Chaminade, Cécile


Chaminade, Cécile

Callirhoë, Suite d’Orchestre

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Cécile Chaminade – Callirhoë, Suite d’Orchestre

b. Paris, August 8, 1857 – d. Monte Carlo, April 13, 1944

Prélude p.1
Pas des Écharpes p.22
Scherzettino p.34
Pas de Cymbales p.44

Premiere November 1890, Concerts Colonne in Paris
Score First Published Paris: Enoch, Frères, and Costallat 1890

Cécile Louise Stephanie Chaminade was born in Paris to Pierre Hippolyte Chaminade, an amateur violinist, and Marie Stéphanie Courtin Chaminade, an amateur pianist and singer.1 There has been some confusion over exactly when she was born; at times, she wrote that her birthday was August 8, 1861, but most sources give 1857 as her birth year (Aichele asserts it was 1856). It may be that she wanted to be seen as younger than she truly was in order to profit from a more youthful appearance. The Chaminades were an upper-class or upper-middle-class family, giving them the resources to pursue music as a leisure activity. Young Cécile first learned the piano from her mother, and by the age of eight she was writing her own music. Much of what she wrote at that time was performed for her pets and toys: “I was perpetually under the influence of music, so that my dolls danced to my pavans and I made up slumber-songs for my dogs.”2 Young Cécile showed the signs and talent of being a child prodigy, and Georges Bizet, upon hearing her perform, encouraged her parents to provide her with a quality musical education. Middle-and upper class women were not supposed to be professional musicians, but accomplished amateurs (thus making them more appealing for marriage), so while she was allowed to study with several prominent Paris musicians, she was not permitted to officially enroll at the Paris Conservatoire.

Her skill progressed to the level that she began performing publically in 1877 as a pianist, first playing works by other composers; she was soon performing her own compositions, mostly piano solos and songs. In the 1880s she tried her hand at composing in larger forms, most notably her ballet Callirhoë and the Concertstück for piano and orchestra, both of which premiered in 1888. Many of her songs and solo piano works had been published, as were the two larger pieces, but the 1890s brought a return to writing, performing, and publishing smaller compositions; they simply sold better and therefore provided Chaminade more financial stability. A version of Callirhoë for solo piano was published the same year the ballet premiered, furthering her reputation as a composer principally for that instrument. In the 1880s and 1890s she toured the European continent and England, focusing on her lighter salon music rather than the large orchestral works. As her published works gained popularity across the Atlantic, enthusiastic American admirers created over two hundred Chaminade clubs around the country; she was among the most well-known musicians, much less woman musicians, in the United States for several decades. Criticism of her work, however, was often strongly gendered; prejudices were deep, and reviews wondering how a woman could write such “strong, virile” music were common. …

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