Albéric Magnard, a French composer in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, wrote only four symphonies and a handful of other pieces during his short life. It is interesting to note that although he despised the symphonic poem, these four symphonies don’t show the rigorous form that would be the opposite. Instead, they were written simply for the music–not for a story or for a purpose–but, as clichéd as it might seem, art for art’s sake.
Magnard was the son of a wealthy executive at the famous newspaper, Le Figaro. His father wanted him to follow in his footsteps, and he did for a while, long enough to finish law school. After that, he struck out on his own and fell in with the music crowd. It is his death, though, that is a bit of a mystery. People don’t agree exactly how he died. Some say he died defending his home from the Germans during World War I, hands still clutched to his weapons, a bullet through his body. Others say that when the Germans torched his home, he perished in the fire along with several of his newly finished operas and compositions.