Félicien David

Félicien-César David (13 April 1810 – 29 August 1876) was a French composer.

Félicien-César David
Woodburytype of Félicien David


Félicien David was born in Cadenet, and began to study music at five under his father, whose death however, when the boy was six, left him an impoverished orphan. His good voice enabled him to study as a choirboy at the Church of Saint-Sauveur in Aix-en-Provence, which he left at the age of 15 with a sound knowledge of music, and a scholarship which enabled him to study literature at a Jesuit college. However, after three years, he abandoned these studies to pursue a musical career.

He first obtained a position in the orchestra of the theatre at Aix. In 1829, he became maître de chapelle at Saint-Sauveur, but realised that to complete his musical education he needed to study at Paris. An allowance of 50 francs per month from a rich uncle made this possible.

0Felicien David
Félicien David in 1858

In Paris in 1830 he convinced Luigi Cherubini, the director of the Conservatoire, to enroll him as a pupil: despite his reservations, Cherubini recognised the talent shown by David's choral setting of Beatus vir. Despite the sudden withdrawal of his uncle's subsidy, David's studies, with Fétis and others, continued successfully.

On leaving the Conservatoire, David was caught up in the Saint-Simonian movement, for which he became a great enthusiast. The Saint-Simonians held music to be an important art, and David wrote much music for them, including a number of hymns. After the suppression of the movement in 1832, David joined with a number of adepts who visited the Middle East. This also proved a source of strong inspiration, leading eventually to his greatest success, the symphonic ode Le désert of 1844.

Returning to Paris in 1833, he wrote a number of romances, and instrumental music including three symphonies (in F major, E major and C minor, composed in 1837, 1838 and 1849);[1] by 1838/39 he was sufficiently successful to be able to arrange public performances of his works. With Le Désert he was acknowledged by the public and the critics as a significant force. The Revue et gazette musicale announced, the morning after its premiere, "A great composer has been born amongst us". To relieve his substantial debts, the composer however sold the rights to his masterpiece for a relatively small sum.

0Felicien David 2
David in a Brazilian setting (a reference to his 1851 opéra comique, La perle du Brésil) surrounded by comic allusions to several of his major works, from an undated theatrical illustration (ca. 1860).

David wrote a number of operas, of which the most notable are Christophe Colomb (1847), La perle du Brésil (1851), Herculanum (1859), and Lalla-Roukh (1862). Amongst his oratorios are Moïse au Sinaï ('Moses on Sinai') (1846), and Eden (1848).

David became a member of the Légion d'honneur in 1862 and was given a civil pension. On the death of Berlioz in 1869, he took his place in the Institut de France. He died in Le Pecq (now Saint-Germain-en-Laye) in the département Yvelines, close to Paris, in 1876.



  • Piano trio no. 1 in E major
  • Piano trio no. 2 in D minor
  • Piano trio no. 3 in C minor
  • Four string quartets
  • Les Quatre Saisons: Soirées de Printemps / d'Été / d'Automne / d'Hiver (string quintet: two violins, viola, cello, double-bass)
  • Nonet for brass in C minor, 1839 (4 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, tuba)
  • Solo piano: Pensée (mélodie-valse), L'Absence (romance sans paroles), Rêverie, Le Soir (rêverie)
  • 4 symphonies (for orchestra) (1837-1849)[2]


  • Le désert (Ode-symphonie)
  • Christoph Colomb (Ode-symphonie)
  • Moïse au Sinaï, oratorio
  • Eden, oratorio
  • La Perle du Brésil, opéra comique in three acts (22 November 1851, Paris)
  • Herculanum, opéra in four acts (4 March 1859, Paris)
  • Lalla-Roukh, opéra comique in two acts (12 May 1862, Paris)
  • Le Saphir, opéra comique in three acts (8 March 1865, Paris)
  • La Captive, opéra comique in three acts (1883, Paris)
  • Motets Pie Jesu / Miseremini / Alma redemptoris Mater (for Aix cathedral choir), O salutaris


  1. ^ Cf. the content to this effect on [musicologie.org Musicologie.org].
  2. ^ Musicologie.org- lists no.3 in E as being in E, but there is substantial evidence elsewhere that their key is wrong. No.3 is in E major, was published in 1846 by Meissonnier, can be seen in partial manuscript at the Pierpont Morgan library and was recorded in 2017 by Ediciones Singulares.

