Paray, Paul

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Paray, Paul

Paray, Paul, distinguished French conductor and composer; b. Le Tréport, May 24, 1886; d. Monte Carlo, Oct. 10, 1979. He began his musical education with his father, a church organist. In 1904 he entered the Paris Cons. as a composition student of Leroux, Caussade, Lenepveu, and Vidal, receiving the Premier Grand Prix de Rome with his cantata Yanitza (1911). He was drafted into the French army during World War I and was taken prisoner by the Germans; composed a String Quartet while interned at Darmstadt; after the Armistice (1918), he became conductor of the orch. of the Casino de Cauterets. Substituting for an ailing Caplet, Paray made his Paris debut on Feb. 20, 1920, and soon became asst. conductor of the Lamoureux Orch., succeeding Chevillard as 1st conductor in 1923; was appointed conductor of sym. concerts in Monte Carlo in 1928, and in 1932 succeeded Pierné as conductor of the Concerts Colonne, remaining until the orch. was disbanded by the Nazi occupiers of Paris in 1940. He conducted briefly in Marseilles and, following the liberation of Paris, resumed his duties with the Concerts Colonne (1944–52). Paray made his American debut in N.Y. on July 24, 1939, in a program of French music. In 1952 he became music director of the reorganized Detroit Sym. Orch., and on Oct. 18, 1956, inaugurated the new Ford Auditorium in Detroit in a program that included his own Mass for the 500th Anniversary of the Death of Joan of Arc, a work first heard in the Rouen Cathedral in France in 1931; he resigned in 1963 and returned to France, although he continued to guest-conduct internationally. In July 1977, at the age of 91, he conducted an orch. concert in honor of Marc Chagall’s 90th birthday celebration in Nice, and, at age 92, made his last conducting appearance in the U.S., leading the orch. of the Curtis Inst. of Music in Philadelphia. As a conductor, he concentrated on the Classics and Romantics, and French music. He was the composer of several highly competent works, including, besides Yanitza and his Mass, a ballet entitled Artemis troublée (Paris, April 28, 1922, perf. as a symphonic poem, Adonis troublé); Fantaisie for Piano and Orch. (Paris, March 25, 1923); 2 syms. (1935, 1940); Sym. for Strings; String Quartet (1918); Violin Sonata (1908); Cello Sonata (1919); piano pieces.


W. Landowski, P. P. (Lyons, 1956); J.-P. Mousnier, P. P. (1998).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire