Manuel Rosenthal

Manuel Rosenthal

Manuel Rosenthal (18 June 1904 – 5 June 2003) was a French composer and conductor who held leading positions with musical organizations in France and America. He was friends with many of his contemporary composers, and despite a considerable list of compositions is mostly remembered for having created the popular ballet score Gaîté Parisienne and left a varied legacy of recordings.


Early life and career

Rosenthal was born in Paris to Anna Devorsosky, of Russian Jewish descent, and to a French father, whom he never met.[1] His surname was taken from his stepfather, Bernard Rosenthal.

Rosenthal began violin studies at age 6; after his stepfather's death in 1918, Rosenthal played the violin to support his mother and his sisters, working in cafés and cinemas.[2][3] In 1920, Rosenthal entered the Conservatoire in Paris, although he had to leave the institution after failing to win an expected first prize.[1] In addition to continuing his violin studies with Alterman and Boucherit and playing in theatre and cinema bands, he also studied composition. Around this time Rosenthal met Léo Sir, inventor of the dixtuor of string instruments; he was persuaded to play the sursoprano (a 4th higher than the violin) but also to find composers to write for this new medium. Through this Rosenthal met Milhaud, Honegger and others, and also contributed his own music to a recital in Paris in October 1921.[4]

He wrote a Sonatine for two violins and piano for a sight-reading examination, and the work received acclaim after its performance at the 99th concert of the Société Musicale Independante in Paris at the end of October 1924, attended by both Nadia Boulanger and Roland Manuel. After military service, he became Maurice Ravel's third and final student, seeing him once or twice a month,[5] while also having lessons in counterpoint and fugue from Jean Huré.[4] Rosenthal continued to play violin in the orchestra at the Moulin Rouge and the Casino de Paris. Ravel encouraged him to win the Prix Blumenthal (worth 20,000 francs)in 1928[6] and contacted the directors of the Opéra-Comique to get the one-act opera Rayon des soieries performed there in June 1930.[4] He also arranged for Rosenthal's conducting debut, at a concert of Rosenthal's own music in 1928.[3]

Conducting career

His conducting career began fully in 1934, when he became a percussionist and assistant conductor of the Orchestre National de France, to Désiré-Emile Inghelbrecht. In 1936 he was invited by Georges Mandel to become the conductor of the Orchestre de Radio PTT. As his fame as a conductor grew, he was atttacked in L'Action Française in 1937 by Lucien Rebatet who demanded his expulsion from his post. In the same year Serge Koussevitzky, in Paris during the Exposition invited Rosenthal to go to Boston to become his assistant – an offer reiterated after a Salle Pleyel concert on the eve of war in 1939.[7] After the death of Ravel, and following the success of Gaîté Parisienne, Rosenthal became a close colleague of Stravinsky.[7]

Rosenthal's musical career was interrupted by World War II when, after joining his regiment as a Corporal in the 300th infantry regiment, he was stationed near the Rhine in Alsace in 1939, and became a prisoner of war in May 1940. During his time in the prisoner of war camp he organised concerts, creating an operetta based on a play by Georges Courteline. Included in an exchange of prisoners sent back to the occupied zone, Rosenthal arrived back in Paris in March 1941, but escaped to Marseille in the Zone libre with the help of Roland-Manuel. He was arrested in Besançon in September 1941 while attempting to see his son, and was sentenced to six months forced labour. With the assistance of a German officer he got the necessary papers to escape back to Marseille. Later in 1942 he returned to Paris and worked in the Resistance with Désormière, Durey, Delvincourt and others.[7]

Upon the liberation in 1944, he returned to the Orchestre National de France to become their principal conductor, a post he held until 1947. The first concert consisted of works from each of the Allied countries, including the Hymne à la Justice by Magnard, and he ensured a wide range of contemporary music was played; the first season included a complete cycle of the works of Stravinsky.[7] In his final year with the orchestra he brought them to join Sir Thomas Beecham and the Royal Philharmonic in a concert organised by Jack Hylton that filled the Harringay Arena with 13,500 listeners.[8]

In early 1946 Rosenthal went to the USA to conduct concerts with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. Having accepted the post of composer-in-residence at the College of Puget Sound, he was invited to become music director of the Seattle Symphony from 1948–1951; he also undertook guest engagements in San Francisco and in Buenos Aires. He was engaged to inspect the orchestra in Algiers, and conducted there and in Tunis during the winter of 1952-53.[7]

He was music director of the Orchestre Symphonique de Liège from 1964-1967. Rosenthal also served as professor of conducting at the Paris Conservatoire from 1962 to 1974, instituting a more demanding schedule for his students, who included Yan Pascal Tortelier, Eliahu Inbal, Jacques Mercier, Marc Soustrot and Jean-Claude Casadesus.[7] He conducted some of the first modern performances of Rameau’s Zoroastre, at the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux and the Opéra-Comique in 1964. The BBC in Manchester invited him to conduct an opera of his choice in 1972; he took on Chabrier's Le roi malgre lui with a French cast, which helped promote Chabrier's music in the UK.[1]

