Composer of C

Jean Emile Paul Cras (1879-1932)

A French composer and a naval man. He was born in Brest on 22th of May in 1879. Under the influence of his father (who loved music), he started to compose when he was six years old. Although his earlier musical training history is unclear, we can see he was largely taguht music by himself. He entered naval academy when he was 17 years old. After his graduation in 1898, he has visited numerous places as a naval man. In 1900, when he was 20, he fatefully encountered Henri Duparc. Cras has Duparc for his lifelong teacher of music and even studied directly for three months of his vacation days. Duparc highly acclaimed Cras's brilliance such that he called Cras 'le fils de mon âme (the man who inherits my soul)'. In addition, under the suggestion of Duparc, Cras once studied under Alexandre Guilmant in the Paris Conservatory. After the service on active duty in the world war I, he was appointed as a commandant of a backward corp, then he was active of composing as well as and taught in a naval academy of his birthplace. He was more famous in the field of sailing. He invented many navigation devices and some of these are still in use until nowadays. His compositional diction is fairly impressionistic with large influence of romantic idiom. He died in Brest at 53 years old, on 14th of September, 1932. (2004©K.S. / related internet source: Jean Cras in French)

Main Works

Stage Lyric Drama '(Myth of) Polypheme' Polyphème (1922?) <6vo, choir, orch>
Opera 'A Foreign Knight' le chevalier étranger (1932)
Orchestral Souls of Children âmes d'enfants (1918)
Ship's Journal journal de bord (1927)
Concerto Legend légende pour violoncelle et orchestre (1929) <vc, orch>
Piano Concerto concerto pour piano et orchestre (1930) <p, orch>
Chamber Cello Sonata sonate pour violoncelle et piano (1900) <vc, p>
Largo in D largo en fa (1901) <vc>
Piano Trio piano trio (1907) <p, vln, vc>
String Quartet No.1 quatuor à cordes Nr. 1 (1909) <2vln, vla, vc>
Piano Quintet quintette pour piano et quatuor à cordes (1922) <p, 2vln, vla, vc>
Impromptu impromptus (1925) <hrp>
String Trio trio à cordes (1925-1926) <vln, vla, vc>
Suite in Duo suite en duo (1927) <vln, p>
Quintet quintette (1928) <hrp, fl, vln, vla, vc>
Four Pieces quatre pièces (1926/1929) <vln, p>
Piano Intimate Poems poèmes intimes (1902/1911)
Dance danze กส1917กห
Scenes paysages (1917)
Seven Melodies sept melodies (1900) <vo, p>
Sweetness of Evening douceur du soir (1901) <btn, p>
Missa in Four Voices messe à quatre voix (1901-1910?) <4vo>
Lyric Offering l'offrande lyrique (1920) <sop, p>
Image image (1921) <sop, p>
Fontains fontaines (1923) <btn, p>
Five Quatrains cinq robaiyat (1924) <btn, p>
Six Poems six poèmes (orch.1924) <vo, p/vo, orch>
Pan Flute la flûte de pan (1928) <pan-f, vln, vla, vc, sop>
Evening of the Sea soir sur la mer (1929) <btn, p>
Two Chansons deux chansons (-) <btn, p>
Elegies élégies pour chant et orchestre (-) <vo, orch>

Cras Disc Review

"Journal de Bord / Âmes d'enfants / Légende pour Violoncelle et Orchestre / Concerto pour Piano et orchestre" (Timpani : 2C2037)
Henri Demarquette (vc) Alain Jacquon (p) Jean-François Antonioli (cond) Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg

Before Timpani published the stage work 'polypheme' finally, this CD had provided a precious oppotunity to listen this minor composer's orchestral skills. Needless to say, whole tracks are first world recordings. It is easy to find deep impact of impressionism in his orchestral works in terms of colorful harmonization and abstruct motifs. However, his orchestral works have not much flavor comparing with these of Debussy and Caplet. In other words the density is not so high. If you have tried Tournemire's orchestral works, you can imagine what I would like to say. Despite of the lendth, his orchestral works is relatively simple and somewhat monotonous in their constructions. As for the performer, it is a small surprise to find Antonioli's name is listed on index as the conductor. He is also a great pianist. His recording of Debussy's second book of Preludes is absolutely the greatest performance ever made. In addition his recording of Martin's piano concertos are one of the best discs of Martin concertos.

