Charles Lucien Lambert Sr. (c. 1828 – 1896)
Lucien-Leon Guillaume Lambert Jr. (1858 – 1945)
In many ways surpassing even Edmond Dede among black New Orleanians who had musical careers abroad were the half-brothers Lucien and Sidney Lambert (c.1838-c.1900). Their father, Dede’s early teacher Charles Richard Lambert, was their first teacher. Lucien was born in New Orleans about 1828 or 1829. His mother appears to have been a Louisiana free Creole of colour. Charles Richard died in 1862, while he and Sidney were in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The careers of Lucien and Sidney extended far beyond their hometown. Like the white Creole Louis Moreau Gottschalk, they could not remain long in New Orleans. Lucien, some ten years older than Sidney, was a contemporary of Gottschalk and, in fact, Louis Moreau and Lucien enjoyed a friendly artistic rivalry as aspiring virtuoso pianists and composers. This could have been as early as the late 1830s and early 1840s, when the two were still pre-teens and before Moreau left for Europe in 1842. Later, in 1853, when Gottschalk returned to New Orleans for a few months, Lucien already may have gone to Paris where, in 1854, his presence is reported in L’Illustration. Also in 1854, his earliest piece held at the French Bibliotheque Nationale, L’Angelus au monastere: Priere, for piano, was published. The publisher of his piano Variations et Final sur I ‘air Au clair de la lune, Op. 30 (1859) had to reprint it five times to meet its sales. From the start, Lucien was more successful than Dede in securing publication in Paris. Then, in 1858, just outside the city, his son Lucien-Leon Guillaume was born.
Charles Lucien moved his family to Brazil sometime in the 1860s. In Rio de Janeiro he opened a piano and music store and taught music, eventually becoming a member of the Brazilian National Institute of Music. In 1869, Gottschalk arrived in Rio for a series of spectacular appearances, fated to be his last, Lucien Jr., then not yet a teenager, and his father, both performed in at least one of Gottschalk’s monster concerts, in which thirty-one pianists played simultaneously. Lucien Sr. eventually became a good friend of the family of the young Ernesto Nazareth (1863-1934) and that great Brazilian composer’s first professional teacher. Now that Nazareth’s piano music is enjoying a revival on recordings, it becomes increasingly evident that he may have gained from Lambert not only his love for Chopin but also an inclination towards the pianola style, which, coupled with Gottschalk’s example in the area of local colour, suggests a line of influence from Lambert Sr. and Gottschalk to Nazareth and thence to Heitor Villa-Lobos and even Darius Milhaud.
Lucien Jr. was taught first by his father and then, in France, by Theodore Dubois and Jules Massenet. The young Lambert’s Promethee enchaine won the Concours Rossini in 1885. The works by the son held by the Bibliotheque show a much wider range in forms, performing forces and length than his father’s music, including several stage works from 1892 to 1911 and two pieces written in Porto, Portugal, and still in manuscript the 1912 Cloches de Porto for piano and orchestra and a 1924 Prelude, Fugue et Postlude for piano. Two notable 1898 works by Lucien Jr. are a vocal arrangement of Gottschalk’s piano Berceuse, Op. 47 (RO. 27) and orchestral Esquisses Creoles (1898) on Gottschalk themes in an arrangement for piano four-hands. The son also wrote a ballet, symphonic poems, a piano concerto, a work for organ and orchestra, and a Requiem. Sidney Lambert, as did Lucien Jr. in the latter part of his life, had a career in Portugal, serving as a pianist in the royal court. Some time in the mid-1870s he was decorated by the King, Dom Pedro, for a new piano method He later taught in Paris, where the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris now holds thirty-two of his pieces dating from 1866 to 1899. These show Sidney perhaps to have been somewhat less original than his brother, with about one-quarter of the pieces being arrangements. One of these again gives evidence of the Lambert family conection to Gottschalk’ Celebre tarantelle (1890) is a two-piano arrangement of Gottschalk’s Grande tarantella [sic] for piano and orchestra (Naxos 8.559036). Of all the Lamberts, Sidney seems to have been the only one to have had a piece published in New Orleans. His arrangement of Mon etoile, a waltz by F. A. Rente, which was first published in Paris, was copyrighted in 1879 as Stella (Mon etoile) by Philip Werlein in New Orleans. Sidney died in Paris some time in the first decade of the twentieth century.
~ Lester Sullivan, University Archivist, Xavier University
In 1993 Lester Sullivan introduced me to the music of several ‘free black’ composers who left their native New Orleans in the late 1850s to study and work in Paris. They achieved great success in France (and a few of them subsequently in South America and Portugal), but remained virtually unknown in the United States. In 1998 I spent a week at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, where I found a wealth of printed music by Edmond and Eugene Dede, Lucien Lambert (father and son), Sidney Lambert and several of their colleagues. What I found had never been heard outside France, and had not been performed at all for at least ninety years. I prepared the orchestral music (which existed only in poorly edited, nearly illegible sheet music) into performance editions, and thirty-eight orchestral, chamber, vocal and piano works of the ‘Creole Romantics’ were given their modern premieres at the 1999 Hot Springs Music Festival. This represents merely a sample of these composers’ output, and I hope that it will spur other musicians to research and perform more of these delightful pieces.
Included in this disc is an overture to one of Lucien Lambert Jr.’s two grand operas, Broceliande, written between 1891 and 1893. Broceliande was once the ancient forest of Amorica (later Breton, then Brittany). The forest of the King Arthur legend, Broceliande is where Morgaine entrapped Merlin because of his love for the fair Vivian. Lambert Jr collaborated with poet Andre Alexandre to transform the Arthur legend into the Grand Opera, Bracetiande, in 1890. The ‘Opera feerique en 4 actes et 6 tableaux’ was premiered at the Theatre des Arts in Rouen in January 1893, where it was critically aclaimed. Jose Bussac directed the production and a certain Mr Barwolf conducted the large orchestra. Lucien Jr. thought so highly of his overture to Broceliande that he later arranged it for piano four-hands. Unfortunately, as of the time of this present recording, the full orchestration to the opera has not been found. The present performance is an orchestration I reconstructed by utilising the four-hand piano arrangement and the piano-vocal score of the opera. The sumptuous harmonic language Lambert Jr. employs calls to mind (a very American) Wagner, but is used in a way that places it as a sort of ‘missing link’ between nineteenth- century concert music and a language that was soon to evolve into that of Jazz.
~ Richard Rosenberg