Auguste Descarries: New Life After Years in Manuscript


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By Hélène Panneton, director of the Association pour la diffusion de la musique d’Auguste Descarries

Auguste Descarries (1896-1958) is no longer on the list of “forgotten ones”; he has come back to light. His legacy of more than 60 works – including sacred pieces, chamber music, melodies and a large number of works for the piano – is now available to performers and music lovers everywhere through modern editions and recordings made over the last few years. A major reason for the absence of this Quebec composer from the music scene was that his works existed only in manuscript in the Université de Montréal archives. To give them a presence and recognize the true value of these gems of Montreal’s musical history, the Association de diffusion de la musique d’Auguste Descarries was created in 2012.

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Today, performers of high calibre highlight his music through the recordings they have produced since 2013. First, Les Chantres Musiciens recorded his choral music. Then pianist Janelle Fung recorded Aubade last December in Toronto. In his review, Le Devoir music critic Christophe Huss called the rediscovery of Descarries “a pressing national cultural cause.” Pianist Isabelle David was scheduled to present a recital in completion of a Doctorate in Music at the Université de Montréal on May 11 after having edited and performed Descarries’ music over the three years she spent studying the body of work.

The third recording, on the ATMA Classique label, marks another important milestone. Dedicated to the composer’s chamber music and mélodies, it will be the focus of a launch on a date to be determined. Baritone Pierre Rancourt as well as the Trio Hochelaga and their guests will present a colourful program with varying performers breathing life into pieces that are at times nostalgic, at times vivacious. Along this line, we should note the trios written by Descarries during the 1930s on the popular folk songs “Vive la Canadienne” and “Un Canadien Errant.”

Descarries trained under Alfred La Liberté in Quebec before pursuing studies in Europe with Russian masters living in Paris. He spent time with Medtner, Rachmaninoff, Catoire and the Conus brothers, who had a major influence on him. His post-romantic style enraptures audiences with its rich harmonies, mesmerizing rhythms and great depth.

This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)


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