Bruneau, Alfred


One of the most noted of contemporary French composers and the leader of the realistic school of modern French Opera. He was born in Paris and inherited his musical ability from both father and mother, both of whom were musicians. He studied at the Conservatory of Paris, first taking up the violoncello with Franchomme. Later he studied composition with Massenet, winning the Prize of Rome, in 1881, with his cantata, Genevieve de Paris. His first opera, Kerim, attracted but little attention, but in 1891 a four-act opera, Le Reve, based upon Zolo's story of the same name, was produced at the Opera Comique with the greatest success. From this on his operas were all prepared from Zolo's stories and there followed, L'Attaque du Moulin; Messidor; L'Ouragan; L'Enfante Roi and La Faute de 1'Abbe Mouret. Bruneau has also composed a number of works besides his operas. The most important of these, his Requiem, a highly original and powerful work, was produced in 1896. In 1884, his overture heroique and Leda, a choral symphony, were performed and in 1886, La Belle au Bois dormant and the symphonic poem Penthesilee were given. He has also written many beautiful songs, notably his Lieds de France, written to words by Catulle Mendes and Chasons a danser, six songs arranged from suggestions from the old French dances. Bruneau received the decoration of the Legion of Honor in 1895. He has published three volumes of musical criticism and has been music critic for a number of Paris papers. Bruneau's music has caused a great amount of discussion, resulting in decided differences of opinions among musicians, the more conservative element, who believe that the opera must necessarily be melodic throughout, criticising him severely;- while many of the newer composers, who advocate individuality and realism in music, admire him most enthusiastically. All opinions seem to agree that he is sincere and original and that he has developed a line of music peculiarly his own and peculiarly French.