Maurice Jaubert

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DCM-CL210 Concert Maurice Jaubert.jpg DCM-CL210 Concert Maurice Jaubert.jpg
DCM-CL210 Concert Maurice Jaubert.jpg

Maurice Jaubert (3 January 1900 – 19 June 1940) was a French composer. [1] A prolific composer, he scored some of the most important films of the early sound era in France, including Jean Vigo’s Zero for Conduct and L’Atalante , and René Clair’s Quatorze Juillet and Le Dernier Milliardaire . Serving in both world wars, he died in action during World War II at the age of 40.


Life and career

Born in Nice on 3 January 1900, he was the second son of François Jaubert, a lawyer who would become the president of the Nice bar.

Jaubert grew up in a musical household, and began playing the piano aged five. [2] After gaining his baccalaureat from the Lycée Masséna in 1916, he enrolled at the Nice Conservatory of music where he studied harmony, counterpoint and piano. He was awarded the first piano prize in 1916. [1]

Early career

Jaubert left for Paris and studied law and literature at the Sorbonne. When he returned to his native town in 1919, he was the youngest lawyer in France. His first compositions date from this period but soon after he undertook his military service and became officer in engineering. Demobilized in 1922, [1] Jaubert decided to give up law practice and devote all his time to music. The next year, he completed his musical education in Paris with Albert Groz, while undertaking a variety or music related jobs such as proof correction and checking Pleyela rolls. [2]

Jaubert's compositions in the early 1920s include songs, piano pieces, chamber music, and divertissements. He wrote his first stage music in 1925 for a play by Calderon, Le Magicien prodigieux, using the Pleyela. [1] He was then hired by Pleyel to record rolls on the Pleyela, a revolutionary player piano at the time. Indeed, Jaubert was always attracted by technical innovations that could serve his artistic aspirations. While working on this play, he met a young soprano, Marthe Bréga, who would sing most of his vocal composItions. They married in 1926, with Maurice Ravel as Jaubert's best man. They had a daughter, Françoise, in 1927. His 'poème chorégraphique' Le Jour was premiered by the Orchestre Symphonique de Paris under Pierre Monteux in 1931, while a Suite française was premiered by Vladimir Golschmann in St Louis the following year. [2]

Film scores

In 1929, while pursuing his work for the concert hall and the stage, Maurice Jaubert began writing and conducting for cinema. Among his most important collaborations in the following decade were Alberto Cavalcanti’s Le Petit Chaperon Rouge; Jacques and Pierre Prévert's L'Affaire est dans le sac; Jean Vigo’s Zero for Conduct and L’Atalante ; René Clair’s Quatorze Juillet and Le Dernier Milliardaire; Julien Duvivier’s Carnet de bal (Life Dances On) and La Fin du Jour (The End of a Day); Henri Storck’s Belgian documentaries LÎle de Pâques and Regards sur la Belgique ancienne; and Marcel Carné’s Drôle de drame, Hôtel du Nord, Quai des brumes (Port of Shadows), and Le Jour se lève (Daybreak).

He also worked briefly in the UK, scoring We Live in Two Worlds directed by Alberto Cavalcanti and produced by John Grierson. [3]


Although Jaubert understood and appreciated film, composing and scoring them was but one of Jaubert's creative activities. As music director of Pathé-Nathan studio, he conducted the film scores of several other composers, including Arthur Honegger and Darius Milhaud. In the 1930s he gained a reputation as a conductor in France and abroad, most notably for the final season of Marguerite Bériza's opera company and the season of opéras-bouffes for the 1937 exposition (where he also led the premiere of his Jeanne d’Arc, opus 61, a 'Symphonie concertante pour soprano et orchestre'). [2] At the Comédie des Champs-Élysées, in 1937 he conducted the premiere of Philippine, an opérette, by Delannoy with libretto by Henri Lyon and Jean Limozin. His music was written in a style of clarity, frankness and freedom, in which he did not seek novelty for the sake of it and in which his spontaneity is not weighed down by pedantic formulas. [2]

His writings comprise articles and lectures, as well as a large number of letters that capture his political opinions. how he viewed his times, and his musical tastes (for example, he was a strong supporter of Kurt Weill when that composer was widely misunderstood).


War, however, disrupted Jaubert's artistic path. Mobilized in September 1939, he joined an engineering company he would command as a reserve captain. His letters to his wife reflect a spirit of sacrifice tinged with deep humanism. Jaubert did not live to hear his last two compositions, written at his base camp. He was fatally wounded after having successfully blown up a bridge, he died a few hours later at the Baccarat Hospital on 19 June 1940. [4]

Concert works


Maurice Jaubert played a small role as an orchestra conductor in La Nuit de décembre by Kurt Bernhardt, produced in 1939.


Except for soundtracks on films, his entire catalog consists of posthumously recorded music.

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  1. 1 2 3 4 Grove Music Online - Jaubert, Maurice by Mark Brill accessed 2 June 2020.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Landormy, Paul. La Musique française après Debussy – Chapter X – De Droite et de Gauche (Suite): Maurice Jaubert. Gallimard, 1943, p318-322.
  3. New Worlds and the Old - Documentary Films of the Quarter reviewed by H. Forsyth and William Farr. Sight & Sound, Vol.6 No.22, Summer 1937, p86.
  4. Bnf entry for Jaubert, Maurice (1900-1940) accessed 2 June 2020.
  5. Morin, Philippe. Annexe – Collection de 40 disques enregistrés entre le 1er novembre 1943 et le 10 novembre 1943. In: La Vie musicale sous Vichy, ed. Chimènes, Myriam. Éditions Complexe, 2001, p266.


Biography attributed to Emmanuel Chamboredon from Milan Records.