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Paul Paray (Conductor, Organ, Composer)

Born: May 24, 1886 - Le Tréport, France
Died: October 10, 1979 - Monte Carlo, Monaco

The distinguished French conductor, organist and composer, Paul Paray, began his musical education with his father, Auguste, who was a sculptor and organist at St. Jacques church, and leader of an amateur musical society. He put young Paul in the society's orchestra as a drummer. Later, Paul Paray went to Rouen to study music with the abbots Bourgeois and Bourdon, and organ with Haelling. In 1904 he entered the Paris Conservatoire, as a composition student, studied there with Leroux, Caussade, Lenepveu, and Vidal. In 1911, he won the Premier Grand Prix de Rome for his cantata Yanitza.

As World War I started, Paul Paray heeded the call to arms and joined the French Army. In 1914, he was a prisoner of war at the Darmstadt camp, where he composed a string quartet. After the war, in 1918, he was invited to conduct the orchestra of the Casino de Cauterets, substituting the ailing Caplet. The orchestra included players from the Lamoureux Orchestra. This was a springboard for him to make his Paris debut with this Orchestra on February 20, 1920. Soon he became assistant conductor of the Lamoureux Orchestra, succeeding Camille Chevillard as 1st conductor in 1923. In 1928, he was appointed Music Director of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, and in 1932, succeeded Pierné as conductor of the Concerts Colonne, remaining until the orchestra 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 (1944-1952).

In 1922, Paray composed music for the Ida Rubinstein ballet Artémis troublée. That year he and the Spanish violinist Manuel Quiroga premiered his Violin Sonata. In 1931, he wrote the Mass for the 500th Anniversary of the Death of Joan of Arc, which was premiered at the cathedral in Rouen to commemorate the quincentenary of Joan of Arc's martyr death. In 1935, he wrote his Symphony No. 1 in C major, which was premiered at the Concerts Colonne. He composed his Symphony No. 2 in A major in 1941.

Paul Paray made his American debut with the New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra on July 24, 1939, in a programme of French music.. In 1949-1950 he was Music Directors, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1952, he was appointed Music Director of the reorganised Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and on October 18, 1956, inaugurated the new Ford Auditorium in Detroit in a programme that included his own Messe du cinquième centenaire de la mort de Jeanne d'Arc, a work first heard in the Rouen Cathedral in France in 1931. He conducted conducting the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in numerous recordings for Mercury Records' "Living Presence" series. In 1963 he resigned and returned to France, although he continued to gust-conduct internationally, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana, among many others. In 1977, at the age of 91, he conducted an orchestral concert in honour of Marc Chagallís 90th birthday celebration in Nice, and, at the age of 92, made his last conducting appearance in the USA, leading the Orchestra of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

Paul Paray could and did conduct the entire orchestral repertoire well, but he specialised in the French symphonic literature. One of Paray's most renowned recordings, made in October 1957, is that of Camille Saint-Saëns' Symphony No. 3 in C minor. The circumstances surrounding the recording were fortuitous. Paray had built the Detroit Symphony Orchestra into one of the world's most distinguished. Marcel Dupré, a friend and fellow student from childhood, was organist for the session. Marcel Dupré, as a young student, had pulled the organ stops for the composer Camille Saint-Saëns in a performance of the Symphony No. 3 in Paris, and the organ of Ford Auditorium in Detroit was well suited to the work. As well as being among the most authoritative readings of the work, the original analogue recording on the Mercury label remains an audiophile reference in vinyl, and the analogue-to-digital transfer produced by the original recording director Wilma Cozart for CD is also available from Mercury.

Paul Paray married Yolande Falck in Cassis, France, on August 25, 1942. He was a National Patron of Delta Omicron, an international professional music fraternity. The government of France awarded him its highest honour, the Grand-Croix de la Légion d'honneur, in 1975.

