Life and career
Paul Vidal was born in Toulouse, and studied at the conservatoires there and in Paris, under Jules Massenet at the latter. He won the Prix de Rome in 1883, one year before Claude Debussy. On 8 January 1886, in Rome, Vidal and Debussy performed Franz Liszt's Faust Symphony at two pianos for Liszt himself, an after-dinner performance that Liszt apparently slept through. The following day they played Emmanuel Chabrier's Trois valses romantiques for Liszt.
Vidal conducted at the Paris Opera where he made his first appearance directing Gwendoline in 1894 (he had coached the singers for the Paris premiere in 1893), and later conducted the first performance of Ariane and the Paris premieres of Roma by Massenet, and L'étranger by d’Indy. He co-founded the Concerts de l’Opera with Georges Marty. He was Music Director of the Opéra-Comique from 1914-19, conducting revivals of Alceste, Don Juan, Iphigénie en Tauride, Irato, Le Rêve and Thérèse. He also conducted the premieres of several operas and ballets. He taught at the Paris Conservatoire, where his students included composers Marc Delmas, Jacques Ibert and Vladimir Fédorov. He died in Paris, aged 67.
His brother Joseph Bernard Vidal (1859-1924) was also a composer.
Compositions and pedagogy
His compositions are virtually forgotten today: they include the operas Eros (1892), Guernica (1895) and La Burgonde (1898); the ballet La Maledetta (1893); a cantata Ecce Sacerdos magnus; Fête russe (1893); and incidental music to Théodore de Banville's Le Baiser (1888) and Catulle Mendès' La Reine Fiammette (1898). In collaboration with André Messager, he also orchestrated piano music of Frédéric Chopin into a Suite de danses (1913).
He is perhaps better known today through his keyboard harmony exercises, Basses et Chantes Données which was a favorite teaching tool of his pupil, the legendary pedagogue Nadia Boulanger, and subsequently many of her students including Narcis Bonet who has republished a selection of these exercises under the title Paul Vidal, Nadia Boulanger: A Collection of Given Basses and Melodies".
- Charlton D. Paul Vidal. In: The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. Macmillan, London and New York, 1997.
- Chabrier E, Correspondance. Ed Delage R, Durif F. Klincksieck, 1994. 93-36n.
- Wolff, Stéphane. Un demi-siècle d'Opéra-Comique (1900-1950). André Bonne, Paris, 1953.