Laurent Menager (composer): a few notes
Laurent Menager’s music, unknown to the general public for a long period of time, was honoured in 2011 when the first volume of his complete works was published. The publication of this and several other volumes has confirmed his role as one the great composers of the nineteenth century and has led to his work becoming more widely known.
Laurent Menager: early musical talent
Laurent Menager was born in 1835 in Pfaffenthal, a suburb of Luxembourg City which was home to craftsmen and with which he maintained close links until his death in 1902. His career as a musician was certainly not predestined. His father, a baker, wanted him to follow in his footsteps, unaware of just how different his son’s path would be. While studying at the Luxembourg Athenaeum, Laurent learnt to play different instruments and began to study harmony. In 1855, he left school and wanted to continue with his musical studies. His dreams were initially frustrated by his father, who had found him a job as an accountant in a hardware shop. However, he only worked there for a short time before his father agreed to send him to Cologne to pursue his musical studies. He was taught by Ferdinand Hiller and discovered German romanticism.
« Many music lovers see Laurent Menager as having created the romantic style which is unique to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg»
A musician and a teacher with close links to his hometown
In 1856, Laurent Menager returned to Luxembourg without a degree; nonetheless, he successfully applied for a teaching position at the Luxembourg School of Music. In 1857, he founded the Sang a Klang choir in his native town of Pfaffenthal with a fellow teacher. From 1860 onwards, he spent considerable periods of time outside Luxembourg as he finished his musical studies at the Conservatorium der Musik in Cologne. He also composed his String Quartet in A major at this time. He returned to the Athenaeum, this time to teach, from 1889 to 1902. In addition to his work as a composer, he was particularly interested in the world of education and created scores to teach singing and music theory. He also put poems by Edmond de la Fontaine (also known as Dicks) and Michel Lentz, the author of Luxembourg’s national anthem, to music.
The long unknown work of Laurent Menager
The musician was well-loved when he died in 1902. Between 6,000 and 7,000 people attended his funeral to pay tribute to the masterly composer. Many music lovers see him as having created the romantic style which is unique to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. The magnitude and quality of his work have earned him a prominent role in Luxembourg’s cultural heritage. Despite this, his compositions were not collected and published for considerable time; some of them have simply (and sadly) been lost. The idea of publishing Menager’s compositions came about in 1935, when events were held to commemorate the centenary of his birth, and was considered on several subsequent occasions. The project was constantly postponed; it was launched, at long last, in 2011 with the publication of the first of the twelve volumes which catalogue his complete works!