Sunday, October 13, 2013

Edouard Colonne

Edouard Colonne (Edouard Juda Colonne) was a French violinist and conductor born (in Bordeaux) on July 23, 1838.  He is best recognized as the founder (actually, co-founder) of the Concerts Colonne and what became known as the Colonne Orchestra in Paris, in 1873.  He was an orchestral violinist for at least ten years but is now almost exclusively remembered as a conductor and concert promoter, in the style of Theodore Thomas.  He began his music studies at age 8, but not on the violin.  He entered the Paris Conservatory at about age 17 but did not study with any famous teachers there.  While going to school, he played in the orchestra of the Lyric Theatre.  In 1863 he won first prize for his violin playing and had already (in 1858) won first prize in harmony.  He was engaged as concertmaster for the Paris Opera orchestra in 1858 – he was 20 years old.  He also played second violin in the Lamoureux Quartet at the same time – Charles Lamoureux played first violin.  Possibly (actually, very probably) simultaneously, he also played in Jules Pasdeloup’s orchestra.  In 1867, he came to New York to play in an orchestra for a newly founded comic opera company; while in New York, Colonne later led an ensemble called Niblo’s Garden Orchestra which until now I had never heard of.  He returned to Paris in 1871 and conducted a hotel orchestra for a while.  In 1873, he founded – together with a music publisher – the orchestra that would become the Colonne Orchestra.  His concerts became known as the Concerts Colonne.  This name was used until the 1960s – about ninety years.  At first, the orchestra presented its concerts at the Odeon Theatre and later at the Theatre of the Chatelet.  Colonne was known to champion the music of Hector Berlioz, Richard Wagner, Gustav Mahler, and Camille Saint Saens.  It has been said that Pierre Monteux was Principal violist of the Colonne Orchestra.  Other famous players who played in his orchestra for a time were Julius Conus and Jacques Thibaud.  Colonne gave the Paris premiere of Tchaikovsky’s fourth symphony in 1878, the year it was completed.  The orchestra toured Spain, Russia, Portugal, Germany, and England.  Among the musical luminaries who conducted the orchestra in performances of their own works were Serge Prokofiev, Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, Peter Tchaikovsky, Claude Debussy, Edvard Grieg, and Maurice Ravel.  In 1892, Colonne became conductor and adviser at the Paris Opera.  He was 54 years old.  In 1907 (one source says 1906), he was one of the first to record with an orchestra.  It has been said that he was hard on his players.  Colonne was a pioneer in that his program books were the first to include program notes.  Perhaps they included advertisements as well though I’m not at all sure about that.  He died (in Paris) on March 28, 1910, at age 71.  

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