Henri Duparc, classical music composer

Henri Duparc image

Henri Duparc


Though Henri Duparc is today ranked among the minor composers of the 19th century, one cannot but wonder what mighty works he may have produced, and if he might instead have been classified as one of the exemplars of late French Romanticism, had he not abruptly abandoned composing at the age of thirty-seven. While some composers produced little or nothing during the last decades, theirs was likely the result of an already extensive body of work and their imaginative force fully drained. Duparc's case, however, is more curious and it may never be known exactly why he turned his back on music.

Duparc was born in Paris on January 21, 1848. As a young lad, he displayed a keen intellect and interest in many fields of study. Initially, he began a pursuit of a career in law while simultaneously taking piano lessons from César Franck. With Franck, he later began to study the art of composition, becoming one of the composer's first pupils. Few works from Duparc's youthful pen survived this period, as the self-critical student destroyed many of his own works out of dissatisfaction.

The first of his compositions to appear publicly was his Five Mélodies for voice and piano, in 1868. These songs, and others that followed, became the core of Duparc's extant works and those for which he is best known today. Unlike his contemporaries, Duparc suppressed the mawkish style typical of French song. He showed a keen sensitivity to the union of poetry and music, and a refreshing utilization of contrapuntal techniques in his accompaniments.

In 1869, Duparc travelled to Munich where he was introduced to Franz Liszt and the music of Richard Wagner. Like many young composers of the late 19th century, Wagner became a sort of idol for Duparc, who subsequently make several trips to Bayreuth over the succeeding decades. Following military service in the short-lived Franco-Prussian War, Duparc, under Wagner's spell, turned his attention to the composition of orchestral music. In 1874, his Poéme nocturne was premiered at a Société Nationale de Musique Moderne concert, a society which he had helped found with Saint-Saëns and Romain Bussine. Within a few more years, he embarked on the composition of his first opera, Roussalka.

No doubt Duparc's burgeoning career had by now found its footing. For this reason, it is all the more surprising that in 1885, at the age of thirty-seven, he suddenly abandoned composition altogether. This sudden change was possibly, at least in part, psychological, and Duparc was diagnosed with neurasthenia. In his own words, music became "repugnant" and admitted to have been "living in a dream," and he subsequently destroyed many of his works, leaving only forty in all to posterity.

Duparc, however, did not quite wholly turn his back on music. In the early 1900s, he revised some of his early works, but no new compositions ever came forth again. Weakening eyesight also eventually led to total blindness around this time, and he eventually also suffered from paralysis in his final years. Duparc died at the age of eighty-five on February 12, 1933.

Composer Title Date Action
Henri Duparc L'Invitation au Voyage / Extase / Le Manoir de Rosemonde 05/08/2009 Play Add to playlist
Henri Duparc Au pays où se fait la guerre 05/25/2009 Play Add to playlist
Henri Duparc Chanson triste 05/25/2009 Play Add to playlist
Henri Duparc Le manoir de Rosamonde 05/25/2009 Play Add to playlist
Henri Duparc L'invitation au voyage 08/20/2017 Play Add to playlist
Henri Duparc Chanson triste 08/20/2017 Play Add to playlist
Henri Duparc Soupir 08/20/2017 Play Add to playlist
Henri Duparc La vie antérieure 08/20/2017 Play Add to playlist
Henri Duparc Phidylé 08/20/2017 Play Add to playlist