Maurice Maréchal

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MAURICE MARÉCHAL plays Debussy, Tartini, Sammartini, Beethoven and Brahms

1-3. DEBUSSY: Cello Sonata in D minor, L.135 [09:45]
Recorded · 07 November 1948 · Paris · Radiodiffusion Française · Radio Studio Recording
Maurice Maréchal · cello
Lily Bienvenu · piano

4. TARTINI: Grave from Cello Concerto in D major [02:29]
5-7. SAMMARTINI: Cello Sonata in G major [07:27]

Recorded · 25 April 1957 · Paris · Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française · Radio Studio Recording
Maurice Maréchal · cello
Odette Pigault · piano

8-10. BEETHOVEN: Cello Sonata No.2 in G minor, Op.5, No.2 [22:11]
Recorded · 09 April 1958 · Paris · Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française · Radio Studio Recording
Maurice Maréchal · cello
Cécile Ousset · piano

11-13. BRAHMS: Cello Sonata No.1 in E minor, Op.38 [20:46]
Recorded · 13 October 1959 · Paris · Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française · Radio Studio Recording
Maurice Maréchal · cello
Cécile Ousset · piano

Additional Information

Article number: MC 3006
Release date: 02 May 2014
UPC barcode: 0791154050484
Total time: 62:40

Producer and Audio Restoration: Lynn Ludwig
Booklet Notes: Michael Waiblinger
Design: Alessia Issara
Photographs: Bibliothèque nationale de France
With special thanks to French National Archive and David Johnstone
From the Original Masters · © 2014 Meloclassic

Maurice Maréchal was born on October 3, 1892 in Dijon, France. His father was Jules Jacques Maréchal, his mother was Marthe Marier. He began studying the cello under Martin-Valentin Agnellet at the Dijon Conservatoire. He made his public debut at ten. Whilst he was not a prodigy as such, his progress was none-the-less very rapid. He was accepted into the Paris Conservatoire in November 1905, aged 13, where he studied under Jules Loeb (1857-1933). He received the Premier prix de Conservatoire in 1911. He joined the Lamoureux Orchestra from 1911 to 1913 as cello solo. Many well-known guest conductors and famous soloists performed frequently with this orchestra, and Maréchal had a marvellous chance to observe their different podium styles and interpretations.


From 1911 he began to give his professional first solo concerts, but in October 1913 he had to undertake his military service in the French 74th infantry regiment in Rouen. When the War broke out in August 1914, he served in the French 247th infantry regiment until April 1918. He received the Croix de guerre (War Cross) in 1916.

Maréchal confided his thoughts daily in his diaries (nine books), including tales of tragic events, is hopes and fears. On a number of occasions he acted as a bicycle-messenger; but, as soon as he could, he sought contact with music, reading sheet music and, ultimately, renting an instrument. He came across two like-minded people, good amateur players, with whom he played as a trio. It was in May 1915 that he took possession of a very strange instrument: a cello, made by two soldiers in a munitions factory. What happened was that two of his comrades were carpenters and woodworkers, and he persuaded them to make a primitive cello from the wood of a gunpowder chest! It was more-or-less serviceable, and with it Maréchal entertained his fellow soldiers throughout the war. On July 6, 1919, back in Dijon, he performed a Haydn concerto and Magnard’s ‘Funébre’. He was eager to return to his career as a soloist. Meanwhile, he met a young American actress, Louise Perkins, at a French-American charity concert, who was to become his wife on December 1, 1920. The couple were to have two children, a son and a daughter.


He served a few seasons as cello solo without audition in the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire from 1921 to January 1924, but he was asking too many leaves for his solo career performances, and even skipped a concert of 6 January 1924 without authorization, and resigned. In the period from 1922 to 1927, Marechal was a permanent participant in the Casadesus Trio with Robert and Marius Casadesus. He worked closely with the composer Maurice Ravel while the latter was composing his Sonata for Violin and Cello. On April 6, 1922, at the old Salle Pleyel Maréchal premiered the work with the violinist Hélène Jourdan-Morhange. But it had no success. There was a feeling in the audience that it was the fault of the performers – someone even quoted Ravel as saying that his work was massacred.