Selected works

Yanitza, Scène lyrique d'après une légende albanaise (1911); poem by Georges Spitzmuller
Artémis troublée, Ballet by Léon Bakst (1911-1912)

Symphonie d'archets for string orchestra (1919); orchestration of the String Quartet
Nocturne for chamber orchestra
Symphony No. 1 (1934)
Symphony No. 2 (1936)

Fantaisie for piano & orchestra (1909)
Humoresque for violin & chamber orchestra (1910)

Chamber Music:
Piano Trio (1905)
Sérénade for violin (or flute) & piano (1908)
Sonata in C minor for violin & piano (1908)
Humoresque for violin & piano (or chamber orchestra) (1910)
Nocturne for violin (or cello) & piano (1910)
|String Quartet in E minor (1919)
Sonata No. 1 in B♭ major for cello & piano (1919)
Sonata No. 2 in C major for cello & piano

Romance (1909)
Portraits d'enfants (1910)
Valse sur un thème de Franz Schubert (1911)
Impressions (1912)
Reflets romantiques
Avec esprit et charme
En rêvant
Avec fougue
Sept pièces
Presto (1913)
Prélude, scherzo et allegro
Thème et variations
Prélude en fa majeur (1913)
Allegro (1913)
Scherzo (1913)
D'une âme... (1914)
Pièces pour piano à quatre mains for piano 4-hands (1914)
Éclaircie (1923)
Prélude (1930)
Prélude en mi bémol mineur
Prélude en fa mineur
Sur la mer
Valse en fa dièse mineur
Valse en fa mineur
La vraie furlana

Nuit d'Italie for voice & piano; words by Paul Bourget
Laurette for voice & piano; words by Alfred de Vigny|
Sépulcre for voice & piano; words by Leon Volade
Paroles à la lune for voice & piano (1903); words by Anna de Noailles
Panis Angelicus for voice & cello (1904)
Dans les bois for voice & piano (1904); words by Gérard de Nerval
La promesse for voice & piano or orchestra (1910); words by Gabriel Montoya
La plainte for voice & piano or orchestra (1911); words by Lucien Paté
Le papillon for voice & piano or orchestra (1911); words by Jean Aicard
Le champ de bataille (1912); words by Théophile Gautier
Trois mélodies for voice & piano or orchestra (1912); words by Théophile Gautier
La Dernière feuille
lle for voice & piano or orchestra (1912); words by Théophile Gautier
Chanson violette for voice & piano or orchestra (1913); words by Albert Samain
Le chevrier for voice & piano or orchestra (1913); words by José-Maria de Heredia
Il est d'étranges soirs for voice & piano or orchestra (1913) words by Albert Samain
Viole for voice & piano (1913); words by Albert Samain
In manus tuas for voice, oboe & organ (1914)
Quatre poèmes de Jean Lahor for voice & piano or orchestra (1921)
Après l'orage
Après le bal
Dèsir de mort
for medium voice & piano (1924)
Le Poèt et la muse for voice & piano; words by E. Thévenet
L'embarquement pour l'idéal for voice & piano; words by Catulle Mendès
Mortes les fleurs for voice & piano; words by P. May
Chanson napo for voice & piano; words by P. May

Os Justi, Offertorium for chorus & organ (1903)
Acis et Galatée, Cantata (1910)
Jeanne d'Arc, Oratorio (1913); words by Gabriel Montoya
Salve Regina for chorus a cappella (1929)
Messe du cinquième centenaire de la mort de Jeanne d'Arc (Mass for the Fifth Centenary of the Death of Joan of Arc) for soloists, chorus & orchestra (1931)
Nuit tombante for chorus & orchestra
Pastorale de Noël for soloists, chorus & orchestra
Soleils de septembre for chorus & orchestra

Source: Bakerís Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians (1997); Wikipedia Website (January 2013)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (February 2013)

Recordings of Bachís Instrumental Works




Paul Paray


Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 BWV 1050 [w/ pianist Glenn Gould]

Paul Paray


Harpsichord Concerto No. 1 BWV 1052 [w pianist Monique Haas]

Links to other Sites

Paul Paray (1886-1979) - French Composer and Conductor (Official Website)
Paul Paray - Bio (Naxos)
More Than the Notes: Paul Paray

Paul Paray (Wikipedia)
Paul Paray - Biography (AMG)

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