Prepared by Diana Snigurowicz
One of the longest running French periodicals of the century, L’Art musical is an extremely valuable documentary resource offering a detailed view not only of Parisian musical life but also that of other French cities and of Europe in general. Each issue of the journal generally includes reviews of operas and concerts, one or more feature articles, news, and advertisements. Feature articles treat subjects of an historical, theoretical or biographical nature or offer an extensive review of a new publication.
Léon Escudier, the journal’s founder, was a veteran of the publishing industry, a music critic, and author of several books on music. In 1837, Léon and his brother Marie-Pierre-Yves founded the weekly La France musicale, and five years later, a music publishing firm specializing in Italian opera. Marie left the publishing house in 1860, taking La France musicale with him. Léon, then, finding himself without an organe de maison in which to promote his publications, founded L’Art musical in December of the same year, with the collaboration of the pianist, composer, author and critic Oscar Comettant. Léon Escudier retained active directorship of the journal until his death in June 1881, at which time it was taken over by the Maison Girod, a firm which published works mainly by contemporary French composers and material of a pedagogic nature. In December 1883 the old and established firm of Alphonse Leduc et Cie took control of L’Art musical; Henri Jahyer was then appointed rédacteur en chef.
Commetant, Léon Escudier and Paul Girod contributed extensively to the journal. The many articles by Commetant treat a variety of subjects including the music and musicians of Denmark, the direction of the French lyrical theaters and the use of dissonant harmony. Among Léon Escudier’s numerous contributions are reviews of Bizet’s Carmen, the première of Verdi’s Aida at Cairo, performances of Verdi’s Requiem at the Théâtre-Italien and in London, and obituary notices. After Escudier’s death, Paul Girod directed the journal and contributed extensively to it. Among his contributions are writings on the Concours de Rome, the reform of the Paris Conservatory, the establishment of the Théâtre-Lyrique, and numerous reviews of concerts and operas.
The Alphonse Leduc et Cie had exclusive publishing rights in France to the music of Cui, Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Liadov and Kolatscheffsky. Thus, when the Leduc firm took over, its interest in Russian music was reflected in the journal. Between 1884 and 1894, a fairly regular column “Lettre de Russie” by L. Giaccone appeared, with reviews of operas and concerts in St. Petersburg and with emphasis on the works of Tscaikovsky and the “Mighty Five.”
In addition to the editors’ contributions, one of the journal’s most prolific is Achille de Lauzières de Thèmines. His over four-hundred contributions treat numerous subjects (e.g., the influence of Italian music in Egypt, the role of the orchestra in opera, the administration of lyric theaters, Lully and the recitative, nationalism in the works of Verdi and Wagner, and the letters of Joseph Haydn). Arthur Pougin contributed extended biographies of Boieldieu and Mercadante; and, Edmond Neukomm articles on the life of J. S. Bach (taken from Forkel’s biography), a concert of Russian music given by Prince Georges Galitzin, the reprise of Boieldieu’s La Dame blanche at the Théâtre-de-l’Opéra-Comique, as well as many reviews. Franz de Villars dealt with eighteenth and early nineteenth-century topics such as the operas of Cimarosa and Pergolesi, the French violinist and composer Mondonville, the iconography of Beethoven, and a history of the Opéra-Comique. A reprint of Franz Liszt’s biography of Chopin was serialized. As owners of the rights to Verdi’s operas in France, the editors of L’Art musical devoted considerable space to the composer’s works.