Édouard Victoire Antoine Lalo (January 27th, 1823, April 29th, 1892) was a French composer during the romantic era, accredited with various noble and heroic works.

Lalo was born in Lille in Northern France. There he attended the city’s Conservatoire when he was young. When he was 16, he attended the prestigious Conservatoire de Paris, under François Antoine Habeneck.

For many years, he played string instruments and worked as a teacher in Paris. But it was in the founding of the Armingaud quartet in 1848, wherein he first played the viola and later the second violin, where his earliest works were crafted.

Lalo married Julie Besnier de Maligny, a contralto from Brittany, in 1865. It was her operatic affinity that inspired him to compose Opera for the stage. Unfortunately, the works were dismally unpopular despite their originality and were allegedly considered too progressive and Wagnerian for their time. Consequently, Lalo dedicated most of his career to composing chamber music and works of Orchestra.

Though Lalo never received much critical acclaim, his distinctive style enabled him to gain some degree of recognition, especially amongst violinists.

Lalo’s penchant for strong melodies and powerful orchestration earnt him the honor of his name being used colloquially as an idiom to describe the presence of these characteristics in a piece. In music, a colorful piece is sometimes simply called ‘Lalo’. Scherzo in D minor is one such piece that earned him the idiom.

A portrait of Édouard Lalo (Photo: Wikipedia)

Recognition and Legion of Honor

Not until Lalo was 40 years old was he recognized as a notable composer. Le roi d’Ys; an opera based on the Breton legend of Y’s, gained acclaim for its complexity and is undoubtedly Lalo’s most complicated and ambitious work. It was feared unperformable and so was never staged until 1888, when Lalo was 65 years old.

He became a member of Legion of Honor just 8 years previously in 1880. He passed away in Paris in 1892, and was interred at Père Lachaise Cemetery, leaving behind many unfinished works.

Lalo has since gained later recognition. In 1962, composer Maurice Jarre used the theme from Lalo’s Piano Concert for the score of the movie Lawrence of Arabia. More incredibly still, in the American TV series ‘Star Trek: The next generation’ there is mention of a ‘U.S.S Lalo’ in two separate episodes. Perhaps a modern nod to the underappreciated French composer.

The work of a genius

For any composer to earn the title ‘genius’ there are a number of elements usually present within the work. Amongst many others, these elements include emotive strength, dramatic juxtaposition, attraction, spatial expansion, magnanimity, romance, and noble love.

Édouard’s music is undoubtedly no exception. It is sophisticated, compassionate, full of love and finally recognized as the work of a true genius.

We hope that you enjoy Édouard Lalo’s music in the Rhapsodie norvégienne.

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