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Jacques Benoist-Mechin

Jacques Benoist-Mechin was born on 1 July 1901 in Paris (France). His family belonged to a noble dynasty and so Jacques Benoist-Mechin experienced a classical education including music and different languages. He attended leading schools in Switzerland and the United Kingdom (avoiding the fights of World War I) and in Paris the Lycee Louis-le-Grand before he finally enrolled at the Sorbonne.

 

At first it seemed that Jacques Benoist-Mechin would go for a musical career, because he composed some music in the early 1920s. He was also part of the circle around Henri Sauguet and Erik Satie at that time, a group that later would be known as the "Ecole d'Arcueil". Sometimes Jacques Benoist-Mechin is mentioned as an early member of that group - together with the other members Henri Sauguet, Roger Desormiere, Maxime Jacob and Henri Cliquet-Pleyel - but he left the group and composing in general before the first offical concert of the Ecole d'Arcueil in 1923.


Beside his composing Jacques Benoist-Mechin also worked as a translator of German or English texts into French. For example he translated the anti-war piece "Der Opfergang" (Way of Sacrifice) by Fritz von Unruh into French. The book was published in 1922 and led the future way of Jacques Benoist-Mechin into military and politics. From 1921 to 1923 he joined the French Army and was part of the forces involved in the occupation of the Rhineland. He then became a journalist, working for the International News Service from 1924 to 1927.

 

As a critic of democracy Jacques Benoist-Mechin was an admirer of Adolf Hitler and joined the French Popular Party in 1936. His role in the history of World War II, the German occupation of France and his collaboration with Vichy France deserves a very long description which is not part of my musical interest here and which had be done already at other places. To cut a long story short: Jacques Benoist-Mechin was arrested in 1944 for his role as collaborator and sentenced to death in 1947. He was pardoned by president Auriol shortly afterwards and his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and later to 20 years. He benefited from a remission of sentence in 1953 and was released on parole in 1954. After that Jacques Benoist-Mechin continued his work as a journalist and writer and became an Arab world expert. For example he published biographies on personalities like Hubert Lyautey, T.E. Lawrence and Ibn Saud as well as on other topics of the Arab world.


Jacques Benoist-Mechin died on 24 February 1983 in Paris (France).

 

 

There is little knowledge about the musical catalogue of Jacques Benoist-Mechin. Only a handful of his compositions were published, among them are two nocturnes for piano, three sonnets by Michel-Ange for chant and piano, five poems by Petrarque for chant and piano, three poems by Jules Romains for chant et piano, "Le dieu Mars et le dieu Amour" for mixed choir on a poem by Ronsard and "Equateur" for choir and orchestra on poems by Jules Supervieille.

I could not find any information about the unpublished compositions, not even an archive that holds such manuscripts. It seems that most of the estate of Jacques Benoist-Mechin was sold at an auction house in 2007. So it is likely that the unpublished compositions by Jacques Benoist-Mechin are scattered at different private and public archives.

Premiere Suite Symphonique op.2

 

In my possession is the autograph manuscript of the "Premiere Suite Symphonique (Divertissement)" by Jacques Benoist-Mechin. The composition was created between 1919 and 1922 and is his opus number 2. The work consists of 4 movements, each dedicated to a befriended composer: Erik Satie - Louis Durey - Georges Auric - Francis Poulenc.

The manuscript is only a particell and so shows the complete composition in just four staves (a bit like a two piano version), adding staves for a cadence of clarinet and flute.

French Newspapers in 1926 reported a broadcast of a "Premiere symphonie" by Jacques Benoist-Mechin. The recording was done by the first performence in November 1922 by Jane Mortier and the composer (obviously in a version for two pianos). It seems likely that this "Premiere symphonie" is identical with my "Premiere Suite Symphonique".

I was not able to find an actual copyright holder of the works by Jacques Benoist-Mechin. Nevertheless I decided to publish his work here for information purposes, because it is an important composition in the music history of France which otherwise would be forgotten.

BenoistMechin_SuiteSymphonieNo1.pdf
PDF-Dokument [522.7 KB]

La Maison de Septembre op.7

 

I also own the autograph manuscript of "La Maison de Septembre" by Jacques Benoist-Mechin. The work is subtitled "Ouverture et musique de scene pour un drame de Luc Durtain". The work was composed in Chinon in 1919 and at the Ruhr in 1923 and is dedicated to Fritz von Unruh.

Again the work is only a particell and consists of only four staves (sort of a two piano version). The composition has the three movements that function as a Prelude - Intermezzo - Postlude: I. Pastorale funebre, II. Dialogue et Fanfare and III. Peroraison (Lithurgique).

The work "La Maison de Septembre" is a play written by French poet Luc Durtain (1881-1959). The work was written in 1914, but published in 1928. The first edition contains a note about the music by Jacques Benoist-Mechin:

The work "La Maison de Septembre" is a play written by French poet Luc Durtain (1881-1959). The work was written in 1914, but published in 1928. The first edition contains a note about the music by Jacques Benoist-Mechin:

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