Life and career
Colonne was the son and grandson of musicians of Italian-Jewish descent. From the age of eight, he played flageolet and accordion, and then began violin studies with Baudoin. Starting in 1855, Colonne studied at the Conservatoire in Paris, where he won first prizes in both harmony and violin. For almost a decade (1858–67) he was first violinist at the Opéra in Paris, as well as playing second violin in the Lamoureux Quartet. In 1871 he directed concerts at the Grand-Hôtel and Massenet's music for the staging of Les Érinnyes in 1873.
Also in 1873, Colonne, along with the music publisher Georges Hartmann, founded the "Concert National" at the Odéon Théatre. Two years later, the venue moved to the Théâtre du Châtelet and the name of the enterprise was changed to 'L'Association Artistique du Châtelet'. The Association's performances eventually became known as the Concerts Colonne; and this name continued to be used until the 1960s.
In 1878 Colonne had met Tchaikovsky during the Russian composer's visit to Paris, and, as well as giving the local premiere of his 4th Symphony, remained in contact, which led to 'exchange' concert trips for Colonne in Russia.
Colonne was noted for his interest in Berlioz (then, on the whole, more highly regarded in the English- and German-speaking countries than in France). Pierre Monteux (first violist and then assistant conductor of the Colonne orchestra) used Colonne's annotated score for his 1931 recording of Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique.
In addition, Colonne stood out for his support of the music of Wagner, Mahler and Saint-Saëns. He introduced the descriptive note into programme booklets. Another significant contribution of his was in the technological sphere: he was the first conductor of note to make commercial gramophone (phonograph) records, for the Pathé company in 1906. The works ranged from Beethoven to Widor, and announcements by Colonne were included.
Colonne's second wife was the soprano Elise Vergin.
- Cinquante Ans de Musique Française de 1874 à 1925. Les Éditions Musicales de la Librairie de France, Paris, 1925.
- Except for the years of Paris's German occupation in World War II, when (because of Colonne's Jewish ancestry) the events were referred to as 'Pierné Concerts' instead.
- Brown D. Tchaikovsky, Vols III & IV. Gollancz, London, 1992, passim.
- Letters from the composer to Colonne survive: http://en.tchaikovsky-research.net/pages/%C3%89douard_Colonne
- Foreman L. Édouard Colonne - review of Tahra and Symposium CDs. Classic Record Collector, Autumn 2006, p80-81.