Le Mercure musical

(Paris, 1905-1906)

Prepared by Doris Pyee
Online only (2015)

A scholarly publication reflecting French musical life at the beginning of the twentieth century, Le Mercure musical [MEC], was published in Paris from 1905 to 1907 by Librairie artistique L.-M. Fortin et Cie. MEC is an exceptionally rich and well-documented music journal of great importance for the understanding of the development of French musicology and musical life at the beginning of the twentieth century. Its editors were the eminent French musicologists Louis Laloy and Jules Écorcheville. In 1905 and 1906 MEC is published bi-weekly on the first and fifteenth of the month; in 1907 it becomes a monthly publication appearing on the fifteenth. 1905 consists of fifteen issues totaling 648 pages. 1906 is in two volumes: volume 1 (1 January to 15 June) consists of 580 pages; volume 2 (1 July to 15 December) totals 440 pages. 1907 consists of twelve issues comprising 1,136 pages. The continuous pagination of each volume begins with the number one; the pages measure 21 by 14.85 centimetres. In 1907, the journal’s title changes to Mercure musical et Bulletin français de la S.I.M. [Société Internationale de musicologie], and from this date until 1914, MEC is officially affiliated with the International Musicological Society.

Each issue is divided into two parts: in the first there are major historical, ethno-musicological and theoretical articles, in the second, reviews and reports concerning concerts, operas and general musical life in France as well as various parts of the world. This section, entitled “Revue de la Quinzaine” [The fortnight in review] in 1905-06, becomes “Le Mois” [The months] in 1907. At the beginning of each year, there is an alphabetical table and a list summarizing the content of articles and reviews.

MEC’s main collaborators are well-known musicologists, among them Lionel de la Laurencie, Pierre Aubry, Jean Chantavoine, Michel Brenet, André Pirro, the music critics Romain Rolland, and Henry Expert, and composers with literary skills, Vincent d’Indy, Claude Debussy and Arthur Farwell. Many issues contain a mixture of theoretical and historical articles, as well as reviews and bibliographical sections. Articles deal with a myriad of subjects ranging from the musical drama (Italian and German opera); music history (French opera and ballet in the eighteenth century); the evolution of genres, in-depth studies of the music and correspondence of particular composers (Lully, Beethoven, Félicien David, Paganini, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Richard Strauss and Liszt); comparative studies dealing with music and literature or philosophy (Maurice Maeterlinck and Claude Debussy, Émile Zola and Alfred Bruneau, Wagner and Friedrich Nietzsche); ethnomusicology (indigenous music in Ireland, Cambodia, Turkestan, Algeria, Armenia and of the Maori peoples of the Pacific Ocean islands); studies of Byzantine sacred music and notation; and, acoustics (Hermann Helmholtz, Hugo Riemann and Gustave Lyon).

Reviews not only deal with the major French lyric theatres and concert halls in Paris and the provinces, but also with the numerous and prestigious musical stages of Europe, Russia and the United States. Performances in Paris, taking place at the Académie nationale de musique, Théâtre National de l’Opéra-Comique, and the major concert halls, the Salle Gaveau and Salle Pleyel, are reviewed regularly. Reviews of concerts of orchestral groups such as the Concerts Chevillard, Concerts Colonne, the Société Nationale under the conductors Felix Weingartner and Arthur Nikisch, as well as concerts of numerous chamber music ensembles, provide insights into the development of French instrumental music of the period. Reviews from all over Europe and the New World offer a vast panorama of local musical life. Some of the most important performers of the time are treated including pianists Alfred Cortot, Blanche Selva, Raoul Pugno, Mme Roger Miclos, Marguerite Long, Josef Hoffmann, Ignace Jan Paderewski, Harold Bauer, Edouard Risler, Emil Sauer, Ricardo Viñes and Louis Diémer; violinists Eugène Ysaÿe, Pablo Sarasate, Georges Enesco, Mischa Elman and Jan Kubelik; the singers Félia Litvinne, Yvette Guilbert, Lina Cavalieri, Ernestine Schumann-Heink and Charles Delmas, and the composer-performers Gabriel Fauré, Vincent d’Indy and Camille Saint-Saëns, Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, Reynaldo Hahn, Déodat de Séverac, Vincent d’Indy and Guillaume Lekeu. The articles are richly illustrated with photographs and portraits of musicians, facsimiles of manuscripts and reproductions of archival documents. There are also regular book reviews.