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Chaminade, Cécile (1857-1944)

Cécile Chaminade

born: 8 August 1857
died: 18 April 1944
country: France

Cécile Chaminade's father refused to allow her to study at the Paris Conservatoire, despite her obvious gifts. She had private piano lessons with the noted pedagogue Félix Le Couppey, and studied the violin with Martin Pierre Marsick, and composition with Benjamin Godard. As a child, she played some of her own compositions to Georges Bizet, a neighbour in the Parisian suburb of Le Vésinet, and he was much taken with her talents. (Chaminade later attended the calamitous premiere of Carmen and later wrote an essay describing Bizet’s suffering after his rejection by the establishment.) Much of her career was spent as a touring pianist–composer, and her considerable popularity rested to a large extent on short, often charming character pieces, and on several songs. Ambroise Thomas admired her music, noting that ‘this is not a woman who composes, but a composer who is a woman’, and several of her more extended works were successful. Most were composed during the 1880s, after which she concentrated on smaller forms. Her Piano Trio No 1 was included in a concert devoted entirely to her music at the Salle Érard in 1880, and the following year her Suite d’orchestre was given by the Société nationale de musique. Other major works included the comic opera La Sévillane, the ballet Callirhoë, a second piano trio, a piano sonata, Les Amazones—a ‘dramatic symphony’ for soloists, chorus and orchestra—and the Concerstück for piano and orchestra, completed in 1888.

from notes by Nigel Simeone © 2017


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