Fantaisie Symphonique, Op. 10
Camille Chevillard – Fantaisie Symphonique Op. 10
(b. Paris 14 October 1859 in Paris – d. Chateau 30 May 1923)
Fantaisie Symphonique Op. 10 is a work by French composer Camille Chevillard for symphony orchestra. Chevillard was a French conductor and composer born in 1859 and a contemporary of Claude Debussy and Eric Satie.1 According to musicologist Jeffrey Cooper, Chevillard valued the music of Beethoven, Schumann, and Wagner, which, for being a composer contemporary with the early-modernist generation born in the 1860s, and for writing mature music in the 1890s, meant to have a slightly conservative musical outlook.2 Fantaisie Symphonique (1893), published in 1901, is scored for piccolo, flute, oboe, clarinet in Bb, bassoon, horn in F, trumpet in C, trombone, tuba, timpani, piatti (cymbals), harp, and strings.
Even if not an impressionist at heart, Chevillard still shard with his compositionally forward-looking contemporaries a fascination for expressive motifs. Claude Debussy shocked audiences in 1894 with his symphonic poem Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun.3 This Prelude featured a single, slow descending chromatic motif that began with solo flute. Debussy’s daring harmonic language in this Prelude is said to have taken inspiration from Wagner who was famous for his chromatic harmonies and recurring leitmotifs.4 Chevillard’s Fantaisie features several motifs, but one seems to overshadow them all. The very beginning motif – an eighth note triplet rhythm in 9/8 time – recurs almost constantly throughout the entire piece. It appears at the very opening of the piece in a dramatic unison, is developed throughout A, and even at B when a new motif is introduced by the horns, the clarinet and bassoon answer with an echo of the first motif. In the third measure of page 14, we are finally introduced to a new lyrical motif in the violin. This motif seems to introduce a period of calm in the storm, because it is followed at rehearsal D by a lyrical solo between the clarinet and oboe. However, even as these two melodies are being played, the ghost of the first motif comes back to haunt us. During the violin’s motif, while the rest of the orchestra has changed to 3/4 time, the viola and cello remain in 9/8 time and continue the triplet rhythm. During the clarinet and oboe duet, the cello continues with another melody played in unceasing triplet eighth notes. This melody is continued by the violas as the winds continue the lyrical passages until at E, we see the original motif flare up again. When the key shifts to E Major, we see the motif again in the oboe, clarinet, and horn.
Chevillard’s Fantaisie also makes an external reference, namely, to Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique.5 Berlioz popularized the idea of using music to evoke non-musical references.6 He did this in his famous Symphonie Fantastique by using instruments to symbolize different sounds such as a guillotine blade and head falling, by writing a program that explicitly described what the music represented, and by using a recurring theme obsessively throughout the work. This obsessive theme, called an idée fixe, represented the woman that Berlioz loved, but who did not love him in return. Berlioz’s programmatic work inspired Impressionist composers like Debussy, whose Prelude was written to evoke the poem Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun by Stéphane Mallarmé. The musical Prelude inspired the audience to think of the ancient Greek half man half goat, who according to Britannica, awakes to enjoy “sensuous memories” of the nymphs he loves.7 Other impressionist composers did not write program music but wanted their music to evoke a specific mood or emotion.8
Although there is no known program to go along with Chevillard’s Fantaisie, it is interesting to speculate if there is any outside inspiration for his music. Similar to Wagner’s leitmotifs and Berlioz’s idée fixe, we see Chevillard’s triplet motif running almost constantly through the work. Additionally, the title of the piece, Fantaisie Symphonique, is similar to the title Symphonie Fantastique.
In Chevillard’s work, furthermore, the clarinet plays an important role, stepping into the foreground with prominent thematic entries including some that remind the listener of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, Mvt. 4 (“March to the Scaffold”), in which the clarinet plays one last lyrical solo before the orchestra joins in aggressively to symbolize the beheading of the main character.9 Although the mood of the two clarinet solos is different, it is unusual to feature clarinet alone while the rest of the orchestra is silent. If this feature is inspired Berlioz, it is a little ironic because in Chevillard’s work, the clarinet plays a melody different from the idée fixe before the orchestra brings the motif back, while in Berlioz’s work, the clarinet plays the idée fixe one last time before the orchestra destroys it.
Though he composed several orchestral and chamber works Chevillard is little known today. Chevillard’s work, including Fantaisie Symphonique Op. 10, deserves to be studied and enjoyed by musicians and scholars alike.
Julia Pastore (Valparaiso University)
1 Jeffrey Cooper, “Chevillard, (Paul Alexandre) Camille”, Oxford Music Online, 2001, https://doi-org.ezproxy.valpo.edu/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.05552
3 “Impressionism In Music: A Guide to Impressionism in Music”, Master Class, last modified July 8, 2021, https://www.masterclass.com/articles/impressionism-music-explained
4 Christopher H. Gibbs and Richard Taruskin, The Oxford History of Western Music: College Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019), 508.
5 “Impressionism In Music: A Guide to Impressionism in Music”, Master Class, last modified July 8, 2021, https://www.masterclass.com/articles/impressionism-music-explained
6 Christopher H. Gibbs and Richard Taruskin, The Oxford History of Western Music: College Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019), 445 – 454.
7 Betsy Schwarm, “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun”, Encyclopedia Britannica Online, last modified October 21, 2016, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Prelude-to-the-Afternoon-of-a-Faun
8 “Impressionism In Music: A Guide to Impressionism in Music”, Master Class, last modified July 8, 2021, https://www.masterclass.com/articles/impressionism-music-explained
9 Christopher H. Gibbs and Richard Taruskin, The Oxford History of Western Music: College Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019), 452.
For performance material please contact Breitkopf & Härtel, Wiesbaden.
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210 x 297 mm