Born: Paris, France, 27 March 1851
Died: Paris, France, 2 December 1831
D’Indy is little remembered today. Only two works – the Symphonie sur un chant montagnard français / Symphonie cévenole (1886) and the symphonic poem Istar (1896) – are relatively familiar.
Léon Vallas, however, hailed D’Indy as the undeniable master of the French school, and the first musician of his time, while Louis Laloy (Révue musicale, 15 December 1903) thought he, and he alone, made abstract music (both chamber music and symphony) come to life again in France.
A disciple of César Franck, D’ Indy believed opera had a sacred mission to educate and elevate humanity.
The true goal of art is to teach, to gradually raise the spirit of humanity, to serve, in a word, in the sublime sense: dienen, which Wagner put in the mouth of the repentant Kundry in the third act of Parsifal.
He himself set up the Schola Cantorum de Paris in 1894 to create a school of French national music, studying Baroque and early Classical works, Gregorian chant, and Renaissance polyphony, in contrast to the Conservatoire’s emphasis on opera. His students included Magnard, Roussel, and Séverac.
His reactionary views may explain why his music has disappeared. The aristocratic D’Indy was a conservative Catholic, a monarchist, and an anti-Dreyfusard – hardly positions likely to win him much sympathy today.
He believed Wagner had rescued French opera from the decadent Judaic age of Meyerbeer, Halévy, and Offenbach, with their superficial, commercially successful, crowd-pleasing works. (He also detested Rossini, Auber, and Massenet.) One of his operas, La légende de St Christophe (1920), is expressly a drame anti-Juif.
To do him justice, he did not let his anti-Semitic views affect his relations with individuals, such as Dukas.
Musically, Brian Hart (Oxford Bibliographies) writes, D’Indy’s opposition to modernist trends unfairly earned him the reputation of “a reactionary pedant teaching and practicing outdated dogmas”.
- Attendez-moi sous l’orme (1882)
- Le chant de la cloche (1884)
- Fervaal (1897)
- L’étranger (1903)
- La légende de Saint Christophe (1920)
- Le rêve de Cinyras (1922)