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Decaux has possibly the smallest output of any composer, uness there are
unknown, unpublished pieces - just one work, ‘Clairs de Lune’ for piano.
Perhaps these could be regarded as four works, for there are four constituent
movements, written at different times: 1 ‘Minuit passe’ (1900), 2 ‘La ruelle’
(1902), 3 ‘La cimitiere’ (1907), 4 La Mer (1903). A fifth piece was planned but
not written. Despite the smallness of this output, ‘Clairs de Lune’ is an
impressive and important cycle, influenced by Symbolism,
highly chromatic, yet rigorously controlled by a harmonic-motivic cell in a
manner that presages Roslavets, say, or even Schönberg. Nothing like this had
appeared in French music before.
Decaux studied at the Paris Conservatoire with Massenet for composition, and
with Widor and Guilmant for organ. He was oganist of the Church of Sacre-Coeur
de Montmartre for 25 years, and professor of organ at the Schola Cantorum under d’Indy. From 1923 to 1937 he taught (organ, presumably) at the Eastman School
in Rochester, New York. He was famous as an improviser, though his ‘Clairs de
Lune’ is anything but improvisational in character.