Django's symphonic sketches/writing

edited February 2023 in Repertoire Posts: 4

Hey fellow DjangoFans,

I've been curious for quite some time about Django and his ambitious symphonic sketches/writing.

Some publications talk about the Mass (luckily we have the 1944 live radio broadcast organ intro as audio reference), others mention that the tune "Manoir de Mes Reves" came from an unfinished symphonic work (Feb. 1943=>sextet recording w/ 2 clarinets), and some others claim to have seen a sketch score of a dozen pages or so of unheard Django symphonic material. One thing seems clear, 1943/44 appear to be years in which Django strongly aspired to classical composition.

I'm especially interested and intrigued as to the content of the sketch score (if indeed it exists) so I've been trying to gather more information and get to the bottom of it. It would be very exciting to be able to read Levecque's manuscript dictated by the master and find out once and for all what's on it...(a) Sketches for the mass, (b) Music based around what would become "Manoir" or (c) completely unheard original material. I, of course fantasize about it being the latter which depending of the extent of its content could be flushed out into an entire symphonic work. It seems like perhaps it (or some sort of manuscript) was on display at 2012 Cite de La Musique Django Exposition, I suppose no-one has any pictures of this manuscript?

Anyway, I appreciate any feedback and thoughts that could advance this mysterious quest. Much appreciated.



  • Posts: 4,732

    It would be a great day if something surfaces but all I ever heard was anecdotal.

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • Update: After scanning the archives of Cite de La Musique, I was able to come across Jean Marie Pallen's interview that took place during the 2012 Django Exposition. Lots of interesting stuff throughout (esp. about Lousson) and manuscripts of the Mass and the Symphony are discussed. For those interested:

  • djazzydjazzy New Riccardo Mordeglia, AJL
    edited February 2023 Posts: 63

    Interesting topic. I wish my French was anywhere near adequate to be able to translate the Pallen interview.

    My own view is that Django was probably never quite in line to write symphonically. Not only was he musically illiterate, his brilliance as a virtuoso was probably too overwhelming to put on hold to complete anything orchestral. If he had an interest, it didn't seem to last long. Bebop would be calling. From what I understand, (I think I read it somewhere online & I could be very wrong) the Mass was conceived by Django not as a symphonic work but for a a trio or quartet of guitars, something far more manageable... And which is weird also since its referred to as an "organ Mass."

  • djazzydjazzy New Riccardo Mordeglia, AJL
    Posts: 63

    Some previous discussion on DjangoBooks Forum...

  • billyshakesbillyshakes NoVA✭✭✭ Park Avance - Dupont Nomade - Dupont DM-50E
    Posts: 1,306

    @djazzy A friend asked me a year or so ago if I could help get the gist of the translation of this round table. I started out in some places just getting a summary/sense of the discussion. Then later, in other sections, I went more almost word for word. My French isn't perfect and there are some sections I didn't understand or couldn't make out. But, I'll offer it here and maybe someone that has a better command will correct my inaccuracies. In fact, I'd be happy to benefit from the learning opportunity if that were to happen, so don't be shy or feel I will take it as criticism. I'm a humble learner....

    Otherwise, I'll second what @eurojazz2001 said, there are some neat stories about Lousson. Some of the stories I've seen Francis Moerman or Jean Marie Pallen retell in other videos on youtube.

  • Kudos on taking on such a task, that's quite a bit of work! I only glanced and focused on #4 since it's our topic. I wanted to clarify and correct a couple things:

    JMP doesn't refer to "chords" being dictated but 4 individual French Horn parts..."FH 1 plays this, GL writes it down..." so on and so forth. It's important to note that JMP sounds a little condescending about the success rate and efficiency of that process. (I can understand why but frankly what other ways did they have?!) Regardless, he goes on to say that this process must have gone on for at least "15 days straight" given the content of the 12 pages manuscript left. (That's an amazing piece of info right here!)

    JMP emphasizes on "Dantesque" of a task this was and how they must have given up the process a few pages in because of their musical limitations and GL' s inability to musically question some of DR's orchestration choices.

    Re. the Mass, they discuss the 11 bars manuscript which seems to be apparently used or discussed in "the movie" (For a minute I thought they were talking abt the church scene in Comar's movie "Django" but realized that the years don't match so the movie here referenced is Cascio's "Django Reinhardt, trois doigts de génie"...I don't think I've seen that documentary in full, only remember David's beautiful rendition of Anouman.) The other interesting element here is what happened to the score of the 9 minutes or so organ intro that is supposed to be part of that mass. I think that those 11 bars are different.

    Anyway, I'm even more curious now about these manuscripts and their content. Thank you everyone for chiming in.

  • billyshakesbillyshakes NoVA✭✭✭ Park Avance - Dupont Nomade - Dupont DM-50E
    Posts: 1,306

    @eurojazz2001 Thanks! I'll go back and listen to that, but I think that would be "cor" instead of "accord" that I might have misheard. Thank you! Some things were just context and trying to figure it out as I went. I only studied the language 20+ years ago and don't speak or listen to it often, so it was a bit of a Herculean task for me (but not dantesque! ha ha ) Appreciate the correction.

    Re: the film, yes, that was also something I puzzled over as they speak to it elsewhere during the session. If I recall correctly, they speak of it being played the night before or at some point during the schedule of the festivities. At some point, I figured out which it was and I also don't think I saw the film. If you find a copy online, please post a link!

  • Posts: 4,732

    Bill, I owe you a beer for this, this was fantastic to read.

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • billyshakesbillyshakes NoVA✭✭✭ Park Avance - Dupont Nomade - Dupont DM-50E
    Posts: 1,306

    Here's the short video I mentioned that shares the story about Lousson and the 1980 Samois Festival. Both Francois Moerman and Jean Marie Pallen (two men who accompanied him often) share their thoughts (also Alain Antonietto). It is in French audio but subtitled in English.

  • cbwimcbwim ✭✭✭
    Posts: 191

    In 2016 John Jorgensen with members of Pearl Django performed several reconstituted symphonic works by Django Reinhardt. The concert was fantastic! Here is just a small snipped I found on YouTube:

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