RNCM and Paris Conservatoire unite for WW1 collaboration

Two of the world’s leading conservatoires join forces in March 2018 for a major collaboration to mark the end of the First World War.

The Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) and the Paris Conservatoire (CNSMDP, below) will present an exploratory project throughout the month featuring performance, a significant research conference, and an online exhibition that all shed new light on the musical life of Manchester and Paris a century ago.

Students from both conservatoires will perform side by side for three orchestral concerts in Manchester (RNCM Concert Hall, 1 March), London (Cadogan Hall, 2 March) and Paris (Théâtre du Conservatoire National Supérieur d’Art Dramatique, 8 March), each taking their inspiration from music performed during 1918.

Conducted by Markus Stenz, Chief Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, the programmes pay particular tribute to those presented by the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester under Sir Thomas Beecham; the Colonne and Lamoureux Orchestras which joined together during the First World War in Paris; and the Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire that took place at the Paris Conservatoire. All three programmes include Debussy’s L’après midi d’une faune and Elgar’s Enigma Variations, with the addition of Wagner’s The Ring, an orchestral adventure (arranged by Henk de Vlieger) in Manchester and London, and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique in Paris. Symphonie Fantastique will be performed in the exact same venue it was premièred in 1830 in the Theatre of the former Conservatoire, built in 1811.

In addition to the three main orchestral performances, the collaboration also includes a series of smaller concerts focussed on French and English song. These will be presented by students from both conservatoires, each singing in the alternate language, and will incorporate the reading of letters written between musicians in Paris and Manchester during the First World War. The chosen correspondence features some from the ‘Gazette des classes de composition du Conservatoire’ published by Nadia and Lili Boulanger of letters written by Paris students from the frontline, and a selection by Frank Merrick, a pianist and tutor at the Royal Manchester College of Music who was imprisoned during the war for being a conscientious objector and his wife, Hope Squire, who took over the teaching of his students at that time.

Richard Collins, Head of Programming at the RNCM, said: ‘This partnership between the RNCM and Paris Conservatoire brings performance and research together to provide new insights into the impact of the Great War on concert programming and the lives of musicians in our home cities. Uniquely, it will provide the opportunity for a future generation of international musicians to tread in the footsteps of their predecessors as they perform alongside one other.’

Complementing these concerts is a two day conference held at the Opéra Comique and the Paris Conservatoire entitled Musical Institutions in Manchester and Paris during the First World War and an online exhibition drawing together research from the two cities at this time. Following on from the RNCM’s recent research project, Making Music in Manchester during World War I, this unique collaboration will tell the real and inspiring stories of professional, amateur and student musicians who were called to serve – and those who were left behind. It will trace the careers of musicians who returned to musical training or work after combat, and explore the impact the experience had on their musical life in post-war years.

The collaboration between the RNCM and Paris Conservatoire takes place during the RNCM’s year-long French Connections festival which celebrates the music of France and its impact across the world. It runs between September 2017 and July 2018 and includes everything from orchestral concerts and opera to big band, chamber music and a conference dedicated to Debussy 100 years after his death. For more information visit www.rncm.ac.uk/frenchconnections.

18 September 2017