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Chabrier, (Alexis-) Emmanuel

Chabrier, (Alexis-) Emmanuel

Chabrier, (Alexis-) Emmanuel, famous French composer; b. Ambert, Puy de Dôme, Jan. 18, 1841; d. Paris, Sept. 13, 1894. He studied law in Paris (1858–61), and also studied composition with Semet and Hignard, piano with Edouard Wolff, and violin with Hammer. He served in the government from 1861, at the same time cultivating his musical tastes; with Duparc, d’Indy, and others he formed a private group of music lovers, and was an enthusiastic admirer of Wagner. He began to compose in earnest, and produced two light operas: L’Étoile (Paris, Nov. 28, 1877) and Une Éducation manquee (Paris, May 1, 1879). In 1879 he went to Germany with Duparc to hear Wagner’s operas. Returning to Paris, he publ, some piano pieces; then traveled to Spain; the fruit of this journey was his most famous work, the rhapsody España (Paris, Nov. 4, 1883), which produced a sensation when performed by Lamoureux in 1884. Another work of Spanish inspiration was the Habanera for Piano (1885). In the meantime he served as chorus master for Lamoureux; this experience developed his knowledge of vocal writing; he wrote a brief cantata for mezzo-soprano and women’s chorus, La Sulamite (March 15, 1885), and his operas Gwendoline (Brussels, April 10, 1886), Le Roi malgré lui (Opéra-Comique, Paris, May 18, 1887), and Briséis (concert perf., Paris, Jan. 31, 1897; stage perf., Royal Opera, Berlin, Jan. 14, 1899). In his operas Chabrier attempted a grand style; his idiom oscillated between passionate Wagnerianism and a more conventional type of French stage music; although these operas enjoyed a succès d’estime, they never became popular, and Chabrier’s place in music history is secured exclusively by his España, and other piano pieces such as Bourrée fantasque (1891; orchestrated by Felix Motti). His Joyeuse Marche for Orch. (orig. entitled Marche française, 1888) is also popular. Other works are Ode à la musique for Voices and Orch. (1890), 10 pièces pittoresques for Piano (1880; four of them orchestrated and perf. as Suite pastorale), 3 valses romantiques for two Pianos (1883), and songs.

Bibliography

R. Martineau, E. C. (Paris, 1911); G. Servières, E. C.(Paris, 1912); J. Desaymard, C. d’après ses lettres (Paris, 1934); F. Poulenc, E. C. (Paris, 1961); R. Myers, E. C. and His Circle (London, 1969); F. Robert, E. C: L’Homme et son oeuvre (Paris, 1970); R. Delage, C. (Geneva, 1982).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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