Tag Archives: ernest chausson

Ernest Chausson (1855 – 1899) Poème, Op.25: New York Philharmonic Orchestra/Zubin Mehta,Itzhak Perlman, violin

Ernest Chausson (1855 – 1899) Poème, Op.25

historic musical moments: Amédée-Ernest Chausson – Poeme for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 25 ( State Symphony Orchestra – Kyrill Kondrashin, David Oistrakh – violin)


Amédée-Ernest Chausson – Poeme for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 25

State Symphony Orchestra – Kyrill Kondrashin, David Oistrakh – violin
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ernest Chausson, cabinet card photo by P. Frois, Biarritz (France), ca. 1885, Bibliothèque nationale de France
Amédée-Ernest Chausson (French: [ʃosɔ̃]; 20 January 1855 – 10 June 1899) was a French romantic composer who died just as his career was beginning to flourish.


Ernest Chausson was born in Paris into a prosperous bourgeois family. His father made his fortune assisting Baron Haussmann in the redevelopment of Paris in the 1850s. To please his father, Chausson studied law and was appointed a barrister for the Court of Appeals, but had little or no interest in the profession. He frequented the Paris salons, where he met celebrities such as Henri Fantin-Latour, Odilon Redon, and Vincent d’Indy.

Before deciding on a musical career, he dabbled in writing and drawing.

Chausson page-turning for Debussy, Luzancy, 1893

In October 1879, at the age of 25, he began attending the composition classes of the opera composer Jules Massenet at the Paris Conservatoire; Massenet came to regard him as ‘an exceptional person and a true artist’. Chausson had already composed some piano pieces and songs. Nevertheless, the earliest manuscripts that have been preserved are those corrected by Massenet. At the Paris Conservatoire, Chausson also studied with César Franck. Chausson interrupted his studies in 1881, after a failed attempt to win the Prix de Rome. [1] During 1882 and 1883, Chausson, who enjoyed travel, visited Bayreuth to hear the operas of Wagner. On the first of these journeys, Chausson went with d’Indy for the premiere of Wagner’s Parsifal, and on the second trip he went with his new spouse Jeanne Escudier (1862-1936), with whom he was to have five children.

From 1886 until his death in 1899, Chausson was secretary of the Société Nationale de Musique. In his own home (22 Boulevard de Courcelles, near Parc Monceau), he received a great many eminent artists, including the composers Henri Duparc, Gabriel Fauré, Claude Debussy, and Isaac Albéniz, the poet Mallarmé, the Russian novelist Turgenev, and the impressionist painter Monet. Chausson also assembled an important collection of paintings


Chausson’s tomb, Père Lachaise, Paris

When only 44 years old,

Chausson died while staying at one of his country retreats, the Château de Mioussets, in Limay, Yvelines. Riding his bicycle downhill, Chausson hit a brick wall and died instantly. The exact circumstances remain unclear; although apparently a freak accident, there has been the suggestion of suicide, as Chausson had been suffering from depression for some time. This suicide theory was propounded by Debussy’s biographer Edward Lockspeiser,[1] but has been firmly rejected more recently by Chausson’s own biographer Ralph Scott Grover.[2]

Chausson was buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, his funeral attended by many leading figures of the arts, including Duparc, Fauré, Albeniz, Redon, Edgar Degas, Auguste Rodin, Henri de Régnier, Pierre Louÿs, and Debussy, although his friendship with Debussy had ended abruptly five years earlier following his disapproval of Debussy’s promiscuity.[3][4]


A small park, Square Ernest Chausson, in the 17th arrondissement of Paris is named in his honour.


Ernest Chausson, photograph by Guy & Mockel, Paris, ca. 1897, Bibliothèque nationale de France.

The creative work of Chausson is commonly divided into three periods. In the first, which was dominated by Massenet, the composer exhibits primarily fluid and elegant melodies. The second period, dating from 1886, is marked by a more dramatic character, deriving partly from Chausson’s contacts with the artistic milieux in which he moved. From his father’s death in 1894 dates the beginning of his third period, during which he was especially influenced by his reading of the symbolist poets and Russian literature, particularly Turgenev, Dostoyevsky, and Tolstoy.

Chausson’s work is deeply individual, but it does reflect some technical influences of both Wagner and his other musical hero Franck. Stylistic traces of Massenet and even Brahms can be detected sometimes. In general, Chausson’s compositional idiom bridges the gap between the ripe Romanticism of Massenet and Franck and the more introverted Impressionism of Debussy.

Several delicate and admirable songs came from Chausson’s pen. He completed one opera, Le roi Arthus (King Arthur). His orchestral output was small, but significant. It includes the symphonic poem Viviane; the Symphony in B-flat, his sole symphony; Poème for violin and orchestra, an important piece in the violin repertoire; and the dramatic, and haunting, song-cycle Poème de l’amour et de la mer.