External links

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Désert may refer to:

"Désert" (Émilie Simon song), 2002

Désert (novel), a 1980 novel by J. M. G. Le Clézio

Le désert, an 1844 "ode-symphonie" by Félicien David with words by Auguste Colin

Le Désert, a former commune in Calvados department, France


Feramors is an opera in two acts by Anton Rubinstein to a libretto by Julius Rodenberg. The story is based on Lalla Rookh by the Irish poet Thomas Moore. The opera was composed in 1862.


Félicien or Felicien is a given name. Notable people with the name include:

Félicien Du Bois (born 1983), Swiss professional ice hockey defenceman

Félicien Cattier (1869–1946), very prominent Belgian banker, financier and philanthropist

Félicien Champsaur (1858–1934), French novelist and journalist

Félicien Chapuis (1824–1879), Belgian doctor and entomologist

Félicien Courbet (1888–1967), Belgian water polo player and breaststroke swimmer

Félicien David (1810–1876), French composer

Perdita Felicien (born 1980), retired Canadian hurdler

Félicien Gatabazi (died 1994), Rwandan politician

Eugene Felicien Albert Goblet d'Alviella (1846–1925), lawyer, liberal senator of Belgium, Professor and rector of the Universite Libre de Bruxelles

Félicien Kabuga (born 1935), Rwandan businessman, accused of bankrolling and participating in the Rwandan Genocide

Félicien Mallefille (1813–1868), French novelist and playwright

Félicien Marceau (1913–2012), French novelist, playwright and essayist originally from Belgium

Félicien Mbanza (born 1977), former Burundian Attacker who last played with Croix de Savoie Gaillard in the France Championnat National

Félicien Menu de Ménil (1860–1930), French composer and Esperanto enthusiast

Desire-Felicien-Francois-Joseph Mercier (1851–1926), Belgian cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and a noted scholar

Félicien Van De Putte (born 1898), Belgian long-distance runner

Félicien Rops (1833–1898), Belgian artist, known primarily as a printmaker in etching and aquatint

Félicien Henry Caignart de Saulcy (1832–1912), French entomologist specialising in Coleoptera

Louis Félicien de Saulcy (1807–1880), French numismatist, Orientalist and archaeologist

Félicien Singbo (born 1980), Beninois football player

Félicien M. Steichen (1926–2011), American Surgeon and Professor of Surgery

Félicien Tramel (1880–1948), French film actor

Félicien Trewey (1848–1920), French magician, mime, comedian, vaudevillian, tightrope walker, balance artist, dancer, musician, chapeaugraphist and shadowgraphist

Félicien Vervaecke (1907–1986), Belgian professional cyclist from 1930 to 1939

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Gustave-Hippolyte Roger (17 December 1815 – 12 September 1879) was a French tenor. He is best known for creating the leading tenor roles in La damnation de Faust by Berlioz in 1846 and Meyerbeer's Le prophète in 1849.

Herculanum (opera)

Herculanum is a grand opera with music by Félicien David and a French text by Joseph Méry and Térence Hadot. It had its first performance in Paris at the Théâtre Impérial de l’Opéra on 4 March 1859. Lavish and detailed sets, celebrated stars of the opera and ballet, elaborate choruses and dancing, and spectacular stage effects combined with the music and text to make the work a success.


Lalla Rookh is an Oriental romance by Thomas Moore, published in 1817. The title is taken from the name of the heroine of the frame tale, the daughter of the 17th-century Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. The work consists of four narrative poems with a connecting tale in prose.


Lalla-Roukh is an opéra comique in two acts composed by Félicien David. The libretto by Michel Carré and Hippolyte Lucas was based on Thomas Moore's 1817 poem Lalla Rookh. It was first performed on 12 May 1862 by the Opéra-Comique at the Salle Favart in Paris. Set in Kashmir and Samarkand, the opera recounts the love story between Nourreddin, the King of Samarkand, and the Mughal princess Lalla-Roukh. Her name means "Tulip-cheeked", a frequent term of endearment in Persian poetry.

