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Reyer (real name, Rey), (Louis-Etienne-) Ernest

Reyer (real name, Rey), (Louis-Etienne-) Ernest

Reyer (real name, Rey), (Louis-Etienne-) Ernest , French composer; b. Marseilles, Dec. 1, 1823; d. Le Lavandou, near Hyères, Jan. 15, 1909. An ardent admirer of Wagner, he added the German suffix -er to his real name. He entered a Marseilles music school when he was 6. He was sent to Algiers in 1839 to work in a government dept. with an uncle, where he composed a Solemn Mass (for the arrival of the French governor in Algiers; perf. 1847) and publ, several songs. He definitely embarked upon a musical career in 1848, studying in Paris with his aunt, Louise Farrenc. In 1866 he became librarian at the Opéra, and followed d’Ortigue as music critic of the journal des Débats (1866–98); his collected essays were publ, in 1875 as Notes de musique; also in Quarante ans de musique (posthumous, 1909). He was elected to David’s chair in the Institut in 1876, was made a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur in 1872, and received the Grande-Croix in 1906. Although Reyer was an avowed admirer of Wagner, his music did not betray specific Wagnerian influences; both in form and in harmonic progressions, Reyer adhered to the Classical French school of composition, with a certain tendency toward exoticism in his choice of librettos. His reputation as a composer for the theater was securely established with his operas Sigurd (Brussels, Jan. 7, 1884) and Salammbô (Brussels, Feb. 10, 1890).


DRAMATIC: Le Sélam, “symphonie orientale,” but actually an opera (Paris, April 5, 1850); Maître Wolfram, opera (Paris, May 20, 1854); Sacountalâ, ballet pantomime (Paris, July 14, 1858); La Statue, opéra-comique (Paris, April 11, 1861; rev. Paris, Feb. 27, 1903); Erostrate, opera (in German, Baden-Baden, Aug. 21, 1862; in French, Paris, Oct. 16, 1871); Sigurd, opera (Brussels, Jan. 7, 1884); Salammbô, opera (Brussels, Feb. 10, 1890). VOCAL: Sacred : Messe pour l’arrivé du Duc d’Aumale à Alger (1847) and church music; works for men’s chorus; piano pieces.


A. Jullien, E. R.: Sa vie et ses oeuvres (Paris, 1909); H. Roujon, Notice sur la vie et les travaux de E. R. (Paris, 1911); H. de Curzon, E. R.: Sa vie et ses oeuvres (Paris, 1923).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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