S0631. MARCEL GRANDJANY (Harp): Francisque, Couperin, Kirchhoff, Debussy & Ravel; w.Jean Paul Morel Cond.RCA Victor Orch.: Harp Concerto in B-flat (Handel). (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL 78-225. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“Born in Paris in 1891, the harpist Marcel Grandjany had his early musical training with a relative, Juliette Georges Grandjany, winning a scholarship at the age of eight to study the harp with Henriette Renié. A year later he started classes of solfège at the Conservatoire, where, from 1902 until 1910, he was a pupil of Alphonse Hasselmans, winning the coveted Premier Prix at age thirteen. He made his Paris début with the Concerts Lamoureux Orchestra in 1909, and after a relatively brief period of military service was from 1915 to 1918 organist and choirmaster at the Sacré-Coeur Basilica.
At seventeen he made his début with the Concerts Lamoureux Orchestra, and gave his first solo recital, winning immediate acclaim. He appeared with Maurice Ravel in Paris in 1913. His connection with America came with a period of fourteen years as a teacher at the American Conservatoire at Fontainebleau, and, after his London début in 1922, his first appearance in New York two years later. He appeared as soloist with major orchestras under the direction of Gabriel Pierné, Alfred Cortot, Walter Damrosch, Serge Koussevitzky, George Szell, Fritz Reiner and Vladimir Golschmann, among others. He toured widely in Europe and North America and was co-founder of the Quintette Instrumental de Paris, for which composers such as Vincent d’Indy and Albert Roussel wrote works.
From 1921 to 1926, he headed the Harp Department of the Fontainebleau Summer School. He moved to the United States in 1926 and was appointed head of the Harp Department at the Juilliard School in 1938, where he taught until his death in 1975, with the exception of several years during the 1940s when he was on the faculty of the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal. He also taught at the Manhattan School of Music from 1956 to 1967. Distinguished as a performer and as a teacher, he also wrote a quantity of music for the harp, all of it well suited to the instrument, including original compositions and transcriptions.
At the First International Harp Contest in Israel in 1959, Pierre Jamet of France proposed the formation of an international association of harpists. Grandjany undertook to see what he could do in the United States and chaired a committee of leading harpists. Over the years, he was a member of the Board of Directors, Regional Director, Chapter Chairman and President of the New York Chapter. He generously performed at AHS conferences; in 1964 at the first conference and in 1967, a solo recital which was his last public performance. He supported the educational goals of the Society vigorously and delighted in the American Harp Society's growth and community.”
“Regarded by many as second only to Pierre Monteux among conductors of the French repertory, Jean Paul Morel became another of those important musical figures lost to Europe because of WWII. After biding his time in South America, he joined the New York Opera and later, the Metropolitan Opera. As a teacher, however, his effect on America's musical culture was even stronger as he guided a number of gifted students to maturity. Exceedingly well-trained, Morel had the benefit of studies with several exceptional musical specialists. In particular, his work in Paris with Noël Gallon who taught him theory; with Gabriel Pierné who instructed him in composition; and with famous composer, conductor, and singer Reynaldo Hahn, who worked with him on the song and opera literature, afforded him a grounding that made him a subtle and reliable leader of orchestras and an excellent teacher.
Indeed, he began as an instructor at the American Conservatory at Fountainebleau where, at age 18, he was as young as some of his students. He remained at the conservatory from 1921 to 1936, a period in which he also built a reputation as a conductor with a number of prominent French orchestras and with the Opéra-Comique. After the connection ended, he conducted at the Teatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro and at Mexico City's Palacio de Bella Artes. Morel's American career opened with an instructorship at Brooklyn College from 1940 to 1943. On 12 November, 1944, he made his début with the New York City Centre Opera (as the company was known then), conducting a performance of LA TRAVIATA with Dorothy Kirsten as Violetta. Subsequent works under his leadership included CARMEN, MIGNON, LOUISE, AND LA BOHÈME. Morel remained a respected member of the company until 1951, when he resigned in protest over the company's dismissal of its first general director (and conductor) Lazlo Halasz. The board had actually approached Morel about taking on the directorship and had been met with not only his refusal, but with his wish to resign over the treatment accorded Halasz. The board declined to accept the resignation, claiming that Morel was obligated to remain for another year. When Joseph Rosenstock was hired as general director, Morel again sought his release and was refused. Citing a clause that no member of the musical staff would have pre-eminence over Morel other than Halasz, Morel persisted. Facing the threat of a breach of contract action, the board finally accepted Morel's resignation. In 1949, meanwhile, Morel had joined the Juilliard School of Music staff and began building an enviable reputation for turning out brilliant conductors, James Levine and Leonard Slatkin among them. Five years after his departure from the New York City Opera, Morel joined the conducting staff at the Metropolitan Opera, making his début with a 21 November, 1956, performance of Offenbach's LA PÉRICHOLE premiering in a new English-language production. In a total of nine seasons stretching to 1971, Morel conducted five works from the French repertory, as well as Gluck's ORFEO ED EURIDICE and MADAMA BUTTERFLY. His final season at the Metropolitan Opera coincided with his last year at Juilliard. During his more than two decades at the New York school, his instruction and leadership of the Juilliard Orchestra had brought a high level of distinction to its conducting program.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
“Each of these disks, from Canadian engineer Yves St Laurent… [feature] St Laurent's natural transfer – made without filtering, like all his dubbings – it is easy to listen to, despite the surface noise.”
- Tully Potter, CLASSICAL RECORD QUARTERLY, Summer, 2011