Roger Désormière (French pronunciation: [ʁɔʒe dezɔʁmjɛːʁ]) (13 September 1898 – 25 October 1963) was a French conductor. He was an enthusiastic champion of contemporary composers, but also conducted performances of early eighteenth century French music.
Life and career
Désormière was born in Vichy in 1898. He studied at the Paris Conservatoire, where his professors included Philippe Gaubert (flute), Xavier Leroux and Charles Koechlin (composition), and Vincent d'Indy (conducting). In 1922 he won the Prix Blumenthal and in 1923 became part of the Ecole d’Arcueil.
Désormière's early conducting experience was largely with the Ballets suédois and Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. He was conductor of the Ballets suédois's premiere of Relâche (1924), a film and music presentation by Francis Picabia and Erik Satie, with the film segment, Entr'acte, directed by René Clair. He then worked for the Diaghilev company from 1925 until the impresario's death, conducting the premieres of Barabau by Vittorio Rieti, The Prodigal Son and Le pas d'acier by Sergei Prokofiev, and La Chatte by Henri Sauguet.
From 1932 he became involved in music for films with Pathé-Nathan, composing music for La Règle du jeu, Le Mariage de Chiffon, and Le Voyageur de la Toussaint. He also conducted the orchestra in over 20 other films, such as Partie de campagne, Remorques, La Belle et la bête, and La Beauté du diable.
He conducted the first complete recording of Claude Debussy's opera Pelléas et Mélisande, the sessions taking place in the Salle de l'Ancien Conservatoire, Paris, from 24 April to 26 May 1941, during the Nazi occupation, with the 20-record set being issued in January 1942. He also recorded excerpts from Chabrier's L'étoile with Opéra-Comique forces during the war.
Désormière was a member of the French Communist Party and personally a friend of Maurice Thorez. During the occupation of Paris he was a member of the Front National des Musiciens. Following the fall of France the composer Darius Milhaud was obliged to leave France. Désormière saved his paintings and personal possessions as well as paying the apartment rent during the Occupation.
He also won considerable fame as an enthusiastic champion of 20th-century repertoire: Satie, Olivier Messiaen, Pierre Boulez, Henri Dutilleux, and Maurice Duruflé all benefited from his advocacy of their pieces. At the other chronological extreme, Désormière edited and performed early music, reviving mostly forgotten compositions by the likes of François Couperin, Jean-Philippe Rameau, and Michel Richard Delalande. From 1937 he was a leading conductor for the Paris Opéra-Comique, conducting, in addition to the creations below and recordings above, Une éducation manquée, L'heure espagnole, Le médecin malgré lui, Don Quichotte and L'Enlèvement au Sérail. He became an associate director of the Paris Opéra from 1945 to 1946.
Works whose premieres were conducted by Désormière include:
- Sergei Prokofiev – Le pas d'acier (1926)
- Prokofiev - The Prodigal Son (1928)
- Igor Markevitch – Cantata and Concerto Grosso (1930) and L'Envol d'Icare (1933)
- Albert Roussel – Le Testament de Tante Caroline (Opéra-Comique, 11 March 1937)
- Darius Milhaud – Esther de Carpentras (Opéra-Comique, 3 February 1938)
- Francis Poulenc – Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani (1939)
- Poulenc – Les animaux modèles (1942)
- Alexandre Tansman – Sixth Symphony 'In memoriam' (French Radio Choir and Orchestra, 1944)
- Olivier Messiaen – Trois petites liturgies de la présence divine (1945)
- Igor Stravinsky – Symphony in Three Movements (1946)
- Poulenc – Sinfonietta (1948)
- Henri Dutilleux – Symphony No. 1 (1951)
His discography includes:
- Béla Bartók – Divertimento for String Orchestra
- Pierre Boulez – Le Soleil des eaux
- Emmanuel Chabrier – L'étoile (excerpts)
- Dallapiccola – Six chants d'Alcée
- Claude Debussy – Pelléas et Mélisande (complete)
- Debussy – La mer
- Léo Delibes – suites to Coppélia and Sylvia
- Ibert – Divertissement
- Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov – Esquisses Caucasiennes, Suite No. 1, Op. 10
- Koechlin – Le Buisson ardent, Les Eaux vives.
- Francis Poulenc – Les biches ballet suite
- Erik Satie – Trois morceaux en forme de poire
- Scarlatti arr. Tommasini – Les femmes de bonne humeur (ballet)
- Igor Stravinsky – Concerto in D for strings
- Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – The Sleeping Beauty suite
- N. Goodwin: "Désormière, Roger", in: New Grove Dictionary of Opera (London and New York: Macmillan, 1997).
- M.-A. Roux: "Portrait", booklet text to INA CD IMV041, 2001.
- R. Buckle: Diaghilev (London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1979).
- Brigitte Massin: Les Joachim, une famille de musiciens (Paris: Fayard, 1999).
- Guillot, Nicholas. "Roger Désormière (1898-1963)". sites.google.com. Comité Roger Desormiere. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
- M.-A. Roux (2001), as above.
- S. Wolff: Un demi-siecle d'Opéra-Comique (Paris, André Bonne, 1953).
- Robert E. Benson (2003). "Desormiere/Wolff historic recordings". Classical CD Review. Retrieved 2008-05-05.
"Roger Désormière". 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-26.
- Roger Désormière 1898-1963 - website by Nicolas Guillot