In February 1981 Rosenthal made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera New York in a mixed-bill of 20th century French stage works, returning in 1983 for Dialogues des carmélites, and further appearances in 1986 and 1987.[9] He returned to Seattle in 1986 to conduct the Ring cycle for Seattle Opera.[10]

He conducted the first performance of Pelléas et Mélisande in Russia in Moscow in 1988, and later that year gave the premiere of the same work in Caracas, Venezuela. In 1992 he conducted a production of Padmâvatî at the Opera Bastille.[7]

Personal life

Rosenthal was married twice. His first marriage was to a chorus girl in 1927, with the surname Troussier. He had begun a relationship with the soprano Claudine Verneuil while still married to his first wife. However, during his tenure in Seattle, Claudine Verneuil was presented as Rosenthal's wife, even though he had not divorced Troussier. His failure to declare Verneuil's true status led to his detention for six weeks on Ellis Island when returning to Seattle in October 1951.[7] With the discovery of his first marriage, Rosenthal's Seattle contract was terminated. In 1952, he finally obtained a divorce and married Verneuil. He had two sons, Alain born in 1933 and Clément born in 1956.[3][7]

Rosenthal was made a Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur in 1961 and a Commandeur in 1991.[7]

In 1999 he published a small book 'Crescendo vers Dieu'[11] in which he looked at his religious beliefs, woven into the story of his life.

Rosenthal died in Paris, aged 88.


Rosenthal composed works in all classical forms, including operas, operettas, ballets, 13 works for orchestra, choral works with orchestra and a capella, works for solo voice and orchestra, chamber music, music for voice and piano, and solo piano music.[2][3] His reputation was sealed in France with Jeanne d'Arc, first performed in 1936, although this was followed by a production of the light-hearted one-act operetta La Poule Noire of 1937.[4]

However, his best-known work as a composer was the 1938 ballet Gaîté Parisienne, which he arranged based on the music of Jacques Offenbach. The commission by Léonide Massine was originally meant for Roger Désormière, but for lack of time, Désormière asked Rosenthal, a friend, to undertake the arrangement. Rosenthal was initially reluctant, but fulfilled the commission. Massine rejected the score, but after arbitration by Igor Stravinsky, finally accepted the work and choreographed the ballet, which was a major success.[2]

In 1965 his serious opera Hop, Signor! was a disappointment in Toulouse and at the Opéra-Comique.


Stage works

  • Rayon des soieries, 1923-1926, opéra bouffe in one act[12]
  • Un baiser pour rien ou La folle du logis, 1928-1929, ballet in one act
  • Les Bootleggers, 1932, comédie musicale in one act
  • La poule noire, 1937-1937, comédie musicale in one act
  • Gaîté Parisienne, 1938, ballet in one act d’après Offenbach
  • Que le diable l'emporte, 1948, ballet in one act
  • Les femmes au tombeau, 1956, drame lyrique in one act
  • Hop, Signor ! 1957-1961, drame lyrique in three acts


  • Sérénade, 1927
  • Jeanne d'Arc, 1934-36
  • Les petits métiers, 1933 (Le Maréchal ferrant, L’Herboriste, Le Montreur de Marionnettes, Le Veilleur de Nuit, Le Facteur Déodat, Le Barbier, La Marchande d’Oublies, Le Rémouleur, La Nounou, Le petit Télégraphiste)
  • Musique de table, 1941 (Entrée de Convives, Salade russe, Matelote d’Anguilles, Quenelles lyonnaises, Filet de Bœuf, Jardinière de Légumes, Cuissot de Chevreuil, Salade de Saison, Fromage de Montagne, Bombe glacée, Corbeille de fruits, Café, Liqueurs Cigares, Conversations d’après diner)
  • Noce Villageoise, 1941
  • Symphonies de Noël, 1947
  • Magic Manhattan, 1948
  • Symphony in C, 1949
  • Offenbachiana, 1953
  • Rondes Françaises, 1955

Vocal, choral

  • Saint François d'Assise, 1936-39
  • Trois burlesques, 1941
  • La pietà d’Avignon, 1943
  • Cantate pour le temps de la Nativité, 1943-44
  • Deux sonnets de Jean Cassou, 1944
  • A choeur vaillant, 1952-53
  • Missa Deo Gratias, 1953
  • Trois pièces liturgiques, 1958


  • Sonatine for two violons and piano, 1922
  • Saxophone-Marmelade, 1929
  • Les Soirées du Petit Juas, string quartet, 1942
  • Aesopi Convivium (violin, piano, orchestra), 1947-1948

