(b Versailles, 6 May 1858; d Paris, 7 June 1948). French composer. Born into a celebrated family of architects, he was encouraged by Gounod and later studied counterpoint with Paladilhe and the organ with Franck. In 1879 he won the Prix de Rome with a cantata, Médée, and two years later won acclaim for his comic opera, Les pantins (‘The Jumping-Jacks’). Vocal music was to form the core of his output and the ambitious symphonic legend Rubezahl was one of his earliest large-scale successes, first given at the Châtelet. Its fairy tale atmosphere (Rubezahl is king of the gnomes) paved the way for Hüe’s later works exploring similar themes, notably the operas Titania (favourably reviewed by Debussy), and Riquet à la houppe, both of which confirmed his refusal to follow the realist path taken by several of his contemporaries. Alongside his larger-scale pieces, Hüe produced songs continually throughout his life. The earliest are firmly grounded in the salon tradition, while the later songs use a more developed musical language to respond to his chosen texts: Edith au col de cygne, for example, uses bars of uneven length. Between 1910 and 1920 his harmonic language advanced considerably, absorbing the added-note harmonies and static effects of the Impressionists, while remaining essentially traditional.
His first full-scale opera Le roi de Paris, dealing with the unsuccessful attempt of the Duc de Guise to usurp the throne of Henry III, was first performed in 1901, and employed pastiche Baroque music to portray its historical setting. Titania, in direct contrast, was set in a world of fantasy and employed extended forest scenes using shimmering orchestral effects and static harmony. Le miracleconcerns a sculptor who produced an image of a saint all too reminiscent of a local courtesan. As in Dans l’ombre de la cathédrale, Hüe makes extensive use of plainsong and organ music to evoke the liturgical setting. This was his most successful opera, exploring the conflicts between socialism and the riches of the church. Hüe travelled in East Asia, and his one-act chinoiserie Siang-Sin and the Poèmes japonais reflect his discovery of the music of that region.