Paul M. A. Charles Paray (French: [p?l pa]) (24 May 1886 - 10 October 1979) was a French conductor, organist and composer. He is best remembered in the United States for being the resident conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for more than a decade.
Paul Paray was born in Le Tréport, Normandy, in 1886. His father, Auguste, was a sculptor and organist at St. Jacques church, and leader of an amateur musical society. He put young Paray in the society's orchestra as a drummer. Later, Paray went to Rouen to study music with the abbots Bourgeois and Bourdon, and organ with Haelling. This prepared him to enter the Paris Conservatoire. In 1911, Paray won the Premier Grand Prix de Rome for his cantata Yanitza.
As World War I started, Paray heeded the call to arms and joined the French Army. In 1914, he was taken prisoner of war and held in Darmstadt camp. Deprived of paper, he composed the string quartet in E minor and the piano suite D'une âme... in his head, only writing them down from memory after the war.
Once the war was over, Paray was invited to conduct the orchestra of the Casino de Cauterets in the Pyrenees which included players from the Lamoureux Orchestra. This was a springboard for him to conduct this orchestra in Paris. Later he was music director of the Monte Carlo Orchestra, and president of the Concerts Colonne.
In 1922, Paray composed music for the Ida Rubinstein ballet Artémis troublée. That year he and the Spanish violinist Manuel Quiroga premiered his Violin Sonata. In 1931, he wrote the Mass for the 500th Anniversary of the Death of Joan of Arc, which was premiered at the cathedral in Rouen to commemorate the quincentenary of Joan of Arc's martyr death. In 1935, he wrote his Symphony No. 1 in C major, which was premiered at the Concerts Colonne. He composed his Symphony No. 2 in A major in 1941.
Paray made his American debut with the New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra in 1939. In 1952, he was appointed music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, conducting them in numerous recordings for Mercury Records' "Living Presence" series. Following his departure from Detroit in 1963, Paray returned to France and maintained a healthy international guest-conducting career. He was in his tenth decade when he made his last conducting appearance in the United States, leading the Orchestra of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. A report in Musical America noted: "Now ninety-two, Paray brings to the podium not only a reputation as one of the great conductors of our time, but strength, energy, and a solid technique that have not diminished through the years."
Paray could and did conduct the entire orchestral repertoire well, but he specialized in the French symphonic literature. One of Paray's most renowned recordings, made in October 1957, is that of the Saint-Saëns' Symphony No. 3 in C minor "Organ". The circumstances surrounding the recording were fortuitous. Paray had built the Detroit Symphony Orchestra into one of the world's most distinguished. Marcel Dupré, a friend and fellow student from childhood, was organist for the session. Dupré, as a young student, had pulled the organ stops for the composer Camille Saint-Saëns in a performance of the Symphony No. 3 in Paris, and the organ of Ford Auditorium in Detroit was well suited to the work. As well as being among the most authoritative readings of the work, the original analogue recording on the Mercury label remains an audiophile reference in vinyl, and the analogue-to-digital transfer produced by the original recording director Wilma Cozart for compact disc is also available from Mercury (recording number 432 719-2).
| Principal Conductors, Lamoureux Orchestra
| Music Directors, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
| Music Directors, Detroit Symphony Orchestra