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Mr. Nobody Arranges Chansons: Exploring Pianist Alexis Weissenberg’s Six Arrangements of Songs by Charles Trenet

Yin Zhang, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This study examines the musical style and life of the twentieth century pianist Alexis Weissenberg, with an analysis of his arrangements of six songs by the famous French chanteur Charles Trenet. Being a world-acclaimed concert pianist of his generation, Alexis Weissenberg was well-known for his live concerts and recordings. During the launch of his musical career in his teens, Weissenberg showed his exceptional artistry, which earned him a renowned reputation throughout his life. Even today, audiences still rave about his amazing technique and musicianship, but few take the time to appreciate his integrity and personal thoughts which are no less inspiring. The Six Arrangements of Songs by Charles Trenet was believed to be composed before his first retirement from the stage around 1950. In fact, Weissenberg’s reputation as a composer was not as celebrated as his reputation as a performer when he was alive. Most of his compositions had remained unknown until after his death. His Six Arrangements of Songs by Charles Trenet is no exception. Some of the most fascinating aspects about this repertoire, aside from the charming music itself, is the story behind its publication, the post-World War II historical background around its compositional period, the characteristics of the French popular song genre chanson, as well as the fantastic musical result when the musical styles of Weissenberg and Trenet collide. This document is divided into five chapters: I. Preface; II. The Singing Madman and Mr. Nobody; III. Alexis Weissenberg as a Music Interpreter; IV. Analysis: Alexis Weissenberg’s Six Arrangements of Songs by Charles Trenet; and V. Conclusion. The first chapter illustrates the story behind the publication of this repertoire. The second chapter provides a historical background of the time when French singer Charles Trenet and Bulgarian-born pianist Alexis Weissenberg lived, as well as a brief introduction to their musical styles and possible connections. The third chapter discusses pianist Alexis Weissenberg’s compositional style in detail. The fourth chapter gives an analysis of Weissenberg’s Trenet arrangements in order. And the last chapter concludes with a summary of the entire document.

Subject Area

Music|Performing Arts

Recommended Citation

Zhang, Yin, "Mr. Nobody Arranges Chansons: Exploring Pianist Alexis Weissenberg’s Six Arrangements of Songs by Charles Trenet" (2020). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI27955917.