a flower of a lost bouquet

M. Bonis: Scherzo

4 📖 (+5 🎧) minutes

Mel Bonis by Charles Corbineau 1877.

It is a remarkable thing that one woman named Mélanie, in the company of some of the greatest music artists ever, such as Claude Debussy, César Franck, and Auguste Bazille, dedicated her entire life to composing and music, despite strong opposition from her family and the “male environment”. She played with the cards that were assigned to her in the best possible way and her talent surprised and shocked other musicians, such as the great composer Camille Saint-Saëns, who in 1901 said: “I’ve never imagined a woman could write such music!”

Mélanie Bonis (1858 – 1937) attended the Conservatoire de Paris where she met the mentioned male musicians and entered their world. It is for this reason that Mélanie is better known as Mel – a simpler, androgynous name, and a name without connotations. She was aware of her great talent and potential, and was encouraged by Professor César Franck, but her family banned her music and arranged a wedding with an energetic and materialistic businessman. To make the story even more bizarre, the man didn’t like music.

All of these things impacted her compositions. She was a prolific composer, especially at the turn of two centuries. Her compositions can be described as dramatic, humorous, powerful, sensual, sometimes oriental, and of high sensitivity. She composed throughout her life, and in 1907 became a member of the committee of the Société des compositeurs de musique.
A large number of her compositions have been lost, but the official number of published works is about three hundred. These include works for piano, two pianos, voice, choir a cappella or accompanied by harp or organ, for organ or harmonium, chamber ensembles, orchestra, etc. Mel Bonis and Claude Debussy are credited for the return of French flutist literature in the early 20th century. As Duo von Meck is based on many artistic relationships, it is our obligation to point out that Mel had one with the singer Amédée Hettich, towards whom she has nurtured feelings since her student days. An illegitimate child and strong feelings indicate that this relationship was much more than artistic.

40-year-old Mel Bonis
old Mel Bonis

Scherzo has been known since the time of Claudio Monteverdi in the 16th century and it represents cheerful secular, and rarely spiritual movement. It appears in some of Joseph Haydn’s early sonatas and string quartets, but actually L. van Beethoven is the one who gives the final form and determines the position of the scherzo in a cyclic sonata form. While in the 18th century it served to separate the slow movement from the final, in the 19th century it became a separate solo or orchestral work. The famous ones are composed by Frédéric Chopin and Johannes Brahms, which can be described as grotesque, fictional, and dramatic wholes.

Manuscript of Mélanie’s Scherzo, op. posth. 187 begins on the 25th page and it is surely the Final movement of the, unfortunately, lost work for the flute and piano. In the historical context, it shares the characteristics of a cheerful, dramatic, lavish, playful, and imaginative movement. In our Search of Lost Time, we often go back to the first work we performed in front of an audience. We admire, again and again, the greatness of the disguised female composer in a violently isolated, and thus perfect work. Therefore, we invite you to share the same emotions with us …