Marcel Mihalovici (1898-1985)

(b Bucharest, 22 Oct 1898; d Paris, 12 Aug 1985). French composer of Romanian origin. He studied in Bucharest (1908–19) with Bernfeld (violin), Cuclin (harmony) and Cremer (counterpoint), and at the Schola Cantorum, Paris (1919–25), with d’Indy (composition), Saint Réquier (harmony), Gastoué (Gregorian chant) and Lejeune (violin). In Paris he also received advice from his compatriot Enescu. From 1959 to 1962 Mihalovici taught at the Schola Cantorum. He was a founding member of both the Society of Romanian Composers, Bucharest, and the Paris contemporary music society Le Triton; in 1964 he became a corresponding member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts.

A prolific composer who tackled all styles and forms, he was a strong advocate of neo-classicism and placed great emphasis on melody and counterpoint. His harmonic language ranged from chromaticism to serialism. The imaginative play of instrumental sounds and the constant rhythmic variation (often inspired by Romanian folk music) reveals Mihalovici as a composer who was contemporary in his outlook despite a rigorous, academic background. Works such as Chindia, Rhapsodie concertante, the First Sonata for violin and piano, the ballet Karagueuz and the Third String Quartet are remarkable for their transfiguration of Romanian folk elements, their original modalism and rhythmic definition. He was awarded the Louis Spohr Prize (1955), the Copley Prize (1962) and the George Enescu Prize (1966). He was married to the French pianist Monique Haas.


(selective list)

Stage: Une vie de Polichinelle (ballet, M. Sauvage), 1922; Le postillon du roy (ballet), 1924; Karagueuz (ballet), 1926; L’intransigeant Pluton (op, 1, J.-F. Regnard), 1928; Phèdre (op, 5 scenes, Y. Goll, after J. Racine), 1949; Die Heimkehr (op, 1, K.H. Ruppel after G. de Maupassant), 1954, rev. 1955; Thésée au labyrinthe (ballet, Ruppel), 1956; Alternamenti (ballet, C. Rostand), 1957; Krapp ou La dernière bande (op, 1, S. Beckett), 1960; Les jumeaux (op buffa, 3, Rostand, after Plautus: Menechemes), 1962; Héracles (incid music, Euripides), 1975

Orch: Le cortège des divinités infernales, 1928; Chindia, 1929; Vn Conc., 1930; Caprice romanien, 1936; Toccata, pf, orch, 1938, rev. 1940; Symphonies pour le temps présent, 1944; Variations, brass, str, 1946; Séquences, 1947; Rhapsodie concertante, pf, orch, 1951; Etude en 2 parties, pf, orch, 1951; Sinfonia giocosa, 1951; Sinfonia partita, 1952; Elégie, 1955; Ouverture tragique, 1957; Esercizio, str, 1959; Sinfonia variata, 1960; Nocturne, cl, orch, 1963; Sym. no.5, 1966–9; Prétextes, ob, cl, bn, chbr orch, 1968; Refrains, 1969; Chant premier, t sax, orch/pf, 1973; Follia, 1976–7

Vocal: 3 poèmes chinois, 1918–20; Chansons et danses, 1924; 3 romances (V. Hugo), 1929; Sinfonia cantata, Bar, chorus, orch, 1953–63; Abendgesang (Goll), 1957; Stanzas (M. Dumitrescu), 1967; Cantilène (Y. Sandro), Mez, chbr orch, 1972; Prétextes, 1974

Chbr and solo inst: Pf Sonatina, 1923; Str Qt, 1923; Sonatina, ob, pf, 1924; Sonata, vn, pf, 1927; Str Trio, 1929; Str Qt, 1931; Sonata, 3 cl, 1933; Ricercari, pf, 1941; Sonata, vn, pf, 1941; Sonata, va, pf, 1942; Sonata, vn, vc, 1944; Str Qt, 1946; Sonata, vc, 1949; Sonata, vn, 1949; Wind Trio, 1955; Sonata, bn, pf, 1958; Sonata, cl, pf, 1958; Dialogues, cl, pf, 1964; Pf Sonata, 1964; Cantus firmus, 2 pf, 1970; Variantes, hn, pf, 1970; Serioso, b saxhn, pf, 1971; Mélopée, ob, 1973; Récit, cl, 1973; Passacaille, pf, left hand, 1975; Str Qt, 1981

Principal publishers: Amphion, Billandot, Bote & Bock, Editions Françaises de Musique, Eschig, Heugel, Leduc, Mogador, Muzicală, Pro musica


G. Beck: Marcel Mihalovici: esquisse biographique (Paris, 1952)

Marcel Mihalovici: catalogue de l’oeuvre (Paris, 1968) [incl. preface by C. Rostand]

‘Marcel Mihalovici’, Courrier musical de France, lx/4 (1977) [biographical list of works]

T. Grigoriu: ‘Marcel Mihalovici la 80 de ani’, Muzica, xxviii/12 (1978), 15–17

V. Tomescu: ‘Jubileu: Marcel Mihalovici’, Muzica, xxviii/10 (1978), 13–15

D. Petecel: Muzicieni nostri se destainuie [Our musicians reveal themselves] (Bucharest, 1990)

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