career, and was decorated for his great bravery during World War One. He became Rear Admiral in 1931, then Major General of the Port of Brest. Cras drew his inspiration from the sea for many works, such as Journal de bord and Soirs sur la mer (two orchestral pieces from 1927 and 1929), or the “drame Lyrique” Polyphème (1912-1918). This opera (the only one Cras wrote) was awarded first prize in the Concours Musical de la Ville de Paris in 1921, which led to its production at the Opéra-Comique the following year. It also earned the composer the recognition that he had hitherto been lacking. Despite his dual career, Cras followed the artistic developments of his time, while maintaining his independence. Initially deeply influenced by Franckism, his music gradually became more impressionistic in colour, combining references to Celtic culture, the expression of his Catholic faith and elements of exoticism inspired by his travels to distant lands (L’Offrande lyrique set to poems by Tagore, the Piano Quintet, the Suite en duo for flute and harp, or the Quintet for flute, harp and string trio).