Édouard Lalo

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Édouard-Victoire-Antoine Lalo (27 January 1823 – 22 April 1892) was a French composer. His music has a distinctive style, with strong melodies and colourful orchestration. His Symphonie espagnole is a popular work in the standard repertoire.


Lalo was born in Lille (Nord), in northernmost France. He attended that city's music conservatory in his youth. Then, beginning at age 16, Lalo studied at the Paris Conservatoire under François Antoine Habeneck. Habeneck conducted student concerts at the Conservatoire from 1806 onwards and became the founding conductor of the Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire in 1828. Hector Berlioz, in his memoirs, denounced Habeneck for incompetence in conducting Berlioz's Requiem. For several years, Lalo worked as a string player and teacher in Paris. In 1848, he joined with friends to found the Armingaud Quartet, playing viola and later second violin. Lalo's earliest surviving compositions are songs and chamber works (two early symphonies were destroyed).

Julie Besnier de Maligny, a contralto from Brittany, became his bride in 1865. She aroused Lalo's early interest in opera and led him to compose works for the stage. Unfortunately, these works were deemed too progressive and Wagnerian and were not initially well received, despite their freshness and originality. This led him to dedicate most of his career to the composition of chamber music, which was gradually coming into vogue for the first time in France, and works for orchestra.

Although Lalo is not one of the most immediately recognized names in French music, his distinctive style has earned him some degree of popularity. Symphonie espagnole for violin and orchestra still enjoys a prominent place in the repertoire of violinists and is known in many classical circles simply as "The Lalo". Lalo is also known for his Cello Concerto in D minor. The same Breton legend that inspired "Le roi d'Ys" also influenced, to some extent, his Symphony in G minor (a favorite of Sir Thomas Beecham) and various chamber works.

Lalo's idiom is notable for strong melodies and colourful orchestration, with a rather Germanic solidity that distinguishes him from other French composers of his era. Such works as the Scherzo in D minor, one of Lalo's most colorful pieces, might be considered appropriate embodiments of his distinctive style and strong expressive bent.

It was not till his late forties that Lalo gained fame as a composer. Le roi d'Ys (The King of Ys), an opera based on the Breton legend of Ys, is his most complex and ambitious creation. (The same legend inspired Claude Debussy to compose his famous piano piece, La cathédrale engloutie.) The opera was rejected for ten years after its composition and was not performed until 1888, when Lalo was 65 years old. He was made a knight (chevalier) of the Legion of Honour in 1880. He died in Paris in 1892, leaving several unfinished works, and was interred at the Père Lachaise Cemetery.

Lalo's son Pierre (6 September 1866 – 9 June 1943) was a music critic who wrote for Le Temps and other French periodicals from 1898 until his death.

Popular culture[edit]

In 1962, composer Maurice Jarre used a theme from Lalo's Piano Concerto for the exotic score to Lawrence of Arabia.

The American science fiction television series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, makes reference to a "U.S.S. Lalo" in two different episodes, "We'll Always Have Paris" and "The Best of Both Worlds".



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