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Sauguet, Henri

Henri Sauguet can without doubt be truely considered as a child of the 20th century. Born in Bordeaux, fascinated from his childhood by music, he nonetheless had to go to work at an early age, as an errand boy for a usher. He had previously begged his father, in vain, to let him go to the conservatoire. However, his passion did not die. He discovered Debussy and, enthralled, wrote to him: his letter arrived on 23 March 1918 - the day on which the composer died. For this very young man, the shock of Debussy's work was doubtless comparable to that felt by his elders when listening to Wagner. After working as best he could, firstly in Bordeaux, then Montauban where Joseph Canteloube was his teacher, he met Darius Milhaud who invited him to Paris and made him discover the Pierrot Lunaire, the Bœuf sur le toit, Swedish ballets and Cocteau. Thus began an extraordinary musical and social career. Deceiving his family, Henri went to Paris as a shorthand typist and, renouncing his father's name, Poupard, adopted his mother's, Sauguet. He soon met Max Jacob, André Désormières and Koechlin who completed his education, and also Erik Satie. In such company, he soon became famous and Madame Bériza commissioned him to write an opera: Le Plumet du colonel, which after strange rehearsals, turned out to be a success. Etienne de Beaumont and Léonide de Massine opened their salons to him. Serge Diaghilev commisioned him to write a ballet, entitled La Chatte, and Ida Rubinstein another: David. From then on, Sauguet is borne by this cultured milieu. Intuitive, quick to learn and curious about everything around him (he was even interested in concrete music), he adapted readily to demand, the spirit of the time - something which his elders reproached him. Twenty-six ballets, a number of symphonies, including an Expiatoire following the Second World War, an opera entitled La Chartreuse de Parme, numerous melodies and pieces of chamber music: Sauguet's out put is one of the most prolific of his generation, especially when his film music and religious pieces are included. One does not necessarily need to find fault with facility and success, achievement and honours. Henri Sauguet has yet to be discovered or rediscovered. When, speaking admiringly of Louis Jouvet, he said «I have become «his» musician just as in earlier days one was the musician of a prince or a bishop», did he not define an equally noble career ?