Charles Wugk Sabatier

Charles (-Désiré-Joseph) Wugk (not Waugh) Sabatier. Pianist, composer, teacher, b Tourcoing, France, 1 Dec 1819, d Montreal 22 Aug 1862.

Sabatier, Charles Wugk

Charles (-Désiré-Joseph) Wugk (not Waugh) Sabatier. Pianist, composer, teacher, b Tourcoing, France, 1 Dec 1819, d Montreal 22 Aug 1862. His father was an immigrant from Saxony named Wugk, and under this name he was registered 1838-40 as a student at the Paris Cons; the name Sabatier must have been added early in his professional career. The claim in the Toronto Globe, 25 Sep 1856, that he had conducted opera in Brussels is very doubtful; that he was pianist to the Duchess of Montpensier is probably true.

Sabatier is believed to have arrived in Canada in 1848, living first in Montreal and moving in 1854 to Quebec, where he taught, played the piano at private gatherings and in public, and performed on church organs. In 1856 he was a guest at Toronto's St Lawrence Hall, playing his own works. From Quebec he moved to St-Jean-Chrysostome-de-Lévis, thence to St-Gervais and to Chambly (as music teacher in a convent) before settling in Montreal. There Calixa Lavallée and Dominique Ducharme were among his pupils. In May 1860 he founded the journal L'Artiste with Paul Stevens and Édouard Sempé, but only two issues appeared. For the visit of the Prince of Wales he wrote a Cantata (with words by Sempé) performed under his baton 24 Aug 1860 by the 250 singers of the Montreal Musical Union, an orchestra, and soloists, including the young Adelina Patti and Emma Albani. (In June 1861 at the Convent of the Sacré-Coeur, Gustave Smith and Albani performed a Grand Duo for two pianos that Albani had composed on the themes of the cantata.)

To his Canadian contemporaries Sabatier must have seemed the very embodiment of the romantic artist. As a truly gifted virtuoso he won the respect of his colleagues; as a temperamental and restless but handsome man, inclined to an immoderate and bohemian life style, he was a fascinating subject for gossip among the public.

The Cantata in Honour of the Prince of Wales has an overture and nine vocal numbers. Sempé's libretto, with an English translation by Mme J.L. Leprohon, appeared in print; the music was published only in part. Sabatier's piano music includes La Prière des anges, La Solitude, Mes Derniers Quadrilles, and many operatic fantasies. Since the Marche aux flambeaux (dedicated to Moscheles) is Opus 153 and the Mazurka caprice Opus 190, we may assume he wrote far more than the 30 titles of which we have record. Two Mazurka caprices for piano (Opus 190 and one in E minor), are reprinted in CMH, vol 1. Among Sabatier's published songs are 'L'Alouette' (not the famous song), 'La Montréalaise,' 'Le Mendiant des basses-alpes,' and the song that has kept his name alive, 'Le Drapeau de Carillon'. These four songs have been reprinted in CMH, vol 7. The National Library of Canada holds the original manuscripts of Le Bouton de rose (polka), Fleur de mai, and Mazurka caprice. (Opus 190) A.J. Boucher wrote and published Souvenir de Sabatier, a waltz suite of tunes from the Cantata. A street was named in Sabatier's honour in Montreal in 1955.


Further Reading

  • La Minerve, 6 Aug 1860

    Journal de l'Instruction publique, 18 Sep 1862

    LeVasseur, Nazaire. 'Musique et musiciens à Québec,' Musique, Oct, Nov, Dec 1920

    Letondal, Arthur. 'Un musicien oublié,' L'Action nationale, vol 2, Oct 1933

    Roy, Léo. 'La verité sur Sabatier,' ibid, vol 57, Apr 1968

    Champagne, Guy. 'Cantate en l'honneur de son altesse royale le Prince de Galles,' Dictionnaire des oeuvres littéraires du Québec, vol 1, ed Maurice Lemire (Montreal 1978)

    DCB, vol 9