Within the past ten years, many recordings and concerts have contributed to the rediscovery of Joseph-Guy Ropartz's œuvre in France and around the world. Ropartz's artistic reputation has unfortunately long suffered from unjustified and inaccurate impressions. "Celtic Bard", "Melodious Monolith", "Last Bulwark of the Franckist School"... All these demeaning labels have obscured the profundity of a master who, according to Louis Kornprobst (Ropartz, étude biographique et musicale, Éditions musicales d’Alsace, 1949), took his inspiration from three sources: Brittany, the Sea, and his Religious Faith.
Ropartz was born in Guingamp (Côtes-du-Nord) on June 15th, 1864. He very early developed his artistic gifts in conjunction with his father, a lawyer and man of great culture. After his father's death, his brother Yves encouraged him to write poems and novels – because the young Ropartz first wanted to be writer. But little by little, music became his first preoccupation, and, in 1885, he left for Paris with the secret hope of overcoming his meager preparation for the Conservatoire. He became the pupil of Dubois in harmony and Massenet in composition, preferring nevertheless to the latter (whose teaching could have led him to the Prix de Rome) the emblematic figure of César Franck. The influence of Franck would be predominant in the genesis of such works as the Psalm 136 (1897) or the Four poems after Heine's Intermezzo (1899) and supported the development of his own language.
In 1894, he becames director of the Conservatoire and Concerts Symphoniques of Nancy. A passionate defender of the music of his time and a skilled orchestra director, he improved the quality of the teaching at the Conservatoire and lifted the orchestra to the highest national level. During Ropartz’s tenure at the Conservatoire, his colleague Chausson created there his Poème, and Magnard, his Symphonies. Ropartz also played there his Third symphony with choirs as well as his opera Le Pays (The Country).
A man to take on every challenge, he also took up this one: restructuring the Strasburg Conservatoire after the 1918 victory. This exile of almost thirty years contributed to the nostalgic and dreaming feelings which are characteristic of his style.
When he retires in 1929, returned to his Breton manor in Lanloup and, at last, he could work serenely for himself and enrich a corpus including, inter alia, five symphonies, six string quartets, and more than one hundred of songs.
Guy Ropartz died on November 22nd, 1955, day of Saint Caecilia, patroness of the musicians.
Menut, Mathieu Ferey.
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