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Vincent d'Indy: Vincent d'Indy (b. Paris, 27 March 1851; d. Paris, 2 Dec 1931).
At one time, Vincent d'Indy was one of the most noted and respected composers in Western Europe and, until World War I, was a force to be reckoned with, his influence rivalling Debussy's for a short time. Now he is largely forgotten and his works are seldom performed, mainly because of their somewhat extravagant demands for very large forces.
Descended from a noble family, Vincent d'Indy received a strict and ruthless upbringing from his paternal grandmother, whose influence coloured his whole life. It was she who first taught him the piano, later passing him onto the great pianist, Marmontel. Vincent d'Indy was a remarkable prodigy, and at fourteen began to study harmony under Albert Lavignac, one of Debussy's future masters. After a courageous participation in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1) he threw himself into the musical milieu of Paris, where, through the conductor Jules Pasdeloup, he met, among others, Saint-Saens, Massenet, Bizet and de Castillon. Pasdeloup performed one of d'lndy's early works, Symphonie Italienne, which was well received, and Vincent d'Indy sent some of these works to Cesar Franck who wrote back: 'You have ideas but cannot do anything!' This led to Vincent d'Indy studying counterpoint, fugue and composition with Franck, as well as organ, at the Paris Conservatoire.
On a Summer tour of Germany and Austria Vincent d'Indy met Brahms, and also Liszt, whose method of teaching strongly influenced him. In 1876, he attended the premiere of The Ring at Bayreuth, and subsequently became an ardent Wagnerian. By 1880, he was a sincere and dedicated composer and from this period come his greatest compositions: Le Chant de la Cloche, a vast vocal and orchestral work comparable with Berlioz' Faust; Symphonie Cevenole, an intense nationalist work based on a simple folk song; Istar, a set of variations written in reverse order, with the theme at the end; two string quartets, and a large scale music-drama, Fervaal.
After leading the Societe Nationale de Musique, under Franck, Vincent d'Indy formed the Schola Cantorum and, as its principal and chief lecturer, influenced the French school considerably. More works followed, including Souvenirs, a large symphonic poem depicting the death of his wife, Jour d'ete a la montagne a vast symphonic poem which utilised French folk song and Gregorian chant, a Second Symphony in B flat (the first was never published or performed) and the Piano Sonata in E minor, a work of great beauty which elevated the mounting Debussy-d'lndy rivalry into wholesale war. D'lndy's last great work of any significance was the opera La Legende de Saint Christophe, an extraordinary work which couples an anti-semitic fervour with Roman Catholic fanaticism, the whole tinged with a sensual paganism which made it the scandal of 1920, when it received its first and only performance in Paris. DTndy was still working and composing, when he died peacefully aged eighty in 1931.
Today, the neglect of this composer seems inexplicable when one considers the depth and unusual style of his music. It is a strange, yet beguiling combination of Wagnerian eroticism and the purity of texture one finds in Berlioz. Forgotten now, he may one day be properly re-evaluated for what he is - a neglected master.
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