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Émile Louis Fortuné Pessard

born: 29 May 1843
died: 10 February 1917
country: France

Pessard won the Prix de Rome (with the cantata Dalila in 1866). He combined composition with a teaching career at the conservatoire (where Ravel was one of his pupils in the harmony class) and employment as a music critic. His numerous attempts at writing operas were never really successful (the fate of the majority of composers who achieved early renown as laureates of the Prix de Rome) so he directed his attentions to religious music, chamber music (pieces for flute survive in the repertoire) and mélodies. The latter were published under the unusual title Joyeusetés de bonne compagnie. Debussy thought highly enough of Pessard’s Chanson d’un fou (Daudet) to copy it out and take it to Russia with him in 1881 when he was employed as part of Madame von Meck’s musical retinue. This manuscript was found in the Meck family papers and was republished in 1932 as an early Debussy song (as was Ici-bas by the Hillemacher brothers).

from notes by Graham Johnson 2006
English: Richard Stokes

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