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Performance as Action, Debate and Policy: Parisian Avant-Garde Concerts in War and Peace (1916-1926)




Speaker: Barbara Kelly (Royal Northern College of Music)


This paper focuses on private and elite performances of contemporary music in Paris during the First World War and in the interwar period. It looks at wartime initiatives to promote music as a form of artistic action, in particular, the private Lyre et Palette concerts at the studio of the artist Emile Lejeune, and the concerts the singer Jane Bathori organized at the Théâtre du Vieux Colombier when Paris was under bombardment.

Here, contemporary and early music was often placed alongside art, sculpture, poetry and lectures. The desire to promote contemporary French music continued into the postwar years with concert and publishing projects, such as the Society ‘Pour la musique’ and ‘Musique et peinture’, which were organized by the cellist Félix Delgrange.

In the final part of my talk, I look at Henry Prunières’ concerts of La Revue musicale, which complemented not only his international journal, La Revue musicale, but supported his efforts to promote internationalization through music in the interwar period. The cases I discuss show that embodied performance, which was aimed primarily at private or elite audiences, could engage with much larger political debates and initiatives.


Barbara Kelly is Director of Research and the Royal Northern College of Music. Her research is focused on late nineteenth and early twentieth-century French music and culture. She has published on composers including Milhaud, Debussy, Ravel, Honegger, Poulenc and Stravinsky and on issues such as music and war, national and religious identity and anti-Semitism in France.

Barbara has published two monographs; the first, entitled Tradition and Style in the works of Darius Milhaud (Ashgate, 2003), is a detailed study of Milhaud’s music and career until his departure from Europe on the eve of WWII; the second is Music and Ultra-Modernism in France: A Fragile Consensus, 1913-1939 (Boydell and Brewer, 2013). Her current projects include Authority, Advocacy, Legacy: Music Criticism in France (1918-1939) with Christopher Moore; Jane Bathori’s musical activities during the Great War; a project on musical societies in Paris and London (1914-1939) and a study of music at the South Place Ethical Society during World War One.

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When & where

5.30pm - 7.30pmWednesday 9th November 2016

AG09 College Building City, University of London St John Street London EC1V 4PB United Kingdom