Friday, November 19, 2010

Born Nov. 20, 1827, Edmond Dédé Wrote 'Quasimodo Symphony,' Heard May 10, 1865 in New Orleans

[Edmond Dédé; Hot Springs Music Festival; Richard Rosenberg, Conductor; Naxos 8.559038 (2000)]

Edmond Dédé was a free Creole of color, born Nov. 20, 1827 in New Orleans, Louisiana. His parents had arrived from the French West Indies around 1809. Edmond's father was a bandmaster for a militia unit. The boy first learned clarinet, but switched to violin, on which he was considered a prodigy. The liner notes for the Naxos CD were written by Lester Sullivan, University Archivist at Xavier University in New Orleans. Sullivan writes:

“He studied violin with Constantin Debergue, a local free black violinist and director of the local Philharmonic Society founded by free Creoles of color sometime in the late antebellum period, and with Italian-born Ludovico Gabici, director of the St. Charles Theater orchestra and one of the earliest publishers of music in the city. He studied counterpoint and harmony with Eugène Prévost, French-born winner of the 1831 Prix de Rome and conductor of the orchestra at the Théâtre d'Orléans, and with New York-born free black musician Charles Richard Lambert, father of Sidney and Lucièn Lambert, and a conductor of the Philharmonic Society, which was the first non-theatrical orchestra in the city and even included some white musicians among its one hundred instrumentalists, an extremely large aggregation for the time.”

White hostility against African American musicians forced Dédé to flee to Mexico, where he continued his training. Dédé returned to New Orleans and worked as a cigar maker until his funds enabled him to travel to Belgium, and then on to Paris. He was admitted to the Paris Conservatory of Music in 1857. After graduating, Dédé settled in Bordeaux, where he served as Orchestra Conductor at the Theatre l'Alcazar for 27 years. He also conducted light music at the Folies Bordelaises. As a highly accomplished violinist, Dédé performed his own compositions as well as those of others. He married Sylvie Leflet in 1864; their son Eugene Arcade Dédé also composed classical music.

The U.S. Civil War ended April 18, 1865. Within a month, Dédé's Quasimodo Symphony was premiered before an integrated and packed house in New Orleans on May 10, 1865. An African American orchestra was led by musician Samuel Snaer, Jr. The composer's other works include Le Palmier Overture and a composition he wrote during a stay in Algeria, Le Sermente de L'Arabe. Dédé died in Paris in 1903. Many of his compositions are preserved there at the Bibliotheque Nationale. [Edmond Dédé is profiled at]

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