Jean Cras (1879-1932) was a remarkable man by anyone's measure. Twice a decorated hero of the Great War, this Rear-Admiral of the French navy, scientist, inventor and moral philosopher, was also a highly esteemed composer during his lifetime, enjoying the same stature and celebrity as Fauré, Debussy and Ravel. Since his death, however, both Cras and his music have been almost completely overlooked. In this, the first critical biography of Cras, Paul-Andre Bempechat situates Henri Duparc's protegé as a missing link between the French post-Romantic generation of composers and the Impressionists. The book explores, both historically and analytically, the methodology by which Cras evolved his eclectic brand of Impressionism, striking the delicate balance between Celtic folk idioms and exoticisms inspired by his travels. Cras' creative legacy extends beyond the world of music to the world of science. His five patented inventions include the navigational gyrocompass, which bears his name, still in use to this day by the French navy, coast guard and boating afficionados. Bempechat draws special attention to the humanist Jean Cras and his distinguished military career - he is credited with saving the Serbian army from extinction - drawing on primary source material such as family correspondence and wartime diaries to reaffirm this composer as a true Renaissance man of the twentieth century.
’La remarquable analyse de Bempéchat nous dévoile une oeuvre qui jongle avec les exotismes glanés par le compositeur lors de ses expéditions, le bretonisme qui lui était inné, et l'exégèse de son catholicisme fervent.’ France Catholique ’… an impressive undertaking… I consider that this book, more than simply a biography of a single composer and a military man, will shine even brighter once we have readjusted his position in the larger history of modern French music.’ International Journal of Tourism Science 'Le Canadien Paul-André Bempéchat, est parfaitement francophone mais c'est en anglais qu'il rédige cette somme dédiée Ã Jean Cras … Tout y est, …sa carrière marine, … l'inventeur brilliant, l'esthète pétri d'humanisme, le musician dans son Å“uvre. … Le portrait est vivant, Jean Cras se tient devant vous et tous les secrets de son art subtil sont démontrés.' Diapason ’Bempéchat weaves lively excerpts from the composer’s journals and correspondence into a descriptive narrative that ranges from heady to introspective, allowing glimpses of Cras’s familial devotion, aesthetic musings, wry humor, and faith derived from philosophy and experience rather than blind piety. … Bempéchat’s book is a welcome examination of a gifted but obscure composer that will prove useful for military historians and musicologists alike.’ Journal of Military History '… a fluid accessible narrative for both historians and musicologists… This is the first major study of Cras and will stand as a good reference to all who are interested in approaching him, Bretagne composers, regionalism and nationalism, the legacy of Franck and Duparc, polymaths, and those interested in cultural activities in France.' Notes '… his absorption of nonmusical matters allows him to present an enormous amount of unexpected information without losing the reader’s interest, and when he does get to the music, he examines it so attentively that this intro
Contents: Introduction to an introduction; Part I The Life of Jean Cras: Background; Foreground; Dualities, pluralities, synthesis; Surviving Adoré Floupette: faith, art, character; Currents - countercurrents; Opus posthumous…. Part II The Works: Struggle and Evolution: Feuille de route; Franckian engagement and disengagement: the early works (1899-1910); Individuation: Polyphème and the war years (1910-1922); The laboratory; A nod at the old sod…; Conclusion to an introduction…; Appendices; Bibliography; Index.