TIMELINE OF WORLD HISTORY
 

Loading
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
     
     
  Etienne-Nicolas Mehul  
 
 
 
 
 
 
CONTENTS
  BACK NEXT    
 
 
     
 
 
 
 
Etienne-Nicolas Mehul
 
 
Etienne-Nicolas Mehul, (born June 22, 1763, Givet, Ardennes, Fr.—died Oct. 18, 1817, Paris), composer who influenced the development of French opera and who was one of the principal composers in the late 18th- and early 19th-century style.
 

Etienne-Nicolas Mehul
  In 1782 Méhul produced a cantata at the Concert Spirituel on a text by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Influenced by Christoph Gluck and Luigi Cherubini, he turned to dramatic music and between 1787 and 1822 composed more than 40 operas, produced mainly at the Opéra-Comique. His first performed opera was Euphrosine et Coradin, ou le tyran corrigé (1790; Euphrosine and Coradin, or the Tyrant Corrected).

His most successful works were Le Jeune Henri (1797), Les Deux Aveugles de Tolède (1806; The Two Blind Men of Toledo), Uthal (1806), and Joseph (1807).
He also wrote patriotic works, demanding great choral and orchestral resources, to mark festive occasions of the French Revolution, such as the Hymne à la raison (1793).

Méhul had a bold sense of harmony and original gifts as a dramatist and orchestrator, although he was poorly served by his librettists. His operas emphasized the orchestra’s role in opera; frequently he chose a theme that was developed symphonically as the dramatic action progressed.
Besides writing operas he wrote piano sonatas, chamber works, and symphonic works. His influence on younger composers was considerable.

Encyclopædia Britannica
 
 
 
Music

Operas

Méhul's most important contribution to music was his operas. He led the generation of composers who emerged in France in the 1790s, which included his friend and rival Luigi Cherubini and his outright enemy Jean-François Le Sueur. Méhul followed the example of the operas which Gluck had written for Paris in the 1770s and applied Gluck's "reforms" to opéra comique (a genre which mixed music with spoken dialogue and was not necessarily at all "comic" in mood). But he pushed music in a more Romantic direction, showing an increased use of dissonance and an interest in psychological states such as anger and jealousy, thus foreshadowing later Romantic composers such as Weber and Berlioz. Indeed, Méhul was the very first composer to be styled a Romantic; a critic used the term in La chronique de Paris on 1 April 1793 when reviewing Méhul's Le jeune sage et le vieux fou.

Méhul's main musical concern was that everything should serve to increase the dramatic impact. As his admirer Berlioz wrote:

[Méhul] was fully convinced that in truly dramatic music, when the importance of the situation deserves the sacrifice, the composer should not hesitate as between a pretty musical effect that is foreign to the scenic or dramatic character, and a series of accents that are true but do not yield any surface pleasure. He was convinced that musical expressiveness is a lovely flower, delicate and rare, of exquisite fragrance, which does not bloom without culture, and which a breath can wither; that it does not dwell in melody alone, but that everything concurs either to create or destroy it - melody, harmony, modulation, rhythm, instrumentation, the choice of deep or high registers for the voices or instruments, a quick or slow tempo, and the several degrees of volume in the sound emitted.

One way in which Méhul increased dramatic expressivity was to experiment with orchestration. For example, in Uthal, an opera set in the Highlands of Scotland, he eliminated violins from the orchestra, replacing them with the darker sounds of violas in order to add local colour. Méhul's La chasse du jeune Henri (Young Henri's Hunt) provides a more humorous example, with its expanded horn section portraying yelping hounds as well as giving hunting calls. (Sir Thomas Beecham frequently programmed this piece to showcase the Royal Philharmonic horn section.)

Méhul's key works of the 1790s were Euphrosine, Stratonice, Mélidore et Phrosine and Ariodant. Ariodant, though a failure at its premiere in 1799, has come in for particular praise from critics. Elizabeth Bartlet calls it "Mehul's best work of the decade and a highpoint of Revolutionary opera". It deals with the same tale of passion and jealousy as Handel's 1735 opera Ariodante. As in many of his other operas, Mehul makes use of a structural device called the "reminiscence motif", a musical theme associated with a particular character or idea in the opera. This device looks forward to the leitmotifs in Richard Wagner's music dramas. In Ariodant, the reminiscence motif is the cri de fureur ("cry of fury"), expressing the emotion of jealousy.

