Claude Arrieu was the pseudonym used by the French composer Louise Marie Simon (1903-1990). She was a prolific composer who studied composition at the Paris Conservatoire with many notable composers including Paul Dukas. She also studied piano with Marguerite Long and wrote many works for that instrument. Louise Marie received the first prize for composition at the Paris Conservatoire in 1932. She wrote in the Neo-Classical style favoured at the time by other French composers including her contemporary Francis Poulenc.
Louise Marie Simon worked as a producer and for the sound effects department of the French Radio Broadcasting Service until 1947. During her time working as a producer, she became interested in electronic music and worked with the composer, Pierre Schaeffer. He wrote of her:
Claude Arrieu is part of her time by virtue of a presence, an instinct of efficiency, a bold fidelity. Whatever the means, concertos or songs, music for official events, concerts for the elite or for a crowd of spectators, she delivered emotion through an impeccable technique and a spiritual vigilance, finding the path to the heart.
Louise Marie Simon wrote music that portrayed dramatic emotions and in her chamber music she employed strong melodic themes reminiscent of Gabriel Faure but with the added spice of sudden harmonic shifts. She would have been a young student when the group of composers Poulenc, Honegger, Milhaud, Durey, Auric and Tailleferre were named Les Six by writer Jean Cocteau in an article in the magazine, Commedia. The six composers published a book of piano music in 1920 called L’Album des Six that surely made a huge impression on Louise Marie Simon. She certainly displayed some of the same quixotic, playful characteristics in her own music.
Simon’s music displayed influences of Ravel, Debussy and Faure. Her concerto for two pianos, composed in 1934, was particularly well received. She also wrote flute, violin and trumpet concertos. Her music displayed a great love of melody even when the melodic style of writing ceased to be fashionable.
Louise Marie composed in many genres including opera and orchestral works, songs and chamber music. She composed at least thirty film scores and forty radio scores. She is best remembered for her chamber music and had a particular fondness for writing for woodwind instruments. Her instrumental music is thought to be the strongest and most characterful of her output. Her flute duet from 1963 can be listened to at the following audio link:
Many of her works for woodwind remain in the repertoire - in particular:
Quintet en Ut for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Horn & Bassoon (1955)
Suite en Quatre for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet & Bassoon (1964)
Sonatine for Flute and Piano (1943)
The radio premiere of Sonatine was well received when performed by Jean-Pierre Rampal and Herman Moyens in 1944. The piece demonstrates a few of Simon’s compositional quirks: she states deceptively simple opening themes built on arpeggio figures or octaves of the tonic for each of the three movements. These opening subjects are repeated many times yet incorporate subtle changes such as stretched intervals or new chromatic notes. The keys of the three movements are G major, A major and G minor but a sense of unity throughout Sonatine is provided by referring briefly to the submediant major of each of those keys. This provides a fleeting hint of elegant Renaissance style amidst colourful flurries and sardonic quips. This referencing of older traditions in a twentieth century context links her work with that of Cocteau, Stravinsky and Picasso and results in music which is both original and charming.
Simms, B.R. Music of the Twentieth Century, New York: Schirmer Books 1996
Vinton, J. Dictionary of 20th Century Music, London: Thames & Hudson, 1974
Cocteau J. Cock and Harlequin: Notes Concerning Music, London: Egoist Press, 1921
Dr Helen Thomas