Monday, September 1, 2014

Justin Elie, Haitian Composer & Pianist, Was Born September 1, 1883; Hear Violinist Jean R Perrault in 'Légende Créole' (5:22) on YouTube

Justin Elie, Cover photo of sheet music for Nostalgie

Légende Créole (also known as Haytian Legend) (5:22) by Justin Elie

Uploaded on Apr 20, 2011
Jean R Perrault (violin) and Jeanne Doty (piano) perform Légende Créole for violin and piano (also known as Haytian Legend) by Haitian composer Justin Elie. Jean R Perrault and Jeanne Doty are both on the faculty of the University of Minnesota Duluth. This performance took place in Weber Music Hall, on the UMD campus, on February 25, 2008.

The composer and pianist Justin Elie (1883-1931) who is profiled at, was born Sept. 1, 1883 in Cap Haïtien, Haiti. The website features a Works list compiled by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma, He began his music education in Haiti and continued it in France at the Cours Masset. In 1901 he enrolled in the Paris Conservatory, where he studied piano, harmony and composition. A brief biography of Justin Elie is contained in Vodou Nation: Haitian Art Music And Cultural Nationalism, written by Michael Largey: “At the height of his career, Justin Elie (1883-1931) enjoyed the most prominent international reputation of all the Haitian composers; this reputation was fostered by his frequent trips abroad from his student days on.”

“Justin Elie's Méringues populaires (1920) were a set of six dances published by R. de la Rozier Co. in New York City that set a tone of resistance toward the U.S. occupation, albeit in a form that only Haitian audiences would recognize.” “Elie wrote several pieces that used Indianist musical motifs and descriptive programs that put Native Americans at the center of Haitian musical life. Unlike Lamothe, whose audience was primarily drawn from Haiti, Elie developed his career in the United States.” “Two of Elie's Vodou derived works, 'Scènes Vaudouesques' and 'Deux Poèmes Vaudouesques,' were written while Elie was beginning his composing career in Haiti (Durand 1983, 2).”

“Eager to make a career of music composition, Justin Elie left Haiti on 12 September 1922 and moved to New York City.” “His wife, Lily, joined him in New York in February 1923 and the two of them performed frequently in recitals that included Elie's compositions.” “Elie's first compositions with Carl Fischer were his 'Haitian Legend' (Légende Créole) for violin and piano (1921), 'Prayer at Eventide (Prière du Soir) Invocation No. 2' (1922) for chamber orchestra, and the piano compositions 'The Echo (Ismao-o!): Ancient Mountain Legends, No. 1 (Les Chants de la Montagne No. 1)', 'Nostalgia (Nostalgie): Ancient Mountain Legends No. 2 (Les Chants de la Montagne No. 2),' and 'Nocturne: Ancient Mountain Legends No. 3 (Les Chants de la Montagne No. 3)' (1922).”

Both the publisher and scholars gave Elie credit for an ethnographic knowledge of Native American music which Michael Largey argues is not demonstrated in his works. The author finds blatant misrepresentations in the unsigned program notes which accompanied the composition Kiskaya, in which the African roots of Haitian music were instead attributed to Latin American countries. Largey writes: “Unfortunately, the work that might have secured Elie's name in the memories of concert-going audiences in the United States was never published.” “In spite of its technical and artistic merits, Fantaisie Tropicale was never published due to Elie's sudden death on 3 December 1931 of a cerebral hemorrhage.   

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