Around 1800, the popularity of such stormy dramas began to wane, replaced by a fashion for the lighter opéra comiques of composers such as François-Adrien Boieldieu. In addition, Mehul's friend Napoleon told him he preferred a more comic style of opera. As a Corsican, Napoleon's cultural background was Italian, and he loved the opera buffa of composers like Paisiello and Cimarosa. Méhul responded with L'irato ("The Angry Man"), a one-act comedy premiered as the work of the Italian composer "Fiorelli" in 1801. When it became an immediate success, Méhul revealed the hoax he had played. Méhul also continued to compose works in a more serious vein. Joseph, based on the Biblical story of Joseph and his brothers, is the most famous of these later operas, but its success in France was short-lived. In Germany, however, it won many admirers throughout the nineteenth century, including Wagner. A melody from Joseph is very similar to a popular folk melody widely known in Germany which was used as a song in the Imperial German Navy, and adapted, notoriously, as the tune for the co-national anthem of Nazi Germany, the Horst-Wessel-Lied. It is unclear, however, whether Méhul's melody was the actual provenance of the melody.
 

Symphonies and other works

Besides operas, Méhul composed a number of songs for the festivals of the republic (often commissioned by the emperor Napoleon), cantatas, and five symphonies in the years 1797 and 1808 to 1810.The First Symphony was revived in one of Felix Mendelssohn's concerts with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in 1838 and 1846 to an audience including Robert Schumann, who was impressed by the piece. In all four movements there are some stylistic similarities with Beethoven's Symphony No.5 (including the dissonant, furious mood of the first movement and the string pizzicatos in the third), which were also noted by Schumann. Actually at this date only Beethoven's Symphonies No.1 and 2 (1799/1800 and 1802) had been performed in France and both Beethoven's Fifth and Mehul's First were composed in the same year, 1808, were published in the following, 1809. In his mature symphonies, Mehul continued the path taken by Haydn (the Paris Symphonies, 1785–86, for example) and Mozart (Symphony No. 40, K.550, 1788), two composers who enjoyed great popularity in France in the early 19th century. A fifth symphony was never completed—"as disillusionment and tuberculosis took their toll", as David Charlton pointed out. The Symphonies nos.3 and 4 were only rediscovered by Charlton in 1979. Interviewed 8 November 2010 on the on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Professor Charlton said that Méhul's 4th Symphony was the first ever to employ the cyclical principle.

 

List of works

Operas
For a more comprehensive list, see List of operas by Étienne Méhul.

For piano
3 Sonates for Piano, op. 1 (1783)
3 Sonates for Piano, op. 2 (1788)
Orchestral music[edit]
Ouverture burlesque (1794)
Ouverture pour instruments à vent (1794)
Symphony in C (1797, only parts are surviving)
Symphony No.1 in G minor (1808/09)
Symphony No.2 in D major (1808/09)
Symphony No.3 in C major (1809)
Symphony No.4 in E major (1810)
Symphony No.5 (1810, only a first movement survives)

Vocal music

Chant du départ (1794)
Chant des victoires (1794)
Messe Solennelle pour soli, chœurs et orgue (1804)
Chant du retour pour la Grande Armée (1808)
Chant lyrique pour l'inauguration de la statue de Napoléon (1811)

Ballets

Le jugement de Pâris (1793)
La dansomanie (1800)
Persée et Andromède (1810) (together with music by Haydn, Paer and Steibelt)

 
 
 
 
 
 
Mehul - Symphony No 1 In G Minor
 
Orchestra Of The Gulbenkian Foundation - Michel Swierczewski, conductor
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Étienne Nicolas Méhul (1763-1817) - Symphony No.2 in D major
 
Symphony No.2 in D major
Intèrprets: The Gulbenkian Orchestra (ensemble); Michel Swierczewski (conductor)
 
 
 
 
 
 
Symphony No 2 in D Major by Etienne Nicolas Mehul, Ed Clinton Fairlamb (1)
 
 
 
 
 
 
Symphony No 2 in D Major by Etienne Nicolas Mehul, Ed Clinton Fairlamb 2
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Etienne Mehul: Symphony #4 in E Major - I Adagio - Allegro
 
Orchestra of the Gulbenkian Foundation, Michel Swierczewski
 
 
 
 
 
 
Etienne Mehul: Symphony #4 in E Major - II Andante
 
Orchestra of the Gulbenkian Foundation, Michel Swierczewski
 
 
 
 
 
 
Etienne Mehul: Symphony #4 in E Major - III Menuet: Allegro
 
Orchestra of the Gulbenkian Foundation, Michel Swierczewski
 
 
 
 
 
 
Etienne Mehul: Symphony #4 in E Major - IV Finale: Allegro
 
Orchestra of the Gulbenkian Foundation, Michel Swierczewski
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Étienne-Nicolas Méhul - Ariodant - Ouverture
 
Ariodant, drame mêlée de musique in three acts, first performance 11 October 1799, Opéra-Comique, Paris.

