Prepared by Doris Pyee-Cohen
Considered the “first” journal addressed to music historians in France, the Revue musicale produced a total of 234 issues. The journal’s high standard of scholarship was recognized in the Grand Larousse encyclopédique in which it was referred to as “one of the best journals of music history and criticism.”
Created by Jules Combarieu soon after the Universal Exhibition of 1900, the journal’s stated objective was the publication of articles on historical topics by French and foreign scholars. Combarieu was active in the journal’s affairs, contributing well over four hundred articles up to 1912. From 1901 until 1905 Louis Laloy, an authority on Greek and Byzantine music, was the journal’s “editor without title,” supported by an editorial board that included Combarieu, paleographer and archivist Pierre Aubry, music historian and composer Maurice Emmanuel, and the well-known writer Romain Rolland. Among occasional contributors was Michel D. Calvacoressi, an authority on Russian music.
The journal published many reviews of Parisian concerts given by the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, the Concerts Colonne, the Concerts Lamoureux, the Concerts Chevillard and the Schola Cantorum. Of exceptional interest are reviews of compositions by Borodin, Gustav Charpentier, Debussy, Dukas, Fauré, Franck, Gounod, Hüe, Leroux, Mercier, Saint-Saëns and Richard Strauss, and, performances by the pianists Harold Bauer, Teresa Carreño, Alfred Cortot, Mark Hambourg, Wanda Landowska, Guiomar Novaès, Moritz Rosenthal and Emil von Sauer; and the string players Pablo Casals, Pierre Fournier, Fritz Kreisler and Eugène Ysaÿe.
There are also numerous reviews of new operas such as Charpentier’s Louise, Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, Giordano’s Fedora and Siberia, Leoncavallo’s La Bohème, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and Tosca. Also noteworthy are the reviews of early French productions of Wagner’s later operas–Siegfried and Tristan und Isolde. French interest in Russian music, opera and ballet, is reflected in reviews of Diaghilev’s productions of Musorgsky’s Boris Gudonov and Rimski-Korsakov’s Snégourotchka, Stravinsky’s ballet L’Oiseau de feu and many other Russian stage works. An appreciation of a revival of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo at the Schola Cantorum is enhanced by Luigi Rossi’s notes on the opera and the printing of two musical selections. There are also reviews of numerous well-known and still-remembered singers such as Enrico Caruso, Feodor Chaliapin, Emmy Destin, Geraldine Farrar, Nellie Melba and Jean de Reszké.
In 1903 and 1904, the Revue musicale reproduced numerous letters from Chopin to his family, and letters written to Chopin. The journal also occasionally published press reviews such as those dealing with the première of César Franck’s Hulda in Monte Carlo in March 1894 and the revival of Thamara by Bourgault-Ducoudray. While Parisian musical activities constitute the essential part of the musical news, the journal also contains news of musical life in provincial cities including Rouen, Lille, Nancy and Bordeaux. The Monte-Carlo Opera season, under the direction of Raoul Gunsbourg is reviewed in detail beginning in 1904. London’s musical life is represented through reviews of concerts at Covent Garden Theatre.
The restoration of Gregorian chant by means of the Benedictines of Solesmes’ publications under the direction of Dom Mocquereau, the research and writings of Peter Wagner and many other scholars are important features. Reviews of new publications dealing with chant, facsimile reproductions of ancient manuscripts and transcriptions of plainchant service music—offices and masses—are regularly encountered. There is also considerable discussion of the theories of plainchant rhythm, Greek (Byzantine) chant and theory. The development of polyphonic sacred and secular music and the important bilingual Antiphoner of Montpelier are also subjects of discussion. Interest in non-European cultures is demonstrated with articles and transcriptions of Arabian music.