Thursday, January 24, 2008

Charles Lucièn Lambert, Sr.: African American Composer & Pianist

[Variations et final sur l'air "Au Clair de la Lune", Op. 30 (9:43); Hot Springs Music Festival;
Richard Rosenberg, Conductor; Naxos 8.559037 (2000)]

Charles Lucièn Lambert, Sr. (1828-1896) and his half-brother Sidney Lambert received their first piano lessons from their father, Charles Richard Lambert. The compositions of Charles Lucièn Lambert, Sr. have been revived by the Hot Springs Music Festival, led by Richard Rosenberg, Conductor, on Naxos 8.559037 (2000). Lambert is profiled at

Lester Sullivan, University Archivist at Xavier University in New Orleans, wrote one of the liner notes of the CD: “Lucièn was born in New Orleans about 1828 or 1829. His mother appears to have been a Louisiana free Creole of colour. Charles Richard died in 1862, while he and Sidney were in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.”

Sullivan explains that racial hostility caused Charles Lucièn Lambert and his half-brother to find work away from New Orleans: “The careers of Lucièn and Sidney extended far beyond their hometown. Like the white Creole Louis Moreau Gottschalk, they could not remain long in New Orleans. Lucièn, some ten years older than Sidney, was a contemporary of Gottschalk and, in fact, Louis Moreau and Lucièn enjoyed a friendly artistic rivalry as aspiring virtuoso pianists and composers.”

Lester Sullivan writes that Lucièn was living in Paris in 1854, according to the newspaper L'Illustration. Sullivan continues: “Also in 1854, his earliest piece held at the French Bibliothèque Nationale, L'Angélus au monastère: Prière, for piano, was published. The publisher of his piano Variations et Final sur l'air Au clair de la lune, Op. 30 (1859) had to reprint it five times to meet its sales. From the start, Lucièn was more successful than Dédé in securing publication in Paris. Then, in 1858, just outside the city, his son Lucièn-Léon Guillaume was born.”

Charles Lucièn Lambert relocated to Brazil with his family, we learn from the liner notes by Lester Sullivan: “Charles Lucièn moved his family to Brazil sometime in the 1860s. In Rio de Janeiro he opened a piano and music store and taught music, eventually becoming a member of the Brazilian National Institute of Music. In 1869, Gottschalk arrived in Rio for a series of spectacular appearances, fated to be his last. Lucièn Jr., then not yet a teenager, and his father, both performed in at least one of Gottschalk's monster concerts, in which 31 pianists played simultaneously.”

Sullivan tells of Charles Lucièn Lambert's friendship with the family of the young Ernesto Nazareth, who was to become one of his country's important composers: “Lucièn Sr. eventually became a good friend of the family of the young Ernesto Nazareth (1863-1934) and that great Brazilian composer's first professional teacher. Now that Nazareth's piano music is enjoying a revival on recordings, it becomes increasingly evident that he may have gained from Lambert not only his love for Chopin but also an inclination towards the pianola style, which, coupled with Gottschalk's example in the area of local colour, suggests a line of influence from Lambert Sr. and Gottschalk to Nazareth and thence to Heitor Villa-Lobos and even Darius Milhaud.”

Charles+Lambert" rel="tag">Charles Lambert
Lambert+Sr." rel="tag">Lambert Sr.
Creole+Romantic" rel="tag">Creole Romantic
African+American" rel="tag">African American
Black+Composer" rel="tag">Black Composer
Nazareth's+Teacher" rel="tag">Nazareth's Teacher

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