In the medical corps: the pianist conscript

“Since stretcher-bearer and musician are one, I believe that, while the former provides casualties with timely assistance that can save lives, the latter has a duty to provide every combatant, wounded or not, with moral support in the form of beauty, an aspect that is more than ever necessary amid so much horror.” – Jacques de la Presle, French composer, stretcher-bearer with the 119th infantry regiment.

Amaury Breyne. Photo : Didier Peron.

Amaury Breyne. Photo : Didier Peron.

The exhibition takes a look at six composers who were conscripted into the medical corps. The best known, ambulancier Maurice Ravel, is followed by stretcher-bearer Jacques de la Presle who served at Verdun, nurse-anaesthetist Jacques Ibert and orderlies Jean Huré and Déodat de Sévérac who worked in hospitals at the rear. The composers had two approaches to the works they wrote for piano. They either wanted to exorcise the horrors of war through dark, descriptive pieces or they tried to escape into the world of the imagination, taking listeners far away from the Front to much more pleasant landscapes conjured up from their dreams or their memories.

Some of the works in the repertoire selected by Amaury Breyne are still unknown, among them Jean Huré’s Second Sonata or Jacques de la Presle Lullaby.

Duration: 75 minutes

Listen to Dans les services de santé, le piano mobilisé. Les Musiciens & la Grande Guerre, vol. XXIII (Hortus723): Le vent dans les ruines (1915) 
by Jacques Ibert (1890-1962), performed by Amaury Breyne, Steinway D 1908 piano.

Amaury Breyne

Born in 1979, Amaury Breyne began studying music at the Conservatoire in Tourcoing at the age of eight. After winning three first prizes in piano, chamber music and musical analysis, he studied advanced grade piano at the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional in Paris in 1999 before going to the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in Lyon in 2001, where he was awarded a first prize in piano, with Merit, and a prize in chamber music. He has taught piano at the Conservatoire à rayonnement départemental in Tourcoing since 2007 and has won numerous prizes. He has performed at numerous festivals in France and other countries, as a soloist and playing chamber music. He has also played in such prestigious concert halls as the Opéra de Lyon, the Musée de la piscine in Roubaix and the Salle Cortot in Paris.


Free. Numbers are limited.
Booking recommended.

Linked to this event

11am: Guided tour of the exhibition, Assistance for Casualties and Victims from the Great War to the present day, by Médecin Général Inspecteur (2s) Raymond Wey, joint curator of the exhibition.

Free on presentation of a museum ticket. Numbers are limited.

2.30pm: Talk entitled, Medical Assistance in the Great War and the Everyday Life of French Soldiers, by Médecin Général Inspecteur (2s) Raymond Wey.

Event partner