Jump to content

Cécile Chaminade

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Cécile Chaminade
Portrait of Cécile Chaminade
Born(1857-08-08)8 August 1857
Paris, France
Died13 April 1944(1944-04-13) (aged 86)

Cécile Louise Stéphanie Chaminade (8 August 1857 – 13 April 1944) was a French composer and pianist.[1] In 1913, she was awarded the Légion d'Honneur, a first for a female composer. Ambroise Thomas said, "This is not a woman who composes, but a composer who is a woman."[2]


Born in Batignolles[3] (a village then outside Paris), Chaminade was raised in a musical family. She received her first piano lessons from her mother.[4] Around age 10, Chaminade was assessed by Félix Le Couppey of the Conservatoire de Paris, who recommended that she study music at the Conservatoire.[5] Her father forbade it because he believed it was improper for a girl of Chaminade's class.[5] Her father did, however, allow Chaminade to study privately with teachers from the Conservatoire: piano with Le Couppey,[5] violin with Martin Pierre Marsick,[6] and music composition with Marie Gabriel Augustin Savard[7] and Benjamin Godard.[4][8]

Chaminade as sketched in St. Louis by Marguerite Martyn, November 1908

Chaminade experimented in composition as a young child, composing pieces for her cats, dogs and dolls.[9] In 1869, she performed some of her music for Georges Bizet, who was impressed with her talents.[9][5]: 4  In 1878, Chaminade gave a salon performance under the auspices of her professor, Le Couppey, consisting entirely of her compositions. This performance marked the beginning of her emergence as a composer and became the archetype for the concerts she gave for the rest of her career in which she only performed her own works.[5]: 4 

During the 1870s and 1880s several of her works were programmed by the prestigious Société nationale de musique[10]. In her early years, she gave recitals throughout France, Switzerland, Belgium and Holland.[11] In 1892, she debuted in England, where her work was popular.[4] Isidor Philipp, head of the piano department at the Conservatoire de Paris, championed her works.[citation needed] She repeatedly returned to England in the 1890s, premiering her compositions with such singers as Blanche Marchesi and Pol Plançon.[12] She visited England again in 1907 and performed at the Aeolian Hall in London,[13] and in Bath.[14] Queen Victoria was known to enjoy Chaminade's music[15] and in 1901 at her funeral, the Prélude for organ, Op.78, by Chaminade was played.[16]

Chaminade married a music publisher from Marseille, Louis-Mathieu Carbonel, in 1901.[17][5]: 13  Given his advanced age, it was rumored to be a convenience and Chaminade prescribed strict marriage conditions: they were to live separately (he in Marseille and she near Paris) and their marriage was to remain platonic.[5]: 13–14  Carbonel died in 1907 from a lung disease.[5]: 14  Chaminade never remarried.[18]

In 1908, she performed concerts in twelve cities in the United States.[1] Her compositions were tremendous favorites with the American public,[19] and such pieces as the Scarf Dance or the Ballet No. 1 were to be found in the music libraries of many lovers of piano music of the time. She composed a Konzertstück for piano and orchestra, the ballet music to Callirhoé and other orchestral works. Her songs, such as The Silver Ring and Ritournelle, were also great favorites. Ambroise Thomas once said of Chaminade: "This is not a woman who composes, but a composer who is a woman."[20]

Chaminade was the recipient of numerous honours, both in France and abroad. In 1888 and 1892, she was honoured by the Académie Française. In 1897, she was honoured by Queen Victoria and given the Jubilee Medal. She received the Laurel Wreath from the Athens Conservatory and the Order of the Chefakat by Sultan Abdul Hamid II of the Ottoman Empire.[21] In 1913, she was elected a Chevalier of the National Order of the Legion of Honour (French: Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur), a first for a female composer.[4][8]

In London in November 1901, she made gramophone recordings of seven of her compositions for the Gramophone and Typewriter Company; these are among the most sought-after piano recordings by collectors, though they have been reissued on compact disk.[8] Before and after World War I, Chaminade recorded many piano rolls, but as she grew older, she composed less and less, dying in Monte Carlo on 13 April 1944, where she was first buried. Chaminade is now buried in Passy Cemetery in Paris.[22]

Chaminade was relegated to obscurity for the second half of the 20th century, her piano pieces and songs mostly forgotten, with the exception being the Flute Concertino in D major, Op. 107, composed for the 1902 Paris Conservatoire Concours; it is her most popular piece today.[1]

Chaminade's sister married Moritz Moszkowski, also a well-known composer and pianist like Cécile.

Critical reception[edit]

Many of Chaminade's piano compositions received good reviews from critics, some of her other endeavors and more serious works were less favourably evaluated, perhaps on account of gender prejudices.[4] Most of her compositions were published during her lifetime and were financially successful.[1][4]

Compositional style[edit]

Chaminade affiliated herself with nationalist composers such as Camille Saint-Saëns and Charles Gounod. Her musical style was rooted in both Romantic and French tradition throughout her career and her music has been described as tuneful, highly accessible and mildly chromatic.[1] In describing her own style, Chaminade wrote, "I am essentially of the Romantic school, as all my work shows."[23]

Important works[edit]

Lolita (Caprice espagnol) Op. 54


  • Op. 19 La Sévillane, comic opera (1882)


