About author : MERCK Armand

MERCK Armand

Armand Merck (b. Liège 1883; d. Meudon 1963) began studying the French Horn and Composition in the town of his birth, before making his home in Paris, in order to be taught by Vincent d’Indy at the Schola Cantorum. As the composer of several operas (including Tarass Bulba, based on Gogol), song cycles, symphonic works and a considerable amount of piano music and chamber music, he aligned himself with the post-Franck school. The influence of such composers was in decline after the Great War and was even weaker during the first half of the twentieth century. The price paid by many composers for their adherence to constructional principles that modernity (in the wake of Debussy) seemed to have condemned wholly, was disgrace. Given that such was his position, it is remarkable to think that a man like Merck, in spite of his intentionally-dated aesthetic, was approved of by musicians as diverse as Florent Schmitt, Charles Münch, Georges Auric, Edouard Souberbielle and even Olivier Messiaen. We are entitled to believe that his music, which was played in his lifetime by such musicians as Walter Straham, José Iturbi, Yvonne Astruc, Yvonne Loriod and the Ensemble Marie-Thérèse Ibos (who gave the first performance of his Piano Quintet), never fell into oblivion.

Armand Merck had met Léon Bloy in his youth, and his loyalty to the author’s family continued until the end of his life. Thus, it was entirely natural for him to dedicate his third Poème to Thérèse Souberbielle, the second daughter of Madeleine Bloy and of the great organist Edouard Souberbielle. She was an excellent violinist, a pupil of Lily Bach and Line Talluel. She was a member of the prestigious class trained by Ginette Neveu, which was to become one of the most productive melting-pots of French violin-playing in the post-war period.

During the 1960s, Thérèse Souberbielle began a new chapter in her life when she accepted a post at the Bibliothèque Mazarine. The qualities which characterised her work there were, in time, used on behalf of her brother, the organist and theorist Léon Souberbielle, when he undertook to write his major work, Le Plein-Jeu de l’Orgue Français à l’époque classique (The Plein Jeu of the French Organ in the Classical Period), which has been re-published by Éditions Delatour, France. I should also mention her role as accompanist to my teachers when I began to study the violin.

Alexis Galpérine

Translation by David Adkins

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