Music for a "new era" : composers and national identity in France, 1936-1946 / by Leslie A. Sprout.
This dissertation tells the story of an innovative program of state commissions to composers, from its beginnings with the prewar Popular Front government—which imagined arts funding as a form of unemployment compensation—to its expansion by the wartime Vichy regime, who saw control of the arts as the most expedient means of redefining France's cultural heritage. In 1938, the program's inaugural year, the government selected twelve composers who represented a wide range of stylistic approaches. Recipients included Germaine Tailleferre, Charles Koechlin, Paul Le Flem, and Darius Milhaud, whose commissioned opera Médée was performed at the Paris Opéra two years later. Yet the number of commissions dwindled in 1939–1940 as arts funding gave way to military spending in response to the growing threat of a German invasion. After Hitler's swift defeat of the French army in June 1940, the Vichy regime saw the cultural prestige of the country as the salvation of France. The new state revived the commissions program and, using the Nazi Reichsmusikkammer as a model, created additional sources of funding for the publication, recording, and performance of contemporary French music both within France and abroad. Using archival documents, reviews, interviews, and musical analysis, I investigate the ways music funded by Vichy honored a deeply conservative view of France's cultural heritage. The Vichy government and its proponents welcomed adherence to the traditions of the past as the most effective way to combat Germany's own cultural programs in Europe under Nazi rule. Composers who upheld the values of French music written before 1918—represented by Debussy, Chabrier, d'Indy, and early Stravinsky—were hailed by critics as the New French School and rewarded with state funding for their work. While this repertoire—which included music by Marcel Delannoy, Francis Poulenc, Maurice Duruflé Henri Dutilleux, and André Jolivet—is largely forgotten, its influence on postwar musical polemics was profound. The vehemence with which Pierre Boulez and his generation rejected national identity as a legitimate attribute of modern music was a response to the wartime musical triumphs of French composers who proposed alternative models based on fidelity to their national heritage.
Record last modified: 2018-04-24 16:01:00
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