||This volume contains biographies of composers and history and criticism of music of the 18th century by Romain Rolland, who was a French novelist, dramatist, essayist, mystic, pacifist and who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1915. Romain Rolland saw that art must be a part of the struggle to bring enlightenment to people. In his work he attacked all forms of nazism and fascism, and struggled for social and political justice. Rolland never joined any party but he acquired a reputation as an ardent Communist.
Romain Rolland was born in Clamecy, to a middle-class family. His father was a lawyer and his mother, the former Antoinette-Marie Courot, was a pious and introspective woman. In 1880 the family moved to Paris in order to obtain a better schooling for their son. In 1886 Rolland entered the École Normale Supérieure. He passed his agrégation examination in 1889 and continued his studies in Rome, where he formed a lasting friendship with Malwida von Meysenbug. She knew Wagner, Liszt, Nietzsche, and Ibsen, and encouraged his first attempt to write. Tolstoyan ideas fascinated Rolland, and later she said in her Memoires d'une Idealiste of him: "In this young Frenchman I discovered the same idealism, the same lofty aspiration, the same profound grasp of every great intellectual manifestation that I had already found in the greatest men of other nationalities." In 1892 Rolland married Clotilde Bréal, who shared his love of music. They lived for some time in Rome, where Rolland researched for his doctoral thesis the origins of opera before Jean-Baptiste Lully and Alessandro Scarlatti. He received his doctorate in art in 1895, with the first dissertation on music ever presented at the Sorbonne. Rolland's marriage to Clotilde was dissolved in 1901. He then lived closely attached to his parents, especially to his mother.
Rolland became professor of art history at the École Normale in Paris. In 1904 he continued his academic career as a professor of the history of music at the Sorbonne. While still a teacher, Rolland's first literary vocation was the theatre. In his mid-30s he wrote successful dramas about the French Revolution. After his best-known work, JEAN-CHRISTOPHE (1904-12), was finished, Rolland devoted himself entirely to writing. The ten-volume novel was an epic story of a German musical genius. Rolland had already published a biography on Beethoven in 1903. Although this work was partly based on the life of the composer, it also took elements from Mozart's and Wagner's careers. Rolland portrayed his protagonist as a heroic figure, a fighter for social justice. After killing a policeman, Christophe flees to Switzerland, and starts his career as a composer. He returns to Paris as a celebrated artist, and dies there. In the end his life rejoins the River of Life. This large work includes episodes only distantly related to Christophe's life, as in Antoinette, actually a short novel, and La Foire sur la place, criticism of the literary and artistic scene in Paris. It earned Rolland the Nobel Prize. In his later works he remained faithful to the Romantic idea of the artist as a lonely genius.
With a collection of antiwar writings published in Swiss newspapers, Above the Battle (1913), Rolland became a prominent figure in the pacifist movement during World War I. The book caused protests in France. Rolland condemned the war and tried to show the oneness of western culture. Due to these opinions he was called traitor. In 1913 he wrote the novel Colas Breugnon, which was published in 1919. It depicted the life of a 16th-century wood carver. From 1914 Rolland lived principally in Switzerland. After the war, Rolland's plays were more popular in Germany than in France. Their declamatory, didactic nature probably influenced Brecht's concept of epic theatre. The novel Liluli (1919) was a satire on war. Pierre et Luce (1922), a short prose work, depicted the fate of two young lovers.
In the 1920s Rolland became interested in Indian philosophy and wrote a biography of Mahatma Gandhi (1924) - the spiritual leader of India visited him in Switzerland in Villeneuve, on the shore of Lake Leman. In 1923 Rolland founded the international magazine Europe, which opposed nationalism. He had welcomed the Socialist movement almost as a spiritual event, but he never was a member of the Communist Party. In 1935 Rolland met Gorky and Stalin in Moscow. However, gradually he started to reject Stalinism, and support non-violent social change. He had as early as 1900 written a play, Danton, in which the spirit of revolution is sacrificed to revolutionary discipline - a view that was not popular during the Moscow purge trials, orchestrated by Stalin.
From 1914 to 1937 Rolland lived in Switzerland. There he completed the second novel cycle, The Enchanted Soul (1922-33). The seven-volume novel centers on a female counterpart of Jean-Christophe, and a woman, Annette, who becomes disenchanted with material possessions and struggles to achieve her spiritual freedom. Other central characters are Sylvie, Annette's half-sister, and Annette's son Marc. He is an intolerant young man, whose struggle is much overshadowed by her mother, an alter ego of the author. The work reflected Rolland's interest in Communism - Annette becomes active in the defence of the Soviet Union.
Rolland married in 1934 his second wife, Marie Koudachev, the half-French widow of a Russian nobleman. In 1938 they returned to France. Rolland was a courageous mouthpiece of the opposition to Fascism and the Nazis. During the last years of his life, Rolland lived in Vézelay and worked on the biography of Charles Péguy. On December 30, 1944 he succumbed to tuberculosis.
Among Rolland's other works are several psychological biographies of artists and politicians (Michelangelo, Danton, Beethoven, Tolstoy etc.). Rather than to concentrate on single novels, Rolland wrote cycles of works. His cycles of plays include The Tragedies and Faith, Saint Louis (1897), The Triumph of Reason (1899), and Theater of Revolution, dramas concerning the French Revolution.