PIERRE-OCTAVE FERROUD (1900 - 1937)
Pierre-Octave Ferroud was born in 1900 in Lyons and was killed in a car accident in Hungary in August 1936. In this short period of time he established himself as a major figure in French music. As a critic he contributed regularly to Paris Soir and from time to time to other publications, providing himself in this way with a means of subsistence. He gained in Paris and in many travels throughout Europe a number of international contacts, and through the foundation of his chamber music ensemble, Triton, was able to introduce to French audiences contemporary music from abroad. He was also successful as a composer, with performances of his works by distinguished musicians and under well-known conductors. These works, contributions to almost every form of music, reflect the French aesthetic of the inter-war period in a thoroughly personal musical idiom, making some use of both imaginative caricatures and strict principles of construction. Pulsating rhythms and harmonic sharpness, keeping melodic tonality in a tonal centre, characterize most of his works.
In his compositions Ferroud returned again and again to the orchestra and his nuanced techniques of instrumentation won critical praise, even from sceptics. His early works, for example the Sarabande and Andante cordial, show a clear but conscious debt to French tradition and especially to Ravel, among others. From 1923 Ferroud lived in Paris and the first compositions of this period, Au Parc Monceau, Types and Foules, delight in descriptive writing. In the mid-1920s he shifted his aesthetic position towards classicisme, initially in his critical writing and subsequently in his compositions. His musical idiom became more linear, transparent and at the same time formally complex, as in the Violin Sonata of 1929. In instrumental writing he now finds no place for particular illustrative detail. Although in the Sérénade he wanted certain associations to be made through the titles of the movements, this is far removed from the caricatures and genre pictures of the earlier years. The Symphony in A takes up completely the broadened development towards musique pure and was the turning-point from which Ferrouds musical idiom appeared more easily comprehensible and in his last years, with the String Quartet of 1932-36, even emotional to some listeners. Yet in combination with lyrical or dramatic patterns he allowed himself a further development of his tendency towards illustration and the grotesque. From 1927 several song-cycles were written and here the choice of text and setting show an increasing openness to emotional suggestions. Here the music serves the text. With the stage works he showed further not only his descriptive talent but also his command of ironic caricature, in the comic opera Chirugie as in the ballet Jeunesse of 1929-1931.
Together with the Trois Chansons de Fous (Three Songs of Madmen), the Sonnerie pour le Hérault (Fanfare for the Herald) constitutes the last work of Ferroud, in 1935. Radio Paris had commissioned several composers, Ferroud, Henry Barraud, Marcel Delannoy and Claude Delvincourt, to provide the music for a radio production of Vitor Hugos Cromwell, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the writers death. The Fanfare marks the entrance of the Herald in the final scene to announce a publicly decreed period of fasting.