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Félicien David


  1. 1.
    Le Désert, Lever du soleil: II. Chant du muezzin - Orchestre de chambre de Paris , Laurence Equilbey , Zachary Wilder
  2. 2.
    Lalla-Roukh: Air de Lalla-Roukh "Sous le feuillage sombre" - Véronique Gens , Munich Radio Orchestra , Herve Niquet
  3. 3.
    Le Désert, Nuit: II. Fantaisie arabe - Danse des almé - Orchestre de chambre de Paris , Laurence Equilbey
  4. 4.
    Le Désert, L'entrée au désert: I. Ouverture - Orchestre de chambre de Paris , Accentus , Laurence Equilbey
  5. 5.
    Le Désert, L'entrée au désert: II. Marche de la caravane - Orchestre de chambre de Paris , Accentus , Laurence Equilbey
Though Félicien David is generally ranked a minor figure in French music, he was quite influential on the generations of French composers that followed him, owing to the uniquely exotic sonorities he produced in many of his large works, such as the symphonic ode, Le desert.
David, whose father was a talented amateur violinist, was orphaned by age five, but his musical education was overseen by François Joseph Garnier, first oboist in the Paris Opera Orchestra and author of book on oboe technique. A wealthy uncle also provided financial support for the young boy. David served as a choirboy in churches, then, in 1818, was taken into the choir at the Cathedral of St. Sauveur in Aix-en-Provence, where he also received musical training, his teachers including Marius Roux.
David was a prodigy, and soon began composing his first works, mostly vocal efforts such as hymns and motets. After a period of study at St. Louis College in Aix-en-Provence from 1825-28, he served briefly as a conductor and law clerk before becoming the chapel master at St. Sauveur for a year. Some of his earliest surviving works--motets and choruses--date to this period (1828-30).
In 1830 David traveled to Paris where he joined the social and philosophical sect, the Saint-Simonians. After the government outlawed the group, David traveled with some of its members to Jerusalem, Egypt, and other locations in the Middle East, locations whose culture and music would influence his musical persona.
David returned to Paris in 1836 and based his activities there or in its vicinity for the remainder of his career. In 1844 he completed the aforementioned Le desert (for soloists, chorus, speaker and orchestra), which was an overnight success. His 1851 opera La perle du Brésil was also greeted enthusiastically. By this time David was regarded among the foremost composers in Europe.
After the success of his opera Lalla-Roukh (1862), regarded by many as the composer's greatest work, David received a series of citations and prizes, including Officier de la Légion d'honneur, in 1862. He remained a religious man throughout his life (hence the many religious vocal works in his output) and remained true to the Saint-Simonians. While he remained active as a composer in the 1870s, his output declined sharply. David died in Saint Germain-en-Laye, France, on August 29, 1876.


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