His international touring career started, and Maréchal concertized extensively throughout all Europe, as well as Egypt, the United States of America, Canada, the USSR and Asia. On November 2, 1926 he performed Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Cello Concerto in A Major and André Caplet’s Épiphanie with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski at Carnegie Hall in New York. Arthur Honegger wrote his Cello Concerto for Maréchal in 1929 -Maréchal, as always, was involved at the composition stage, and it was he who gave the world premiere with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Serge Koussevitsky on February 17, 1930. On February 4, 1931 he gave a recital with the pianist Emanuel Bay at Carnegie Hall in New York. The program included the United States premiere of Alexandre Tansman’s Cello Sonata No.2. On August 2, 1931 he received the National Order of the Legion of Honour. On June 28, 1935 he premiered Darius Milhaud’s Cello Concerto No.1 in Paris. Between September and November 1936 a long tour took him from Russia to the Far East. He was the first French cellist to play there and he appeared in Shanghai, Saigon, Singapore, Java and Japan.

His career was again interrupted by war. When the Germans occupied France in 1940, Maréchal supported the Resistance. He also steadfastly refused all offers to play in Germany, or even on the German-dominated French radio programme concerts. Fortunately, his wife and two children moved to America, away from danger. He concentrated on teaching, succeeding as cello professor at the Paris Conservatoire in 1942 on the death of Dutch cellist Gerard Hekking. However, the war this time around brought with it a period of difficult hibernation for Maréchal’s musical talents. The interruption to his career was especially regrettable in his case because by the time he resumed his career he was stricken with a progressive muscular disease that took the strength from his bowing arm. He reduced his public concerts in the 1950s, and spent the rest of his life teaching as Professor at the Paris Conservatory, and appearing as a jury member for international competitions.

Having retired from teaching in 1963, Maréchal died on April 19, 1964 in Paris.

Source: French National Archive in Fontainebleau, David Johnstone and Alain Lambert.

© Michael Waiblinger 2014

Musicweb International Classical Review June 2014

High on my list of most admired soloists is French cellist Maurice Maréchal (1892-1964), whose characteristically woody tone and refined legato phrasing graced so many recordings in the 78 era and beyond. Forgotten Records has recently disinterred the Brahms Cello Sonatas he recorded on LP but here is something even more valuable, unexpected and memorable – a series of Paris radio broadcasts made between 1948 and 1959.

It starts with the earliest, a November 1948 broadcast, with pianist Lily Bienvenu, of Debussy’s Cello Sonata. He had recorded this back in 1930 with Robert Casadesus, a classic reading, still stylistically pretty much unmatched. Almost twenty years later we find the proportions of the sonata unchanged in this performance, where the music is tautly but flexibly driven forward with no concessions to indulgence or extraneous gesture. The second movement pizzicati aren’t hammered or bent out of shape, as one too often hears today, and the nervous incision and rhythmic vitality of the finale remain dashing examples of the cellist’s art. He is sensitively supported by Bienvenu but the conception is wholly the cellist’s, one feels. There’s a small amount of disc chuffing in the first movement but it’s negligible.

After the War, Maréchal began to be afflicted with a progressive muscular illness that particularly robbed his bow arm of strength. I can’t hear any signs of it in 1948 but the LP discs he made certainly sound more constrained. The 1957-58 radio sessions present two of his reportorial strengths; baroque works and major sonatas. The Tartini movement from the Cello Concerto reveals a legato seemingly untroubled by right arm problems, the noble tone intact. Sammartini’s Sonata in G major is both playful and warmly textured in this reading. Maréchal’s trill is still tight and his puckish instincts in the finale winning. Odette Pigault is the accompanist.

These broadcasts come from a decade in which he wound down his public career, performing less often in public, making radio broadcasts, and continuing to teach. I’m not sure how often he would have performed the Beethoven and Brahms sonatas publicly in the later 1950s, but they were pretty central to his repertoire. They document his partnership with young pianist Cécile Ousset, then very much at the start of her own career as Maréchal’s was drawing to a close. There’s a good balance in these performances, the Beethoven from April 1958 and the Brahms from October 1959. The cellist manages to conceal most of his problems, especially in the Beethoven, where only a slackening vibrato reveals much in the way of frailty. In many ways I prefer this broadcast Brahms to the LP he made in 1952 with Jeanne-Marie Darré (on FR168) because it has an extra quotient of spontaneity and freedom. The cool Paris studio recording allows detail to be heard that is sometimes occluded in the Pathé LP transferred by Forgotten Records. Some of the cellist’s chording is a little smeary and some detail is fudged but there’s no real sign of short-breathed phrasing.

As usual in this series a digipack presentation is enhanced by fine notes and photographs. These are all first CD releases for this archive broadcast material, and presentation, including studio announcements, is accomplished. For admirers of the cellist this is an indispensable release and I strongly urge collectors of string and piano releases to scan Melo Classic’s current and forthcoming discs. There are some remarkable things on offer.

© Jonathan Woolf

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