Concert en ré majeur Op. 21 for violin, piano and string quartet (score and parts)
Concert, Op. 21
(b. 20 January 1855, Paris, France – d. 10 June 1899, Limay / near Mantes, France)
II. Sicilienne: Pas vite
IV. Très animé
Ernest Chausson was born in 1855 in Paris, his parents’ third child and only to survive past infancy. (Tragically, an untimely death, from a bicycling accident, would befall him as well.) The son of wealthy and overprotective parents, he spent his childhood under household tutelage, which would bear fruit in his many talents, including writing, drawing, law, and most significantly music. His charmed career included study at the Paris Conservatoire with Jules Massenet (1842-1912), entry into the prestigious Prix de Rome competition, and later important contact with César Franck (1822-1890). His adult life was marked by financial comfort, manifest both in his large family and in the pecuniary support he was able to give to his composer peers. Many of these peers made his acquaintance through salons he hosted; there he had exposure to many contemporary styles in French music. To be sure, strong cross currents were active in Paris at the time, namely the full-throated romanticism characteristic of his elder Franck, and the Gallic restraint which would come to fruition in the works of Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924). Chausson’s compositional style, while not immune to these forces, is not so easily categorized. Rather, his aesthetic was borne out of his introspective temperament and his meticulous and deliberate work ethic (a quality not unlike another of his successors, Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)). Chausson was neither an iconoclast nor a facile producer of salon music, and his musical style lies somewhere between.
Chausson’s output is not vast; his opus numbers reach only 39, though he left sketches of a second symphony and a concerto for eight instruments at his premature death. As is the case with many composers, however, quality trumps quantity, and Chausson wrote competently in all genres. The Symphony in B-flat major, Op.20 is one of the more important single symphonies produced by a 19th-Century French composer. The wildly successful and virtuosic Poème, Op. 25 is a warhorse of the violinist’s repertoire. A gifted melodist, his corpus of chansons give vocalists plenty to choose from, in addition to the popular works for voice and ensemble, Poème de l’amour et de la mer,Op.19 and Chanson perpetuelle,Op.37, and three operas. His legacy to the chamber music repertoire is similarly succinct. He produced five single exemplars of various instrumental combinations: one each of a piano trio (Op. 3), piano quartet (Op. 30), string quartet (Op. 35), duo for cello/viola and piano (Op. 39) and this Concert, for violin, piano and string quartet, Op. 21.
The Concert , the first chamber work of Chausson’s maturity, was written between the spring of 1889 and the summer of 1891. The fact that its title is indicated in the French (instead of the more universal “concerto”) is significant. Meaningful too is the absence of the word “sextet” in the title. For this work is effectively neither, and yet it has characteristics of both. Indeed, the historical connotations of the label “concerto” were perhaps too strong for Chausson. The romantic notion of a soloist in contention with a massive orchestra is not what this title evokes. Neither is the intimate concept of six equal voices; the violin is labeled as a soloist in the score, and is set physically apart on the page from the other voices. The scoring here evokes something far more ancient: namely, the baroque concerto grosso. Chausson, like many of his contemporaries (Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) chief among them), had a strong interest in the music of his 17th and 18th-Century forebears, most notably Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687) and Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764). In fact, he was ensconced in the study of these composers’ music at the time the Concert was in gestation. This reverence to the past is manifest not only in the form of the title, but also in the use of French tempo indications (e.g., “Animé” rather than the more common “Allegro”).
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Set Score & Parts
225 x 320 mm