Selected recordings

  • Debussy: Orchestral works - Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, Images pour orchestre, Jeux, Nocturnes, La Mer; Orchestra of the Opéra de Paris, conducted by Manuel Rosenthal. VEGA
  • Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé, Rapsodie espagnole, Alborada del gracioso, Valses nobles et sentimentales; Orchestra of the Opéra de Paris, conducted by Manuel Rosenthal. VEGA
  • Ravel: L'heure espagnole - Géori Boué (Concepcion), Roger Bourdin (Ramiro), Orchestre National de France, conductor: Manuel Rosenthal. Paris 28 December 1944. IMV 027.
  • Ibert: Concertino da camera for alto saxophone and eleven instruments, Debussy: Rapsodie, Loeffler: Poeme paien d'apres Virgile - Marcel Mule, Orchestre Philharmonique de Paris, conductor Manuel Rosenthal. Paris, 1952, 2-EMI 85240.
  • Glazounov: Suite from Raymonda - Orchestre Philharmonique de Paris, conductor Manuel Rosenthal. Paris, 1952, 2-EMI 85240.
  • Scriabin: The Poem of Ecstasy - Orchestre Philharmonique de Paris, conductor Manuel Rosenthal. Paris, 1952, 2-EMI 85240.
  • Sauguet: Les caprices de Marianne - Andrée Esposito (Marianne), Michel Sénéchal (Coelio), Camille Maurane (Octave), Orchestre Radio-Lyrique, conductor: Manuel Rosenthal. Paris, 27–28 May 1959. SOCD 98/99
  • Bizet: Les pêcheurs de perles - Jeanine Micheau (Leila), Alain Vanzo (Nadir), Gabriel Bacquier (Zurgia), Lucien Lovano (Nourabad), Chœur de la RTF, Orchestre Radio-Lyrique, conductor: Manuel Rosenthal. Paris, 25 June 1959. GALA GL 100.504
  • Messiaen: Chronochromie - Orchestre National de France, conductor Manuel Rosenthal. Ades 14122.
  • Lalo: Symphonie espagnole and other French works for violin and orchestra. Arthur Grumiaux (violin), Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux, conductor: Manuel Rosenthal. Eloquence 462 579-2.
  • Satie: Parade, Trois Petite Pieces Montées, Socrate, En habit de cheval. French National Radio & Television Orchestra, Manuel Rosenthal. 1968. Everest - EVERCD014
  • Offenbach: Pomme d'api, M. Choufleuri restera chez lui le . . ., Mesdames de la Halle - Mady Mesplé, Jean-Philippe Lafont, Léonard Pezzino, Charles Burles, Michel Trempont, Michel Hamel; Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, Ensemble Choral Jean Laforge, Conductor: Manuel Rosenthal. Monte Carlo 21–29 September 1982. EMI 3952972.
  • Puccini: Tosca - Jane Rhodes, Albert Lance, Gabriel Bacquier; Orchestra of the Opéra de Paris, conducted by Manuel Rosenthal. VEGA - VAL 18
  • Offenbach: La belle Hélène - Jane Rhodes, Bernard Plantey, Jean Giraudeau, Michel Hamel, Jacques Doucet, Bernard Demigny, Andrine Forli; Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra-Comique, Paris, conducted by Manuel Rosenthal. Philips GL5664


  1. ^ a b c Nichols R. Manuel Rosenthal: Obituary. The Guardian, 9 June 2003.
  2. ^ a b c Anderson, Martin, "A Century in Music: Manuel Rosenthal in Conversation" (April 2000). Tempo (New Ser.) (212): pp. 31-37.
  3. ^ a b c d Martin Anderson (11 June 2003). "Manuel Rosenthal". The Independent. Retrieved 2008-01-01. 
  4. ^ a b c d Landormy P. La Musique Française après Debussy. Gallimard, Paris, 1943.
  5. ^ His recollections were published as Ravel: Souvenirs de Manuel Rosenthal, edited by Marcel Marnat, Paris: Hazan, 1995.
  6. ^ "ROSENTHAL MANUEL (1904-2003)". 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Saudinos D. Manuel Rosenthal – Une Vie. Mercure de France, Paris, 1992.
  8. ^ The Independent, Obituary, 11 June 2003
  9. ^ Metropolitan Opera archive -
  10. ^ Girardot A. Manuel Rosenthal. In: The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. Macmillan, London & New York, 1997,
  11. ^ Published by Desclée De Brouwer : Passerelles.
  12. ^ Commissioned by Galeries Lafayette ’L'encyclopédie multimedia de la comédie musicale théâtrale en France (1918-1940)’ (, accessed 14.09.10.

External links

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