Margueritte Long first studied piano at the Nîmes Conservatoire and was discovered there at the age of twelve by Théodore Dubois, who invited her to join the class of Henri Fissot at the Paris Conservatoire. In Paris she also studied with Sophie Chéné, and after winning a premier prix joined the class of Antoine Marmontel (1816–1898), who heard Chopin many times and whose pupils included Bizet, Planté, Diémer, Albéniz and Debussy. Long made her Paris debut at the Salle Pleyel, but did not make her orchestral debut in public until 1903 when she performed César Franck’s Variations Symphoniques with the Lamoureux Orchestra conducted by Camille Chevillard. It was a great success that was praised by Fauré in Le Figaro.
In 1906 she was put in charge of the preparatory classes at the Paris Conservatoire, and when Louis Diémer died, she took over his class in 1920. In 1909 Long gave an all-Fauré recital in Paris and in 1919 gave the first performance of Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin, the Toccata of which is dedicated to the memory of her husband Joseph de Marliave who was killed in World War I. From 1921 Long also taught at the École Normale de Musique and gave master-classes on the works of Fauré and Debussy. Long also gave the first performance of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major which the composer dedicated to her.
In 1941 Long retired from the Paris Conservatoire and opened her own music school, the École Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud and within a few years had also instigated the Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud Competition.
Long was an important figure in French musical life during the first half of the twentieth century. Her pupils include Samson François, Yvonne Lefébure and Jacques Février and her writings include Au piano avec Claude Debussy, Au piano avec Gabriel Fauré, Au piano avec Ravel (with Pierre Laumonier) and La petite méthode de piano. She had many compositions dedicated to her including works by Gabriel Fauré, Ernesto Halffter, Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc, Erik Satie and Déodat de Séverac, and gave first performances of works by Fauré and Debussy. However, her reputation as a teacher and person is clouded by the disagreements she had with many people. After forming a close relationship with Gabriel Fauré and presenting herself as his leading interpreter, Long apparently fell out with him over a teaching post she wanted at the Paris Conservatoire. Later Fauré was to say that she was ‘…a shameless woman who uses my name to get on’. It has also been claimed that Long forced Ravel to dedicate his Piano Concerto in G major to her.
In the early 1930s Long recorded for French Columbia. Recordings include compositions by Fauré: his Ballade for piano and orchestra Op. 19, some of the nocturnes and impromptus and a barcarolle. On 14 April 1932, three months after the première, she made her famous recording of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major, not with the composer conducting as stated on the original record labels, but conducted by Portuguese conductor Pedro de Freitas-Branco.
On 10 May 1940, the day the Germans invaded Holland and Belgium, Long with her fellow musicians Jacques Thibaud, Maurice Vieux and Pierre Fournier recorded Fauré’s Piano Quartet No. 2 in G minor Op. 45. It is a fiercely committed performance and when listening to it one cannot help remembering that Germany invaded France two days later.
In 1944 Long recorded Beethoven’s ‘Emperor’ Concerto Op. 73 with Charles Munch, but her style of French clarity and lack of weight make this a less than successful performance. During the early 1950s Long recorded for LP works that she had recorded previously, such as Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor Op. 21, Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major and Fauré’s Ballade for piano and orchestra Op. 19. Also of note are her recordings of Milhaud’s Piano Concerto made in 1935, conducted by the composer, and Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A major K. 488 recorded in 1939 with Philippe Gaubert. In both these works Long’s finger articulation and clarity of tone are used to good effect, and in the first movement of the Mozart concerto she plays a cadenza dedicated to her by Gabriel Pierné and published in 1938.
Courtesy of Jonathan Summers
Role: Classical Artist