Libretto: François Bernoît Hoffmann after Ludovico Ariosto, Orlando furioso.

Ouverture

Orchestra: Orchestre de Bretagne

Conductor: Stefan Sanderling

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Étienne-Nicolas Méhul - Les Deux aveugles de Tolède - Ouverture
 
Les Deux aveugles de Tolède, opéra comique in one act, first performance 18 January 1806, Opéra-Comique, Paris.

Libretto: Marsollier de Vivetières after One Thousand and One Nights and his libretto Les Deux Aveugles de Bagdad.

Ouverture

Orchestra: Orchestre de Bretagne

Conductor: Stefan Sanderling

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Étienne-Nicolas Méhul - Horatius Coclés - Ouverture
 
Horatius Coclés, opéra in one act, first performance 18 February 1794, Opéra, Paris.

Libretto: Antoine-Vincent Arnaul

Ouverture

Orchestra: Orchestre de Bretagne

Conductor: Stefan Sanderling

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Étienne-Nicolas Méhul - Le jeune sage et le vieux fou - Ouverture
 
Le jeune sage et le vieux fou, comédie mêlée de musique in one act, first performance 28 March 1793, Opéra-Comique, Paris.

Libretto: François-Benoît Hoffmann

Ouverture

Orchestra: Orchestre de Bretagne

Conductor: Stefan Sanderling

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Étienne-Nicolas Méhul - Bion - Ouverture
 
Bion, comédie mêlée de musique in one act, first performance 27 December 1800, Opéra-Comique, Paris.

Libretto: François Bernoît Hoffmann nach Etienne-François de Lantier, Les Voyages d'Anténor.

Ouverture

Orchestra: Orchestre de Bretagne

Conductor: Stefan Sanderling

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Étienne-Nicolas Méhul - Mélidore et Phrosine - Ouverture
 
Mélidore et Phrosine, drame lyrique in three acts, first performance 6 May 1794, Opéra-Comique, Paris.

Libretto: Antoine-Vincent Arnault after Pierre Joseph Bernard, Phrosine et Mélidore

Ouverture

Orchestra: Orchestre de Bretagne

Conductor: Stefan Sanderling

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Ouverture: La Chasse du Jeune Henri - Etienne Méhul
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Étienne Nicolas Méhul - Joseph en Égypte (1807) (Sung in german)
 
Joseph en Égypte, drame mêlé de chants in three acts, first performance 17 February 1807, Opéra-Comique, Paris.

Libretto: Alexandre Duval

Benjamin: Ursula Zollenkopf
Jacob: Alexander Welitsch
Joseph: Libero de Luca
Naphtali: Günter Genersch
Ruben: Rolf Kunz
Simeon: Horst Günter

Chorus & Orchestra: Sinfonie-Orchester & Chor NWDR

Conductor: Wilhelm Schüchter

 
 
 
 
 
 
Roberto Alagna Sings "Champs Paternels," From Étienne Méhul's Joseph, 1807
 
 
 
 
 
 
Étienne-Nicolas Méhul - Joseph - Ouverture
 
Joseph, drame mêlé de chants in three acts, first performance 17 February 1807, Opéra-Comique, Paris.

Libretto: Alexandre Duval

Ouverture

Orchestra: Orchestre de Bretagne

Conductor: Stefan Sanderling

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Etienne Méhul - Chant National (1800)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Étienne-Nicolas Méhul - Le chant du départ (1794)
 
Le chant du départ (1794) war song (scored for trumpets, horns, clarinets, bassoons, serpentone and timpani)

Soprano: Antonella Balducci
Baritone: Dennis Hall

Chorus & Orchestra: Coro & Orchestra della RTSI

Conductor: Herbert Handt

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Méhul - Piano Sonata in c-minor, Op. 1 No. 2
 
Brigitte Haudebourg, fortepiano. Composed by E.N. Méhul (1763-1817).

I. Fièrement (0:00)
II. Menuet - Trio (6:31)

 
 
 
 
 
     
  Classical Music Timeline

Instruments Through the Ages

Classical Music History - Composers and Masterworks
     
 
 
 

 
 
CONTENTS
  BACK NEXT