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           LÉON VASSEUR - ORGANIST & COMPOSER

One page autographed letter by the French organist, composer and conductor to fellow composer Elie Brault regarding a project, July 13, 1882.

 

My dear Mr. Brault,

 

More I think about the matter I mentioned to you yesterday and the very sympathetic way you listened, the more I am convinced of its excellence and success; especially since you are already in connection with Mr O'Kelly and that more than anything else you'll get special payment facilities and advantageous conditions.

 

Far be it from me to obsess you. I just wanted to tell you the great importance I attach to the service that I asked you, I had to tell you (...) and how much I already consider myself your debtor

 

Cordial handshake

 

Léon Vasseur

 

Vasseur, (1844-1917) came from a musical family, his Father the local church organist.  At the age of 12, he was sent to the École Niedermyer, the school for religious music in Paris.  He studied organ and improvisation with George Schmitt the titular organist of Saint-Sulpice at the time and piano with Camille Saint-Saëns.  He graduated at 18 with firsts in both subjects.  His first employment in 1862 was as Choir Master and Organist of L'église Saint-Symphorien in Versailles, a position he held for eight years.  In 1870, he was appointed titular organist of the Royal Chapel, Notre Dame de Versailles.  While an organist, he composed a number of serious religious works for organ and voice, as well as in 1867, an Méthode d'orgue expressif ou harmonium.  Some of his religious works include, “L’Office divin pour orgue” which consists of a compendium of masses, offertoires, anthems and antiphons.  He also wrote 20 motets, a Magnificat and on November 25, 1877 in the Cathedral de Versailles premiered his “Hymne à Sainte-Cécile” for soprano, organd and orchestra received it’s first performance. 

 

However, religious music was not enough for Vasseur.  He was part of café society which pulled him away from the church and into their midst.  He left his position as the organist in Versailles in 1872 to pursue his dream to become a composer for the stage.  His first work premiered at the Alcazar Café-Chantant, “Un fi, deux fi, trois figurants”, premiered on April 1, 1872. His next major work, “La Timbale d’Argent” premiered on April 9, 1872 at Offenbach’s Theatre, The Bouffes Parisien and was an international success, saving that theatre, reaching New York in 1875 and also championed in England by Richard D’Oyly Carte.  His other operettas in alphabetical order include,  "Avril" "Le bateau d'amour", "Le billet de logement", "La blanchisseuse", "Chanson auvergnate", "La cruche cassée",  "Le dragon du roi", "Le droit du seigneur", "La famille Trouillat", "La famille Vénus", "Le grelot", "Je revenais de voir Marraine", "Madame Cartouche", "Mai", "Le mariage au tambour", "Nina la comédienne", "Ninon", "Le pays de l'or", "Le petit Parisien", "Le pifferaro", "Le roi d'Yvetot", "Ronde des parisiennes", "La Sorrentine", "La souris blanche", "Viva ma bella!", "Le voyage de Suzette".  While some had mild popularity, none reached  the level of “La Timbale d’Argent”.  Vasseur also tried the role of an impresario in 1879 became the Director of the former Taitbout Theatre, now the  Nouveau Théâtre-Lyrique.  A failure, he became Music Director of the Folies Bergere the same year, where he conducted until 1884, also producing operetta and ballets there.  He retired in 1889.

 

The French composer Elie Brault and the Irish composer Joseph O’Kelly (1828-1885) were both well known composers operating in Paris during this time.