Born into an important family of merchants, bankers and patrons of the arts, Fernand Halphen learned violin under the tutelage of Joseph Marsick and composition from Gabriel Fauré.
In 1888, he entered the Conservatory and studied with Jules Massenet alongside Florent Schmitt, Henri Büsser, Max d’Olonne, Georges Enesco and Reynaldo Hahn. He was awarded the second prix de Rome in 1896.
In his short lifetime, Halphen composed nearly 100 melodies, over 30 pieces for piano, duets (particularly for violin and piano), a composition for string trio and one for piano trio, orchestral suites, a symphony in C minor dedicated to Fauré (1898) and Le Cor Fleuri, a lyric opera in one act unveiled at the Opéra-Comique theater on 10 May 1904.2 He also wrote two psalms and a synagogal hymn as well as two instrumental pieces which draw on traditional Hebrew cantilation (Andante religioso and Prière). In WWI, he served as Director of Music for an infantry regiment before succumbing in 1917 to a disease contracted while on the front.
This new edition of the Five pieces for piano was compiled by Hervé Roten, Laure Schnapper and Célia Triplet with the support of the European Institute for Jewish Music, which houses Fernand Halphen’s manuscripts, letters and published sheet music donated by his descendants. It draws on the composer’s handwritten, signed scores as well as a first edition published in 1906 by Astruc, which contains some slight differences. In some instances, neither source is precise in its notation, in particular with regards to slurs. A very small number of changes have been made for the sake of clarity or correction and are here indicated in brackets.
These five pieces for piano are: Barcarolle, Feuillet d’album, Prelude, Nocturne, Sur la Cisse (barcarolle)