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La Musique pendant la guerre

(Paris, 1915-1917)

Prepared by Doris Pyee
Online only (2015)

La Musique pendant la guerre, Revue musicale mensuelle [Music during the war. Monthly musical review (MPG)] consists of thirteen issues dated from October 10, 1915 to June 17, 1917 published in Paris by Comptoir général de musique. Owing to the problems brought about by the vicissitudes of the First World War, the original intention of publishing a monthly journal could not be met. While the first six issues (October 1915 to March 1916 were published on a monthly basis, issue no. 7 is a double issue for April-May, 1916 but is dated June 16, 1916; no. 8 is a triple issue for June-July-August, 1916 but is dated December 14, 1916; a no. 8 bis is dated December 14, 1916 and a no. 8 ter is dated December 28, 1916; the final issue, No. 9, is dated September 1916 to May 1917. The first issue is the longest of all the issues, containing thirty-two pages, while each of he remaining issues is half the length at sixteen pages each. The pages are printed in two-column format and numbered consecutively from page 1 through 212 encompassing the thirteen issues. Charles Hayet, future founder of the American Music Conservatory in Fontainebleau is named as Directeur gérant, Francis Casadesus is named as Secrétaire général, and Ernest Brodier is named as Administrator.

Although short-lived, the journal is an uncommon and rare testimony to musical activities in France during the First World War. As many articles and letters are signed by its authors, one encounters opinions on matters both musical and political of the leading French musicians from this period including Camille Saint-Saëns, Gustave Charpentier, Theodore Dubois and Reynaldo Hahn.

While solidarity prevailed and resulted in numerous benefit concerts by, among others, Marie Delna of the Théâtre de l’Opéra-Comique, strong anti-German feelings are present in the journal’s articles and reviews including a willingness to promote and protect French music against German and Austro-Hungarian influences, the creation of a French sheet music printing company to compete with German publishers, and the refusal of the noted soprano Félia Litvinne to perform in Wagner’s operas in Argentina. Works by composers on active duty or deceased at the front were performed in Paris and the journal was sent to mobilised musicians as evidence that they were not forgotten. The journal’s efforts to keep musical performances active resulted in a number of music festivals. Reports give details of the number of musicians campaigning for the merging of the Lamoureux and Colonne orchestras. The publication of letters from soldier musicians on active duty at the front served as reminders to the readers of MPG of the cruel and difficult times.