The published songs of Jean Rivier (1896--1987)

Date of Completion

January 1998






Jean Rivier (1896-1987), a twentieth-century French composer of the neo-classical school, is remembered primarily for his flute compositions. However, this prolific composer was extremely active in French musical circles from the period after World War I until his death. He composed over two hundred works, including symphonies, chamber music, concertos, choral music, piano works, music for solo instruments, and accompanied songs. For fourteen years, he shared with Darius Milhaud a position as Professor of Composition at the Paris Conservatory, and continued as sole professor from 1962 until his retirement in 1966. Rivier was a founding member of Triton, a musical society that promoted new music, and he was associated extensively with the French Radio (ORTF). Despite his successful career, Rivier's music was often eclipsed by the increasingly avant-garde compositions of more progressive French composers.^ Rivier's songs are best represented by his twenty-nine published melodies or poemes, notable for their brevity, attention to detail, and their lyrical melodies, tonal harmonies with creative dissonances, and carefully structured forms (especially ABA forms). With music set to poems by Guillaume Apollinaire, Henri Mahaut, Arthur Rimbaud, Pierre de Ronsard, Clement Marot, Joachim Du Bellay, Rene Chalupt, and Paul Gilson, the songs are characterized by quartal and quintal harmonies, modality, polychords, parallelism, contrasting moods, and expressive emotions.^ Chapter 1 of this dissertation presents a biographical chronology of Rivier's life and works. Chapter 2 summarizes the stylistic characteristics of Rivier's music, especially the twenty-nine published songs. Chapter 3 describes the methodology and terminology applied in the analysis. Chapters 4 through 10 are devoted to a brief analysis of each song. Several appendices present source information on Rivier's song manuscripts in the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, a list of his unpublished songs, references to his choral works and opera, and lists of taped recordings of radio broadcasts of the songs, held by the Phonotheque-Institut National de l'Audiovisuel de France. ^