"Polyphème - Drame Lyrique" (Timpani : 3C3078)
Armand Arapian, Sophie Marin-Degor, Yann Beuron, Valérie Debize, Rémi Corbier, Laure Baert (vo) Bramwell Tovey (cond) Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg
Here we come to have a nice alternate to appreciate Cras's orchestral music with one of the hottest orchestra of nowadays. The story of 'Polypheme' comes from an ancient Greek legend. Of the two known stories for Polypheme, the text of this opera stands for Polypheme's jealous for Galathea (she loves an Achis, an beautiful guy). Even though Polypheme loves her, it seems beeing in vain because she loves a beautiful guy Achis. One day, Polypheme happened to find them falling in love. He finally attacked Achis by a huge stone out of jealousy... Although of such unrefined story, the opera is written in really fantastic post-romantic idiom with deep influence of Debussy's 'Pelleas'. Since most of his orchestral works are not very condensed, this should be the first choice to listen his orchestral works. If I should quote anything about this, it is the quality in performance. The chorus team, Ile-de-France chorus directd by Michel Piquemal, who performed here, is a well-known team with their recordings of Ropartz or Durufle. Their finess in texture cannot be admired in international level regretably. Also, the texture of strings provided by Luxembourg Philharmonic is not as well as ones directed by Krivine. Even though of such an small flaw, this recording is still worth enough to be recommended as a first choice to listen Cras's large ensemble works because of its uncanny beauty.

"Musique de Chambre pour Harpe :
Introduction et Allegro (Ravel) / Danses (Debussy) / Conte Fantastique (Caplet) / Quintette (Cras)" (Valois : V 4739)

Isabelle Moretti (hrp) Quatuor Parisii : Michel Moragues (fl) Pascal Moragues (cl) Dominique Desjardins (b)
All that included in this CD is just one quintet in four movements. But I still would like to recommend this CD strongly to know Cras's brilliance. If you excuse me to give my personal view, this quintet is definitely the best work of him. Above all, there is no other tunes which contain more of the density and abundant imagination. In terms of the modest compositional manner, we can find some similarity between this quintet and Debussy's Petit Suite or Danses. Although he addopted impressionistic diction largely, by applying it to the romantic and archaic forms of the composition, he can avoid from being tricked by its unprecedentedness and achieved to expand the existing music idiom. This quintet inscribes the moment of god's advent to a ordinary composer. Clearly, it demonstrates the composer's peak of creative activities.

"Mélodies :
Cinq Robaiyat / La Flûte de Pan / Fontaines / L'offrande Lyrique / Soir sur la Mer / Douceur du Soir / Image / Deux Chansons" (Timpani : 1C1025)

Catherine Estourelle (sop) Lionel Peintre (btn) Alain Jacquon (p) Simon Stanciu Syrinx (pan fl) Jean-Marc Phillips (vln) Pierre Lenert (vla) Henri Demarquette (vc)

Small or midium organization such as chamber and instrumental ensemble are ones that the degree in density and completion of his compositions get the highest. This CD occupied by melodies of Cras indicates a good example. You can easily find many common points in his melodies and Debussy's chamber works (if you have tried Maurice Emmanuel's melodies, the works included in this CD can be best described by them). In case you would like to grasp the outline of this composer, this would be among the first choices. It is regretable to note the soprano sang a bit unsteadily and lamely although the other singer, Lionel Peintre sings passionately and gallantly. The four-star rating is totally owing to their performances, not because of the composition.

