Lucien Durosoir: Musician between Peace and War

John Powell, professor of Music, has studied the music of French composer and violinist Lucien Durosoir.

Powell was drawn to the music of Lucien Durosoir by his compelling biography and by his startlingly original and expressive music. As Durosoir turned to composition in mid-life, his music represents that of a mature artist well-aware of his means and goals. His music couples a sureness of musical design with melodic precision and full command of his harmonic resources. It is intensely personal, conveying the sense of a poetic design tied to profound emotions. In many instances the composer prefaces his works with a quotation of contemporary poetry that relates to the emotional content of his music. In the case of overtly descriptive music, such as the Cinq aquarelles (Five Watercolors) for violin and piano, his aim is to set the mood and to engage the listener in resonance with an ambiance. Yet he invites the performer and listener to go further than surface images, to the threshold of a dimension that words would be insufficient to describe. His music is intimate, discrete, and profound, with an ability to engage the listener and draw him into this interior space.

Durosoir’s musical language is as equally original as was his violin playing. Just as he developed his own style of violin playing by studying and coaching with many famous teachers, he subscribed to no “school” of composition and instead remained in self-imposed isolation to seek out his own creative path. Whereas his music is essentially tonal, this is a raw, neo-tonal language in which chords are enriched by neighbor- and non-chord tones. A strong sense of polarity permeates his music—a gravitational pull toward resolution via the upper or lower semitone neighbors to the pitches of the perfect chord. If through chromatic saturation his music upon occasion approaches atonality, it is because Durosoir aims at not suppressing any gravitational phenomenon between the different scale degrees—but rather to put into play this tonal gravitation in a different manner.