Daniel Lesur

1908 - 2002



Daniel Lesur, known often simply as Daniel-Lesur (November 19, 1908 – July 2, 2002) was a French organist and composer. His mother, Alice Lesur, was an accomplished composer in her own right; some of her music was even published. Daniel-Lesur was a student of Charles Tournemire. In 1935 he became a professor of counterpoint at the Schola Cantorum under its new director, Nestor Lejeune. The following year he co-founded the group La Jeune France along with composers Olivier Messiaen (with whom he would remain a lifelong friend), André Jolivet and Yves Baudrier, who were attempting to re-establish a more human and less abstract form of composition. La Jeune France developed from the avant-garde chamber music society La spirale, formed by Jolivet, Messiaen, and Daniel-Lesur the previous year. That same year he, together with Jean Langlais and Jean-Jacques Grunenwald, gave the first performance of Olivier Messiaen's La Nativité du Seigneur. Daniel-Lesur also served as director of the Opéra National de Paris from 1971 to 1973. Daniel-Lesur's most well-known composition is the a capella choral work, Le Cantique des Cantiques, a setting for 12 voices of parts of the Song of Songs, interspersed with Latin verses and New Testament texts. The seventh and final movement, titled "Épithalame," utilizes "the combination of richly harmonised upper voices singing the famous words from Chapter 8 of the Song of Songs in French (‘Pose-moi comme un sceau sur ton coeur, comme un sceau sur ton bras. Car l’amour est fort comme la Mort’) over an ostinato set to Latin words (‘Veni sponsa Christi’) [which] has very great cumulative power, reaching a mighty twelve-part climax where all the voices sing a succession of Alleluias which initially emerge from the complex texture in a repeated motif coloured by the Lydian mode – an idea which seems to suggest the joyous pealing of bells." (From his obituary) The "Cantique des Cantiques" has been recorded by Harry Christophers and The Sixteen, and is frequently performed in America and worldwide by such groups as Chanticleer and the Santa Fe Desert Chorale. Simeone, Nigel (Winter 2002). "In memoriam: Olivier Messiaen on Daniel-Lesur". Musical Times. Retrieved 2008-03-10.


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