Elsa Barraine: “My great concern is to sing universal love in all its forms”

In 1929, then only 19 years old, the composer Elsa Barraine won the Prix de Rome for musical composition. In 1954, years later, at the microphone of Georges Charbonnier, she evokes her practice, her regrets, her desires: “I am very lazy by nature. When I see our time going so fast for music… I wonder if I haven’t missed too many things, for example twelve-tone music, that of Schönberg”.

About concrete music she thinks we should know it, “even to fight it” ; on all of her works she explains: “My great concern is to sing universal love in all its forms, as much as possible. In this regard, I was so happy to find Eluard’s poem. He was kind enough one day to offer me slices of his poem “Uninterrupted Poetry” to work on”.

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It’s for his cantata The Warrior Virgin that Elsa Barraine won the Prix de Rome for musical composition in 1929. This same cantata is impossible to find today, impossible to listen to for those who are not lucky enough to have a very old recording of it, if at all that there are still some. It is the symbol of an exceptional talent and destiny that has now fallen into oblivion.

Elsa Barraine, resistance fighter and composer, an exceptional destiny now forgotten

Elsa Barraine was not only a composer and a prodigious musician, but also a resistance fighter: in 1941, she founded the National Front of Musicians with Roger Desormieres and Louis Durey. Attached to the resistance movement of the French Communist Party, this group does everything to fight against Nazi propaganda, particularly in the field of music. At the Liberation, she became a fashionable personality in the communist intellectual milieu, writing for “L’Humanité” and “Ce Soir”, before gradually disappearing and breaking with the party in 1949.

Magic of the archives, we have the recording not only of the broadcast itself but also of the interview pieces that were not used; you will therefore hear the entire program first, followed by the rest of the interview. An exceptional document, therefore, giving voice to a prodigious composer and a brilliant teacher.

  • By George Charbonnier
  • With Elsa Barraine (composer)
  • Dialogue and music – Elsa Barraine (1st broadcast: 09/22/1954 National Channel)
  • Web edition: Documentation of Radio France
  • Archive Ina-Radio France

Nights of France Culture

32 mins

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