Jonas, Émile (1827-1905)

By Jean-Philippe Amar

Émile Jonas is born in a Jewish family, on the 5th March 1827, in Paris. He enters the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Paris in 1841 (aged then 14), to study piano, harmony (in the class of Félix Le Couppey) and composition (in the class of Michel Carafa).
He is rewarded with the Second Grand Award of Rome, with his cantata Antonio, in 1849, a year in which no First Prize was rewarded.
Simultaneously to a position of music director of the Imperial Guard (for whom he composes many marches and works for military brassbands), he leads a career of teacher at the Conservatoire de Paris, from 1847 to 1870. He teaches first solfeggio and then composition, from 1859 on.

From 1854 on, he is a cantor, organist and director of choir of the synagogue of Portuguese rite, on Lamartine street. He publishes, on the same year, a collection of Hebrew chants (Anthologie de chants hébreux utilisés aux temples de rite portugais) composed of 24 liturgical pieces for soloists, choir, organ and harp. An extended version is released in 1886, under the title : Recueil de chants hébraïques anciens et modernes pour les temples de rite portugais, accompanied with recommendations of performance and exercises.
His Psalm 130, for pour barytone and choir, will be performed for the inauguration of the Israelite Consistorial Temple of Paris (rue de la Victoire), on the 9th September 1874.
He publishes on the same year a collection of 21 compositions, by various authors, for weddings celebrated in this synagogue ; five years later, a music collection forshabbat is released.

Long-winded composer, he creates about 20 operettas ans shares the stages of Parisian theatres (and then of France and Europe) with the most famous French composers of the second half of the XIXth century (Delibes, Messager, ...). Friend of Offenbach, the latter presents him to best librettists of the time.
In 1867, he takes part in the group in charge of organising the military parades for the Universal Exposition inaugurated by Napoléon III.
Émile Jonas gains recognition and prestige ; he participates in many administration councils of sauthors and composers societies. He spends time with public figures such as Bizet, Gounod, Labiche, Sardou and Alexandre Dumas son. He is rewarded Chevalier and then Officier de la Légion d’Honneur.

Il dies in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, on the 21st of May 1905. He is buried in the cemetary of Montparnasse.

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