2021-09-18: Pascal: Marche
2021-07-25: Babin: songs
Henri Cliquet-Pleyel was born on 12 March 1894 in Paris (France). He was the great-grandnephew of composer Ignace Pleyel. Henri Cliquet-Pleyel was a music prodigy and entered the conservatory of Paris already at the age of 12. There he studied under Charles Koechlin (composition), Andre Gedalge and Eugene Cools (counterpoint and fugue) and was a fellow student and friend of Darius Milhaud.
After his studies he first worked as a vocal teacher in Cannes, Deauville and Aix-les-bains and this absence at Paris might be the reason that Henri Cliquet-Pleyel did not become a member of the famous group „Les Six“ (Milhaud, Honegger, Poulenc, Tailleferre, Auric and Durey) in 1918. That there was a chance to be part of this group shows the fact that Albert Roussel once described Henri Cliquet-Pleyel as the „seventh member of 'Les Six'“.
In 1923 Henri Cliquet-Pleyel took the opportunity to found an own composer group which had – like „Les Six“ - the musical mentor Erik Satie. The group called themselves „Ecole d'Arcueil“ as a reference to the home of Satie and consisted of the four members Henri Sauguet, Roger Desormiere, Maxime Jacob and Henri Cliquet-Pleyel. Unfortunately – for the career and the historical regard of Henri Cliquet-Pleyel – the „Ecole d'Arcueil“ was far less successful than „Les Six“ and in addition only existed two years until the death of Erik Satie in 1925.
The „Ecole d'Arcueil“ dedicated themselves to the musical goals of clarity, simplicity and humor, which they felt was typified by Satie's music. And Henri Cliquet-Pleyel was the most extreme agent of this attitude which he continued after the breakup of the „Ecole d'Arcueil“ without restraint. The following review of a concert in the French journal „La Comoedie“ from 1926 illustrates the point:
„The same concert included works by Mr. Cliquet-Pleyel. He opened the fire with a "Suite for piano" which resolutely begins with two different and remote tones, to the regret of the ears of his audience. It is his real bias, and these constant dissonances seem to have no cause. From the same composer, Ms. Asso sang with a truly remarkable devotion an unpublished work that consists of a series of exotic and bizarre menus (I well mean culinary menus). What a funny idea to set this to music!“
With such an attitude Henri Cliquet-Pleyel was also interested in dadaism, surrealism, in popular music, or influences like Jazz. For example he composed the music for and also accompanied on the piano at one of the famous avant-garde Flamenco performances of Vicente Escudero at the Theatre Courbe in 1924. Furthermore Henri Cliquet-Pleyel composed the music for the movie „Panurge“ by Michel Bernheim in 1932. He was such an outstanding composer that Virgil Thomson wrote about him in 1933:
„Cliquet-Pleyel has more talent than anybody knows what to do about. He was a child-prodigy at the Conservatoire, an infant Mozart. Today he is a musician of prodigious powers. He is the best transposer and score-reader in Paris, probably in Europe. He can write you a symphony or a musical comedy almost any week-end, copy out the parts, rehearse it, conduct the show, perform a Mozart piano-concerto between the acts, all without seeming to lift more than his little finger, and all the while spending ten to fourteen hours a day making soundfilms. His facility is so colossal that he can do the routine work that seems to be the usual destiny of men of his talent, and still write fine free music as if he had nothing else on his mind.
Sauguet is easier to situate in the French tradition than Cliquet-Pleyel. His [Sauguet's] talent resembles more closely an historical French type. He is compact and all-of-a-piece. Cliquet has the looseness and the ease of Delacroix, plus a disinterestedness that is naive and absolutely unique.“
Henri Cliquet-Pleyel was also a member of the „Federation Musicale Populaire“ - like many of his contemporaries. At the congress of the association in 1937 Henri Cliquet-Pleyel gave an interesting speech that again shows his radical opinion on modern music. The scholar Christopher Lee Moore gave a good summary of the speech in his book „Music in France and the Popular Front (1934-1938)“ why it is here repeated:
„For Cliquet-Pleyel, the time 'when we listened to music with our head in our hands' has passed. He provocatively claims that 'boring' music of the grand symphonic tradition is the worst music of all. He also indicts those people who have been so well 'fed' by the music of nineteenth-century masters that they 'look down upon works that are simpler, more direct, of a popular vein, and which because of this are seen to be in bad taste.' [..] Cliquet-Pleyel frowns upon certain 'symphonies, in which the paucity of ideas is made even worse by vulgarity and the false grandeur of style,' and aims to remind people that such works should not be regarded as 'good music' simply because they are performed in concert halls.“
After World War II the compositions by Henri Cliquet-Pleyel became somewhat moderate and he continued to compose until his death on 9 May 1963 in Paris (France).
Although considered as one of the most talented French composers of the first half of the 20th century – coequal to Darius Milhaud – the historical circumstances and his personal emphasis on popular music let Henri Cliquet-Pleyel fell into oblivion over the decades. Today he is nearly forgotten and his name only mentioned in connection with the „Ecole d'Arcueil“ as a poor copy of „Les Six“. That doesn't do justice to Henri Cliquet-Pleyel, his reputation among fellow composers and his provoking role in the musical scene in Paris for decades.
The work catalogue of Henri Cliquet-Pleyel is huge, but most encyclopedias don't even list his name nowadays and so it is little known about his output. I researched through many books and old newspapers and compiled a catalogue. For information purposes I present this catalogue in detail at the very end of this website.
From this large number of compositions I have the autograph manuscript of a "Concerto for piano and orchestra" in my possession:
Concerto for piano and orchestra
The manuscript in my possession is the full score of a work for piano and orchestra. Henri Cliquet-Pleyel wrote three compositions for this instrumentation: "Transbaikal, for piano and orchestra" (1938), a Concerto for piano right hand and orchestra (1939) and a Concerto for piano and orchestra (1940).
Unfortunately my manuscript is not dated, but the title page bears the word "Concerto" and the piano writing is for both hands, so I assume this is the autograph of the piano concerto from 1940.
I could not trace a publication of this score nor could I find any details about a premiere of the work. For the reason of preservation of an important French piano concerto of the first half of the 20th century I present the full score here:
Catalogue of Henri Cliquet-Pleyel
choral and vocal music: