Monday, January 25th, 2016...2:37 pm

Jean-Claude Touche: unknown hero

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Many have been the excited blogs I’ve written over the years, highlighting a find in the Ward Collection. It is often difficult to restrain myself from writing about something once a day, given the riches hiding in every box. But sometimes, the discoveries are rather sad, and I thought twice about highlighting this particular score. But its creator’s story deserves to be remembered. Jean-Claude Touche was a gifted musician, born into a musical family. He entered the Paris Conservatory, where he took harmony classes with Maurice Duruflé and organ with Marcel Dupré. He took a Premier Prix d’orgue in 1944, and was considered to be a great talent.

MS Thr 1297 title page

MS Thr 1297 title page

But then there was the war. Touche wanted to help even while in school, so he took first aid courses, passed his exams in 1943 (only 17 years old) and immediately joined the Red Cross. August of 1944 brought intense fighting to Paris as part of the Liberation and Touche was in the thick of battle carrying stretchers to hospitals and the local morgue. On the very day liberation was announced, Touche went out with a nurse to pick up some wounded, and was shot by Germans despite his Red Cross armband. He died four days later on the 29th, only three weeks after his 18th birthday.

MS Thr 1297 page 191

MS Thr 1297 page 151

Not so uncommon a story in wartime. But in this case, we can also remember Touche through more tangible means: the scores he left us are few, but John Ward found one. This manuscript score of Clotilde appears to be unknown, did Touche arrange it for a school project? Though created by a copyist, the manuscript is signed by Touche on the last page of the 4th act. What wonders await us from 1942? Touche took his inspiration from 18th and 13th century sources, and I’m pretty curious about how it sounds. And so glad that Professor Ward has left us another example of Touche’s work: like so many unsung heroes fallen too young, this young man’s sacrifice deserves to be remembered.

[Thanks to Andrea Cawelti, Ward Music Cataloger, for contributing this post.]

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