Chausson is believed to be the first composer to use the celesta. He employed that instrument in December 1888 in his incidental music, written for a small orchestra, for La tempête, a French translation by Maurice Bouchor of Shakespeare‘s The Tempest.[5]

Not at all prolific, Chausson left behind only 39 opus-numbered pieces. Musical creation for him always proved to be a long, painful struggle. However, the quality and originality of his compositions are consistently high, and they continue to make occasional appearances on programs of leading singers, chamber music ensembles and orchestras.

“There are moments when I feel myself driven by a kind of feverish instinct, as if I had the presentiment of being unable to attain my goal, or of attaining it too late.” Ernest Chausson

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Make Music Part of Your life Series: Chausson Poème – Olivier Charlier

Ernest ChaussonPoème opus 25
Olivier Charlier violon, Orchestre National de Lorraine dir. Jacques Mercier
Metz 2004

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Poème, Op. 25, is a work for violin and orchestra written by Ernest Chausson in 1896. It is a staple of the violinist’s repertoire, has very often been recorded and performed, and is generally considered Chausson’s best-known and most-loved composition.


Poème was written in response to a request from Eugène Ysaÿe for a violin concerto. Chausson felt unequal to the task of a concerto, writing to Ysaÿe: I hardly know where to begin with a concerto, which is a huge undertaking, the devil’s own task. But I can cope with a shorter work. It will be in very free form with several passages in which the violin plays alone.[1]

It was commenced in April 1896 and finished on 29 June,[2][3] and was written while Chausson was holidaying in Florence, Italy.[4]

He wrote three different versions of Poème: with orchestra; with piano accompaniment (later rewritten by other hands); and a recently discovered version for violin, string quartet and piano, a companion to his Concert in D for piano, violin and string quartet, Op. 21 (1892). The solo violin parts of these versions are identical except for one minor detail.[1]

The work is notionally in the key of E-flat, and lasts about 16 minutes. It was dedicated to Ysaÿe, who gave its early performances.

Genesis of the title

Chausson initially called it Le Chant de l’amour triomphant, then changed it to Poème symphonique, and finally to simply Poème. The first two rejected titles are crossed out on the extant manuscripts.[1]

The original title came from the 1881 romantic novella The Song of Love Triumphant (Le Chant de l’amour triomphant; Песнь торжествующей любви) by the Russian writer Ivan Turgenev, who lived on the estate of the famed mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot and her husband near Paris; all three were acquaintances of Chausson’s. The Viardots’ daughter Marianne was engaged for some time to Gabriel Fauré, but broke it off and instead married Alphonse Duvernoy. Turgenev’s novella seems to mirror this set of relationships, and it may be that Chausson initially attempted to portray it in music.[1] However, it is clear his final intention was to create a work without extra-musical associations.

Early performances

In the autumn of 1896, Eugène Ysaÿe, Ernest Chausson and their wives were holidaying at Sitges on the Mediterranean coast of Spain.[2] At a party hosted by the Catalan painter Santiago Rusiñol,[5][2] Ysaÿe and Chausson’s wife on piano gave an impromptu sight-read performance of Poème; local townspeople who overheard it demanded it be encored three times.[6] Present at the party were Enrique Granados and possibly Isaac Albéniz.

Poème’s formal premiere was at the Nancy Conservatoire on 27 December 1896,[3][4] conducted by Guy Ropartz, with Ysaÿe as soloist.[2] But it was not really noticed until Ysaÿe gave the Paris premiere, at a Colonne Concert on 4 April 1897.[7] Chausson was overcome by the sustained applause, something he had not experienced in his career to that point.

Ysaÿe also gave the first London performance of Poème, a week after Chausson’s untimely death in 1899.[8]

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Jules Massenet … Thais: Meditation

Jules Massenet … Thais: Meditation

Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra
Jules Massenet 1842 – 1912 …….. Massenet took a break from his composing to serve as a soldier in the Franco-Prussian War, but returned to his art following the end of the conflict in 1871. From 1878 he worked as professor of composition at the Paris Conservatory where his pupils included André Bloch, Gustave Charpentier, Ernest Chausson, Reynaldo Hahn, Georges Enesco, and Charles Koechlin. His greatest successes were Manon in 1884, Werther in 1892, and Thaïs in 1894. Notable later operas were Le jongleur de Notre-Dame, produced in 1902, and Don Quichotte, produced in Monte Carlo 1910, with the legendary Russian bass Feodor Chaliapin in the title-role.


Hidden treasures – Ernest Chausson – La tempête (1888) & La légende de Sainte Cécile (1891)

Painting: “After the shipwreck” by Ivan Aivazovsky.

