Fernand Halphen, a Jewish composer in the Great War

A radio program by the European Institute for Jewish Music hosted by Hervé Roten


Between 1914 and 1918, the Great War, destroys Europe and does 9 millions killed and more than 20 millions wounded : among them, many Israelites, French, Belgian, English or German, who fought with patriotism for their land. In those terrible times, between horrifying noise of the shells and the use of the first chemical weapons, music plays a particular role to maintain the moral of the troops and the civil population.

While most of the composers and musicians are assigned as hospital porters or ambulance drivers, Fernand Halphen, 42 years old and father of two children, is assigned as lieutenant on the 3rd battalion of the 13th territorial infantry regiment of Compiegne. On August 23rd 1914, two weeks after the beginning of the war, he directs “a big concert in front of a packed park” in Compiègne.
In 1915, he composes a military march, entitled “Les Poilus”. On August 22nd 1915, his orchestra performs in front of King Albert 1st ,king of the Belgian and Raymond Poincaré in the castle of Davenescourt. However, in December 2015, the troop is reorganized, surely because some of the younger members are integrated in the active troops to compensate the losses. The orchestra is disassembled.

Between December 1915 and february 1917, Fernand Halphen gathers a new orchestra, in the region of Amiens, and will perform more than 50 concerts. On February 13th 1917, his battalion is dissolved, as each soldier is requisitioned for the active defense.

On February 18th 1917, 5 days after this dissolution, he is hospitalized. Seriously sick, he will be repatriated in Paris where he will die the 16th of May.

During this radio program, musicologist and president of the EIJM Laure Schnapper will tell us about the history and the music of this Jewish composer, dead for France, and which the works starts to be recognized today.
In French

Fernand Halphen : un compositeur juif dans la Grande Guerre - Hervé Roten (Judaïques FM 94.8)

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  • Fernand Halphen : un compositeur juif dans la Grande Guerre - Hervé Roten (Judaïques FM 94.8)

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