"Quintette pour Piano et Cordes / Quatuor à Cordes" (Timpani : 1C1066)
Alain Jacquon (p) Quatuor Louvigny
Because his main calling was navy officer, he left being unknown until quite recently. As you can see this CD listings, you will immediately find the fact that most of them are published by Timpani label. I cannot help saying that it is total mystery why this label has recorded more than 4 CDs just for Cras although they have not given their attention to Koechlin's melodies or chamber works (needless to say Koechlin is much more famous than Cras and his vocal works are rarely recorded also). This is the fourth of Timpani's series of Cras recordings. It is amazing to listen the performance. Definitely they are the best among all four. Although the quintet, which has widely recognized as a masterpiece, was written in fairly conservative latter romantic idiom, whole tone scale, modality, and delicate arppegios are carefully weaved at every turn. They altogether create a moony sounds. It is a good example of Franckist-Debussian combination which has predominated around the turn of 19th to 20th century. The first violin is a professor in Liege Conservatory. Quartet is formed by the members of Luxembourg Philharmonic, whereas Alain Jacquon, the house pianist of this label. They give a little bit fragile but powerful performance. Recommended strongly.

"L'oeuvre de Piano :
Danze / Paysages / Poèmes Intimes" (Timpani : 1C1033)

Alain Jacquon (piano)

It may be applicable to other minor composers (such as Dupont or Le Flem) of that period, the piano works of Cras is more likely to be described as a eclectisist of Romantic - Debussian paradigms. Although the coloration in harmony tastes a little bit more of colorfulness, the total idiom of his compositions do not lose touch with traditional romantic manner such as Chopin or Liszt. Apparently, it is the conclusions or choices of most 'normal' composers in these period. They could not be dare to select any of two gigantic tidal streams. In other words, this piano works can be characterized as compositions that could not grasp the bare bone of either one tides. It must be this 'something is missing' feeling that makes us from being completely satisfied with them, although of a fairly good performance.

"L'oeuvre Complète pour Violon et Piano :
Suite en Duo / Quatre Pièces / Poèmes Intimes" (Skarbo : D SK 4941)

Marie-Annick Nicolas (vln) Jean-Pierre Ferey (p)

Hence Cras as a composer was not so productive, his compositions for violin can be covered simply by purchasing this CD as well as piano works (they can be followed by Timpani disc also). Same things can be said to describe the compositional diction of the tracks in this CD. If you love Franck, Faure, Chausson and so on, I can predict you would love these pieces. In other words, his impressionistic favor is deminished like the case of the works for piano. It is easy to accuse that his compositions have Indecisive attitude, that was true for most of all composers also. Such composers have appeared one after another, and disappeared with leaving huge amount of works of small merit. That is the history of modern music. On the ground of their sacrifice, few mutated flowers such as Debussy and Ravel can be bloomed. The performer, Jean-Pierre Ferey is also a music director of the label. Since he seems to have a detailed knowledge of French modern music, he has recorded Koechlin's piano works also for this label. He inddicated his best as a accompanist as the present disc demonstrates.

"Valse Romantique / Bruyères..(Debussy) Suite en Duo (Cras) Les Cygnes / Les Ecureuils (Büsser) Duo Concertant (Lancen) Pièce en Forme de Habanera / Pavane (Ravel) Sonatine de Mai (Casterede)" (Quantum : QM 7012)
Duo Thaïs : Florence Bellon (fl) Caroline Rempp (hrp)
Duo Thais was formed in early 1980s by two players who has graduated from Paris National Conservatory, where they had awarded the first prizes in their own instruments. The flutiest is a pupil of Alain Marion whereas the harpist is a pupil of Jacqueline Bollot. The bright background demonstrates the quality of performance in technical content despite of small problems of interpretation. One can easily guess they intend to save minor modern composers by seeing the name of the duo because Thais stood for the name of Massenet's famous composition. This CD represents their musical favor. Once you excempt Debussy and ravel from the index, you can recognize the rest are totally occupied the works of the rare composers. As for Cras, we can listen Suite en Duo only. But the taste is elegant. Because it was composed originally for this format, this work sounds so attractive hence it can be categorized as a modern side of Cras. In addition the performance is much better than the other alternate.

(2001.1.18 uploaded : English trans. 2004. 3. 4)