  • Op. 20 Suite d'Orchestre (1881)
  • Op. 26 Symphonie Dramatique Les Amazones" (1884)
  • Op. 37 Callirhoë, ballet symphonique (1888)
  • Op. 40 Konzertstück in C-sharp minor for piano and orchestra (1888)
  • Op. 107 Concertino for flute and orchestra in D major (1902)


  • Op. 21 Piano Sonata in C minor (1893)
  • Op. 35 Six Études de Concert (Enoch) (1886)
  • Op. 54 Lolita. Caprice espagnol (Enoch) 1890
  • Op. 60 Les Sylvains (Enoch) (1892)
  • Op. 89 Thème varié (1898)
  • Op. 120 Variations sur un thème original (1906)
  • Op. 117 Duo Symphonique for 2 pianos (1905)
  • Op. 123 Album des enfants, première série (1906)
  • Op. 126 Album des enfants, deuxième série (1907)

Piano Duets[edit]

  • Op. 55 Six Pièces Romantiques, Op. 55 (1890)

Two Pianos Four Hands[edit]

  • Op. 19 La Sevillane
  • Op. 36 Deux Pièces for 2 Pianos,
  • Op. 59 Andante et Scherzettino
  • Op. 73 Valse Carnavalesque(1894)
  • Op.117 Duo Symphonique
  • WU 19 Marche Hongroise (1880),unpublished

Chamber music[edit]

  • Op. 11 Piano Trio No. 1 in G minor (1880)
  • Op. 34 Piano Trio No. 2 in A minor (1886)
  • Op. 142 Sérénade aux étoiles for Flute and Piano (1911?)


  • "Chanson slave" (1890)
  • "Les rêves" (1891)
  • "Te souviens-tu?" (1878)
  • "Auprès de ma mie" (1888)
  • "Voisinage" (1888)
  • "Nice la belle" (1889)
  • "Rosemonde" (1878)
  • "L'anneau d'argent" (1891)
  • "Plaintes d'amour" (1891)
  • "Viens, mon bien-aimé" (1892)
  • "L'Amour captif" (1893)
  • "Ma première lettre" (1893)
  • "Malgré nous" (1893)
  • "Si j'étais jardinier" (1893)
  • "L'Été" (1894)
  • "Mignonne" (1894)
  • "Sombrero" (1894)
  • "Villanelle" (1894)
  • "Espoir" (1895)
  • "Ronde d'amour" (1895)
  • "Chanson triste" (1898)
  • "Mots d'amour" (1898)
  • "Alléluia" (1901)
  • "Écrin" (1902)
  • "Bonne humeur!" (1903)
  • "Menuet" (1904)
  • "La lune paresseuse" (1905)
  • "Je voudrais" (1912)
  • "Attente (Au pays de provence)" (1914)


  1. ^ a b c d e Ambache, Diana. "Cecile Chaminade". Women of Note. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  2. ^ Jerrould, John (1988). "Piano Music of Cécile Chaminade". American Music Teacher. 37 (3): 22–23.
  3. ^ Paris, France, Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1555-1929
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Cécile Chaminade". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Citron, Marcia (1988). Cécile Chaminade: A Bio-Bibliography. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. p. 4.
  6. ^ "News Notes". Teignmouth Post and Gazette. 11 March 1898. p. 2.
  7. ^ "Women Song Writers". The Tatler. 1 January 1902. p. 42.
  8. ^ a b c Summers, Jonathan. "Cécile Chaminade". Naxos Records. Retrieved 15 July 2022.
  9. ^ a b Chaminade, Cecile (1911). "Recollections of My Musical Childhood". The Etude. 29 (12): 805–806.
  10. ^ Strasser, Michael (2012). "Providing Direction for French Music: Saint-Saëns and the Société Nationale". In Pasler, Jann (ed.). Camille Saint-Saëns and His World. Vol. 32. Princeton University Press. pp. 109–117. doi:10.2307/j.ctv1mjqv95.16. ISBN 9780691155555. JSTOR j.ctv1mjqv95.16. S2CID 237823965.
  11. ^ "Cécile Chaminade". histoire-vesinet.org.
  12. ^ "Musical Doings". The Queen. 15 June 1895. p. 72.
  13. ^ "Music and Musicians". Morning Post. 3 June 1907. p. 5.
  14. ^ "Madame Chaminade's Recital". Torquay Times, and South Devon Advertiser. 13 September 1907. p. 5.
  15. ^ "Court Circular: Windsor Castle". London Evening Standard. 16 July 1894. p. 3.
  16. ^ Higgins, Charlotte (26 January 2002). "I am Music's Nun". The Guardian. p. 56.
  17. ^ "Rank and Fashion". St James's Gazette. 4 September 1901. p. 13.
  18. ^ Glickman, Sylvia (1996). Women composers: music through the ages (Volume 6). New York: G.K. Hall. p. 515. ISBN 978-0783881928.
  19. ^ Eichhorn, Mrs George C. (5 June 1939). "Music Notes". Greensboro Daily News, N. Carolina. p. 9.
  20. ^ "Cécile Chaminade". The Etude. Philadelphia: Theodore Presser. October 1910. Archived from the original on 21 October 2013. Retrieved 15 July 2022.
  21. ^ Glickman, Sylvia (1996). Women composers: music through the ages (Volume 6). New York: G.K. Hall. p. 515. ISBN 978-0783881928.
  22. ^ "Les habitants célèbres du Vésinet (A-D)". Retrieved 22 November 2021.
  23. ^ Citron, Marcia (1988). Cécile Chaminade: A Bio-Bibliography. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. p. 21.

External links[edit]