“As the Biblical proverb aptly professes, “None is prophet in his own land,” and in this respect, the esoteric impressionist composer, philosopher, scientist, inventor and Rear Admiral Jean Cras (1879-1932) has proven to be a shining example of the prophecy” This is another alluring opening biographical sentence – to add to that of Talbot Mundy and William Seabrook
I discovered Jean Cras a while ago while looking up Breton music. His career indeed spanned the interests above. His day job was with the French Navy, inventing a navigational protractor and sinking a submarine. As another online bio states:
As a composer, Cras’ greatest problem was a chronic lack of time to devote to his art as he became a fully commissioned officer in the French Navy. He loved the sea, but served in the navy only out of a sense of patriotism and family tradition. Unlike Rimsky-Korsakov and Albert Roussel, both of whom had begun careers in the navy but later resigned, Cras never left the navy and eventually rose to the rank of Rear-Admiral. His maritime experiences sowed the seeds of an imagination and introspection which enabled him to understand profoundly the alienation of the human condition. And it is this which truly provides the key to his music.
Of course, it is is something a presumption that if Cras – or any other artist who also worked in a more workaday job – could only have been full time, he would have achieved more. The “imagination and introspection” alluded to above may not have developed in other circumstances, and the distinctive musical voice of Cras may have been more formulaic.
Anyhow, here is the music!