Sunday, April 8, 2012

Edouard Lalo

Edouard Lalo (Edouard Victoire Antoine Lalo) was a French violinist, composer, and teacher born (in Lille, France) on January 12, 1823.  Some sources – in fact, most sources – give his date of birth as January 27, 1823.  Today, he is not remembered as a violinist, but rather, as the composer of the famous violin concerto, Symphonie Espagnol (1874, opus 21), a work which every concert violinist learns and plays and, if they are lucky, records.  It has been said that his marriage to one of his young pupils when he was 42 inspired him to write the Symphonie, though it actually was not written until nine years later.  In fact, he composed nothing between the year he got married (1865) and 1873, the year he wrote his violin concerto in F.  As a child, Lalo studied violin, cello, and piano at the Lille Conservatory.  He left home at age 16 and entered the Paris Conservatory.  His father then disowned him because he was firmly opposed to the idea that the teenager Lalo should make music his profession.  Nevertheless, Lalo stuck it out and paid for his tuition at the Paris Conservatory by giving lessons and playing in ensembles.  At the conservatory, his violin teacher was Francois Habeneck, one of the foremost violinists and conductors of the day.  Lalo made his living by only playing and teaching privately until about age 50, when he seriously entertained the idea of composing large-scale works.  He had already been composing chamber music for many years prior to this but his reputation as a composer was slowly acquired.  He formed the Armingaud Quartet in either 1848 or 1855 (sources vary) in which he played viola at first then second violin.  Chamber music in France was not much appreciated until about the late 1800s but Lalo’s quartet helped change that.  Early works of his were a Fantasy for violin and piano (1848, opus 1), a piano trio (1851, opus 7), and a violin sonata (1853, opus 12.)  Among his major compositions are three symphonies, two violin concertos, a cello concerto, an opera, a ballet, and a piano concerto.  Other than the Symphonie Espagnol and the cello concerto, none of these works is ever performed, except perhaps in France.  However, the premiere of his opera in 1888, was a huge success for Lalo.  Trio Oriens can be seen and heard on YouTube playing Lalo's first trio and Lynn Harrell can be heard playing the cello concerto here.  According to a usually-reliable source, Lalo owned and played a 1700 Matteo Goffriller violin. Only God knows where it is now. Lalo died on either April 22 or April 23, 1892, at age 69.  

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