Le désert

Le désert is an "ode-symphonie" in three parts by the French composer Félicien David with words by fellow Saint-Simonien Auguste Colin, written after the composer’s stay in Egypt and the Holy Land.The work was first performed to great acclaim at the Paris Conservatoire on 8 December 1844, conducted by Théophile Tilmant, and taken up at the Théâtre-Italien and by Berlioz. At its premiere the work was played alongside two other Saint-Simonien works also by David; Chant du Soir and Le Sommeil de Paris. David had needed to borrow 1,200 francs to pay for the orchestra and hall. David's friends and colleagues Charles Duveyrier (half brother of Mélesville) and Barthélemy Prosper Enfantin took it upon themselves to challenge a contract David had innocently signed with Escudier which had given the publisher the rights to all David's works for ever, for only 1,200 francs. Le désert was successful from its premiere and influenced the conception of works based around the orient by many other French composers. David later wrote other works in similar vein, such as his operas La perle du Brésil and Lalla-Roukh.The work is scored for speaker, tenor solo, male chorus and orchestra. It consists of several vocal and orchestral movements, each introduced by a recitation. The different sections of the ode move from the song of the desert, arrival of a caravan, storm in the desert, calm after the storm and the caravan continuing its journey, the star of Venus, a hymn to the night, dances, sunrise, the song of the muezzin, departure of the caravan and song to Allah.

Le désert was planned to be staged as an opera at the Théâtre Lyrique to accompany La sonnambula in 1867, but these plans did not come to fruition. However, Pasdeloup in his short-lived tenure at the Théâtre Lyrique presented seven well-received concert performances in 1869-70, as well as concerts of David's symphonic ode Christophe Colomb.Verdi used the melody of the ‘chant du muezzin’ in his ballet music for the Paris premiere of Otello in 1894. Budden also finds the influence of the dawn movement of Le désert – which Verdi had heard in Milan in 1845 – in the prologue of Attila (1846). Parts of Bizet's Les pecheurs de perles, also show the influence of Le désert, for instance in the Act 1 finale (« O dieu Brahma ») and Act 2 « De mon amie ».Offenbach wrote music for a 'parodie' of the work entitled Citrouillard au désert, first performed at the house of the Countess Bertin de Vaux at the end of February 1846. A simple bourgeois is bored in the desert, and diverted by several choruses and dances. At the break of dawn a long crescendo leads to the tune 'Au clair de la lune'. The work was also performed at the Opéra-Comique on 27 March 1846.David's work is mentioned in chapter XV of Jules Verne's 1886 novel Robur the Conqueror. André Gide was fond of this "likeable" piece as a teenager, as reported in his memoir Si le grain ne meurt, chapter 6. Henri Vieuxtemps made a transcription of the tenor aria "Hymne à la nuit" as La Nuit for viola and piano.

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Marie Cico (1843, in Paris – 11 September 1875, in Neuilly-sur-Seine), was a French singer of opéra-comique and operetta.She made her debut at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal, where she was noticed by Jacques Offenbach, who took her into his company. At the Bouffes-Parisiens she created the roles of Minerve in Orphée aux enfers (1858), Lahire and Clé-de-Sol in Geneviève de Brabant (1859) and Calisto in Daphnis et Chloé (Offenbach) (1860).

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His son, Michel-Antoine (1865–1945), followed in his father's footsteps, also writing libretti, and later directing silent films. His nephew Albert Carré (1852–1938) also wrote libretti.

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Pommes soufflées were, according to a famous legend, discovered by chance on 24 August 1837, when Queen Marie-Amélie and other notables were delayed in their arrival for a meal at the Pavillon Henri IV in Yvelines after inaugurating the first passenger steam-powered railway in France. Chef Jean-Louis Françoise-Collinet, reputedly also the inventor of sauce béarnaise, removed the already frying potatoes from the oil and observed them expand when, after the royal party had arrived, they were returned to the oil. This story has been disputed on a number of grounds.


Saint-Simonianism was a French political and social movement of the first half of the 19th century, inspired by the ideas of Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon (1760–1825).

Saint-Simon's ideas, expressed largely through a succession of journals such as l'Industrie (1816), La politique (1818) and L'Organisateur (1819–20) focused on the perception that growth in industrialization and scientific discovery would have profound changes on society. He believed that society would restructure itself by abandoning traditional ideas of temporal and spiritual power, an evolution that would lead, inevitably, to a productive society based on and benefiting from, a " ... union of men engaged in useful work"; the basis of "true equality".

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