36. Jacques Ibert [365 Composers for 2013]


5th February – Jacques Ibert


Ibert  (15th August 1890 – 5th February 1962) is our composer for 5th February, to mark the day of his death.
Nationality: French
Lifespan: 71 years
Genre: 20th Century
Education: Paris Conservatoire
Fame Ranking: 5

Jacques Ibert was a distinguished French composer whose style was “eclectic” – he embraced many different styles both of previous eras and of his contemporaries and his music is not easy to pigeon-hole into any one particular school. His music has been called “witty” and “good humoured”.

Ibert was a student at the esteemed Conservatoire in Paris. His father, unhappy with his son’s choice of career, withdrew his financial support and Ibert was forced to fund his way through his studies by working as an accompanist and composer of “pop” songs of his day (under a pen-name). This experience no doubt served him well as he went on to write a large number of works for theatre and cinema, although he is best known for his orchestral works.

While at the Conservatoire, Ibert won the “Prix de Rome” at his first attempt. The “Prix de Rome” was a competition, in several arts-related fields, with the prize being a scholarship for further study at the Villa Medici, home of the French Academy in Rome. It was a hugely difficult competition – many well-known composers (such as Ravel and Chausson) had tried and failed to win. Ibert took the prize with his cantata entitled“The Poet and the Fairy”.

Ibert composed many of his best-known pieces while in Rome, where, from 1937 to 1960 he was also the director at the Villa Medici. One of these, “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” (1920), based on a poem of Oscar Wilde’s, was particularly popular and contributed to Ibert’s further success as a composer.

Towards the end of his life Ibert returned to Paris, where he died and is buried.

Here is the first part of Ibert’s “Ballad of Reading Gaol”:


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