Chaminade’s Étude scholastique
, Op 139, published in 1910, re-visits the archaic manner of the early Chaconne
from a viewpoint of absolute maturity. ‘Scholastique’ does not mean academic, but her vigorous free invention in the Baroque manner takes a dig at the kind of strict stylistic imitation required by the conservatoires. Actually the piece is a brilliant toccata in A minor. The time signature is 2/4, but the fast triplets give it the feeling of a gigue. A broad, richly chordal subsidiary theme in C major hints at Brahmsian, even Elgarian models – but this is soon wreathed in very un-Brahmsian arpeggio writing. When this idea eventually returns it is in the tonic major, and in A major, with a fine flourish, the Étude scholastique
concludes – a convincing demonstration of the powers of a composer who, within her chosen sphere, attained a frequent and diverting excellence.
from notes by Calum MacDonald © 1992