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La Renaissance musicale

(Paris, 1881-1883)

Prepared by Doris Pyee

A weekly journal, La Renaissance musicale. Revue hebdomadaire de critique, d’esthétique et d’histoire [RNM] was published in Paris by the Schiller printing house from 6 March 1881 until 20 October 1883. The journal appeared on Sundays until 3 February 1883, then on Saturdays, starting with the 10 February 1883 issue. The last issue of the journal (13 October 1883) appeared without explaining the reasons for its disappearance.

La Renaissance musicale is made up of three volumes; each issue to 25 December 1881, contains twelve pages and from 6 January 1883 each issue contains eight pages. Created by Edmond Hippeau (1849-1921) to continue in the manner of La Revue et Gazette musicale de Paris, which ceased publication in 1880, the RNM “claimed to be free from any commercial bonds and respectful toward artists.” Unlike Le Ménestrel, which was anti-Wagnerian and slow to recognize Berlioz’s talents, the RNM was mostly pro-Wagner and Berlioz. Hippeau was not only the journal’s editor and administrator, but also a regular contributor.

The first section of the journal, entitled “Programme des concerts,” is divided into four parts: (i) the Concert Populaire conducted by Jules Pasdeloup; (ii) l’Association artistique with the Concerts du Châtelet directed by Ed. Colonne; (iii) the Grands Concerts at the Cirque des Champs Élysées, directed by Édouard Broustet and (iv) the Nouveaux Concerts conducted by Charles Lamoureux in the Théâtre du Château-d’eau. This is generally followed by a “Revue dramatique et musicale” section dedicated to the theater, the opera and comic-opera, a “Revue bibliographique” treating new publications, and biographies of musicians past and present. An important section “Chronique” in three parts follows: “Paris,” “Départements” and “Étranger.” The section on Paris covers concerts, examinations at the Paris Conservatory and administrative gatherings concerning musical life in the city. In “Départements,” the cities from which most reports eminate are Angers with its Association Artistique and Concerts populaires; Bordeaux and its main theatres; Nantes, Dijon, Rouen, Nîmes, Boulogne-sur-Mer, Toulouse, and Pau.

The section “Nouvelles de l’étranger” always deals with Belgium, primarily with Brussels: the season at the Théâtre royal de la Monnaie, Théâtre de l’Alhambra, Théâtre des Variétés; and the Royal Conservatory of Music, its examinations, concerts and various activities. Musical events in Liège and Antwerp are also treated. London’s prestigious theaters and concert venues—Covent-Garden, Drury Lane, Her Majesty’s Theater and the Crystal Palace, etc.—are also among the main centers of interest. In other countries, musical life in the capitals and the major cities is given an important place: Milan and La Scala, Rome and the Costanzi Theater, Berlin and the Royal Opera, Leipzig and the Gewandhaus, Madrid and the Royal Theater, etc. News from Russia, and particularly from St. Petersburg, covers in detail opera troupes and programs. The construction of the New York Metropolitan Opera House and concert tours of the United States are mentioned.

The articles in RNM deal extensively with Wagner and Berlioz. The clearly pro-Wagner inclination of the editor quickly created a violent polemic between Hippeau and Saint-Saëns, founder of the Société nationale de musique (SNM). In addition to a wealth of information on Wagner scattered throughout the journal, his theories, his works and enthusiastic reviews of his operas performed in Germany are mentioned in various editorials and columns signed by Hippeau, Jullien, Schuré and Noufflard. Moreover, three quarters of the 17 February 1883 issue and the 24 February 1883 issue focus on the composer’s death; and, from the issue of 4 September 1881 until that of 11 December 1883, a new autobiography by Wagner L’Œuvre et la mission de ma vie [My life, work and mission] is published, in translation by Hippeau in the form of a feuilleton.

Hippeau and Noufflard wrote many studies of Wagner’s works, and Hippeau published from the 11 December 1881 issue and that of 11 August 1883, a long feuilleton entitled “Berlioz intime” which later appeared as a book in 1883 and again in 1889. Among the journal’s important articles are the following: (i) “Félix Mendelssohn, d’après ses nouveaux biographes” par Ernest David [Félix Mendelssohn, according to his new biographers]. (ii) “Acoustique des salles de théâtre et de concert” [Acoustics of theaters and concert halls]. (iii) “La musique serbe et les rhapsodes croates” par Louis Léger [Serb music and Croatian rhapsodies]. (iv) “Scènes de province” par Charles-Jean Grandmougin; [Scenes from the provinces]. (v) “Les mariages à l’Opéra au XVIIIème siècle” (nouvelle série) par A. Thurner [Weddings at the opéra in the XVIIIth Century]. (vi) “Musiciens d’hier et d’aujourd’hui” et “Ambroise Thomas” par Victor Wilder [Musicians from the past and present and Ambroise Thomas].

Hippeau was assisted by excellent collaborators such as Johannes Weber, Édouard Grégoir, the violinist Jenő Hubay, Ernest David, Édouard Noël, Charles Barthélémy, Léonce Mesnard, Armand Éphraïm, Georges Noufflard and the enthusiastic Wagnerians Charles-Jean Grandmougin, Victorien de Joncières, Adolphe Jullien and Édouard Schuré. There is also a valuable series entitled “Notices et biographies— Recherches sur la vie et les œuvres d’artistes-musiciens, facteurs d’orgues, historiens, etc.” [Notices and biographies—Research on the life and works of musicians, organ builders, historians, etc.] by Édouard Grégoir. These articles consist of notices about musicians omitted by Fétis and Arthur Pougin in the Biographie universelle des musiciens. Their corrections are exceptionally rich in content and include many important bibliographical references. Also noteworthy is the series of articles by Johannes Weber dealing with the acoustics of theatres from an historic, scientific and comparative point of view.