History: From an early age Ernest Chausson (1855-1899) showed great promise in literature, drawing and law before finally turning his attention to music. In 1879, after receiving a doctorate in law and being sworn in as a barrister, he became a pupil in instrumentation under the celebrated Massenet (who thought very highly of Chausson, naming him “a true artist”) at the Conservatoire, while also attending lectures given by Franck and visiting Germany to familiarize himself with the operas of Wagner (these three stylistic aesthetics would guide him throughout his life). However, after Chausson failed to achieve a winning place on the Prix de Rome, he decided to give up official tuition. His peaceful family life and financial security allowed the young composer to continue the pursuit of a musical career, to keep a famous musical salon at 22 Boulevard de Courcelles and to help young talent (in particular, Debussy) and continuing to compose regularly. Chausson’s musical output was relatively compact (just a bit below forty opuses) yet incredibly wide-ranging, encompassing melodies (“Nanny” and “La derniere feuille” (both 1880)), sacred music, symphonies and, finally, opera (“Le roi Arthus“). In the case of the present upload, we will approach two examples of his incidental music, almost the entire amount of which was written for the Theatre des Marionettes. Chausson become connected to the venue through his relationship with the writer Maurice Boucher, an old school chum, with whom he collaborated on several piece earlier. The project began promisingly with a rapturously received translation of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” (1888), Aristophanes’ “The Birds” (1889) and several more or less original plays. In the case of “La legende de Sainte Cecile” (1892), however, Chausson was openly unenthusiastic, and the collaboration strained the friendship of writer and composer and was not successful financially.

P.S. Shakespeare’s synopsis of “The Tempest” can be accessed here:

Music: “La tempete” is not a score of grand ambitions or Wagnerian aspirations: indeed, the fifteen pieces that make up the work are episodic in nature, living up to their name of incidental sketches to Shakespeare’s play. Moreover, one should note that the late romantic language of Chausson’s music, showing influences of Wagner and Saint-Saens, is somewhat alien to the play’s classic character. But the composer’s success in bringing out the drama and the power of one of the Bard’s most emblematic plays cannot be overstated. The points of interest are numerous and practically encompass the whole set: the right-hand man of Prospero, Ariel (tenor), is graced both by a warm call for Ferdinand to follow him to “these yellow sands”, accompanied by an enchanting celesta (arguably this was the first public use of the then new instrument) r, and an ominous aria where he paints to a shocked Ferdinand an image of his drowned father’s “coral bones”, with its beautifully shifting tessitura and striking orchestral accompaniment of sustained string lines and pointed appearances of the harp; the goddess’ (soprano and mezzo-soprano) dramatic duet is properly celestial in conception with a culmination worthy of Wagner in its symphonic use of orchestra and heavy vocal lines; at the other end of the spectrum stands Stephano’s (bass) humorous a capella song, ideally swaggering and simplistic in melody. But while the vocal sections are striking, the various preludes and melodramas are even more attractive and distinctive, ranging from a tremulous agitato with a large amount of challenging wind work in Act IV and a mercurial duettino for flute and tambour in Act III. “Saint-Cecile” is an altogether more overtly dramatic work, an oratorio in miniature with its omnipotent chorus and ominous religious overtones. Though musically less attractive than its companion piece (the “angelic” choral movements are rather generic), the sacred work contains at least two magnificent pieces which have been included in the present upload: a magnificent adagio hymn to Saint Michael which is gradually elaborated over three melodramas (the second statement is the one presented) and a cantatique for the title-heroine of the utmost subtlety and a weeping melody worthy of Schubert. All in all, two works full of some gorgeous rarities. Continue reading

Claude Debussy Nocturnes: No.3 “Sirens”

 From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 Nocturnes, sometimes Trois Nocturnes or Three Nocturnes, is an orchestral composition (L 91) in three movements by the French composer Claude Debussy. It was completed on 15 December 1899.


 The three movements are:

  • I. Nuages (“Clouds”)
  • II. Fêtes (“Festivals”)
  • III. Sirènes (“Sirens“)

The three movements were inspired by a series of impressionist paintings, also entitled “Nocturnes” by James Abbott McNeill Whistler.[1]

Debussy wrote an “introductory note” to Nocturnes as follows:

“The title Nocturnes is to be interpreted here in a general and, more particularly, in a decorative sense. Therefore, it is not meant to designate the usual form of the Nocturne, but rather all the various impressions and the special effects of light that the word suggests. ‘Nuages’ renders the immutable aspect of the sky and the slow, solemn motion of the clouds, fading away in grey tones lightly tinged with white. ‘Fêtes’ gives us the vibrating, dancing rhythm of the atmosphere with sudden flashes of light. There is also the episode of the procession (a dazzling fantastic vision), which passes through the festive scene and becomes merged in it. But the background remains resistantly the same: the festival with its blending of music and luminous dust participating in the cosmic rhythm. ‘Sirènes’ depicts the sea and its countless rhythms and presently, amongst the waves silvered by the moonlight, is heard the mysterious song of the Sirens as they laugh and pass on.”[2]
Debussy at the piano, in front of the composer...

Debussy at the piano, in front of the composer Ernest Chausson, 1893 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nuages and Fêtes were premiered by Camille Chevillard with the Lamoureux Orchestra on 9 December 1900 in Paris. The complete suite was first heard under the same forces on 27 October 1901. The initial performances met with a cool response from critics and the public, but today these are considered some of Debussy’s most accessible and popular works, admired for their beauty.[3] The music lasts for about 22 minutes.