In 1857, Cécile Chaminade was born in Paris at the foot of Montmartre.

Her mother, a pianist, initially taught the little girl the piano herself and it soon became clear that a special talent had to be cultivated here. The eight-year-old soon played for George Bizet, who dubbed her the “Petite Mozart”. Subsequently, Cécile was also able to take private lessons in harmony and counterpoint . Some very early sacred works by Cécile Chaminade exist when she was not yet ten years old, and at eleven two of her mazurkas for piano appeared in print.

 

At the age of 18, Cécile finally gave her first concert, and two years later she performed in the famous Salle Pleyel in Paris. From around this time, her compositions also became increasingly popular. There is one thing that distinguishes Cécile Chaminade’s music above all others to this day: it is immediately pleasing, at the very first hearing, but it is never trivial.

She soon became an active member of the Société nationale de musique, in whose concerts some of her compositions were performed. In 1891, when she was 34 years old, her most successful song L’Anneau d’argent (The Silver Ring) was published in an impressive 200,000 copies.

After earlier concert tours through France, Switzerland, Belgium and Holland, her English debut finally took place in 1892. There, in England, Cécile was held in particularly high reverence. She played several times for Queen Victoria, who even invited her to spend a few days at Windsor Castle. Her often extravagant clothes were readily imitated by English fans.

Now she performed in the Balkan countries and eventually in the USA, people founded Chaminade clubs and traded in Chaminade souvenirs.

 

The experiences of the First World War finally silenced Cécile. In 1914 she took over the management of a hospital for wounded soldiers, worked hard there and eventually became ill herself. She only came to compose at night. And then, after the war, her way of writing was not “modern” enough; her mostly short piano and salon pieces no longer fit the times. France now “sounded” different, a new generation with new ideas was waiting in the wings. Cécile Chaminade composed relatively little, mainly piano music. In 1937, she settled in Monte Carlo, where she died a lonely death in 1944.

 

 

(A. W.)