An article fromThe Modern Teacher's Music Cabinet (circa. October 1940, author unknown).
Cecile Chaminade, the famous pianist-composer, was born in Paris, 1861, and is still happily with us, although, I believe, she has ceased to compose, as I cannot trace any new works by this writer of your order within the last few years. Chaminade produced very little in the category of large-scale works, and apart from two chamber trios (very fine, but quite neglected), a concert piece for piano and orchestra, songs and an orchestral ballet, her output consists almost entirely of salon works for piano solo and duet. Years ago these were famous, and every pianist possessed volumes of her music___but unfortunately she has now ceased to be the popular composer she once was with the majority of pianists, and has been, to a certain extent, shamefully neglected by present-day musicians. I cannot speak too highly of her work_to me it is perfect in every way, pianistic, brilliantly effective, charming and musically, containing nothing cheap or commonplace.
It may not be "great" music, but many would-be composers could easily take pattern by her work and gain knowledge thereby, of how to write music ideally suited for the piano. One needs to be a fine advanced pianist to play Chaminade as she should be played, but less advanced players will gain a great amount of pleasure from studying her work, for lovers of real melody cannot fail to be impressed by her beautiful thoughts so attractively written. She visited England a number of times, giving recitals of her own music, but apart from this, her life seems to have been quite uneventful.
Chaminade wrote practically nothing for young players, but teachers no doubt would be interested to use her twoAlbums, Op. 123 (1st Series)and Op.126 (2nd Series), consisting of very easy pieces for infants (Elementary and Transitional grades), published by Enoch. Edwin Ashdown publish two books ofSelected Pieces(some being arrangements of songs, etc.). Danse CreoleOp. 94, in six flats. This is one of her best solos, and with its very attractive tango rhythm bass it will appeal to all dance enthusiasts. Also in this volume is the appealingContes Bleues, Op.122, No.2, chordal, with melody in bass (6/4 tempo), and not at all difficult. There are three other solos also. Book 2 with its fairly recent photograph of Chaminade on the title page, has seven pieces, more varied perhaps, and all fine numbers. An arrangement of her own for piano, of the popularSérénade Espagnole(played a great deal as a trio and violin solo), TheSilver Ring, a famous and well-loved song, also transcribed for piano, aScherzo Symphoniquepas desSylphes,MadrigalandChorale Les Noces D'OrandRitournelle,form a good, representative selection. Enoch publish most of her music, and perhaps one of the loveliest is theInterlude, Op. 152, a splendid essay with a very brilliant allegro middle section (Transitional grade). By far one of the grandest miniatures I know. Similar in style is the poignantAu Pays Dévasté,Op. 155, composed after the last war( 1914-1918). Here is a true sincere picture of her beloved country after war's havoc. A deeply moving composition, and one which will always occupy a firm place in my affection. If Chaminade had written nothing except this, it would entitle her to respect and admiration from all music lovers. A companion piece is Op. 156,Berceuse du petit soldat blessé, with its choral section interspersed with bugle calls, these having the last say, dying away in the distance. Excellent! Scaramouche, Op. 56, is a lively martial solo (one can trace passages rather like the modern Poulenc in this). Middle section again has tango bass. Marche Américaine(dedicated to Sousa), Op. 131, is similar, rather more difficult. Most of Chaminade's music is Transitional___Advanced, and prices vary from two shillings onwards.
Valses and Scherzos
As a writer of valses and scherzos Chaminade remains supreme. I have by me a batch of valses, and can heartily recommend every one for their brilliance, lightness and tunefulness. All need great finger dexterity. The 4th, Op. 91 is mainly in double notes (six flats), and would make a fine encore number. This also applies to theValse Militaire, Op. 109, in C major and rather easier; 2ndValse, op. 77; 3rdValse, Op.80; andValse-Caprice, op. 33. In the easier grades (and less brilliant), suitable for younger pupils, there areValse Romantique, Op. 115 (L.H. crossing over R.H.), an even easierValse-Ballet, Op. 112, and a very beautifulValse Tendre, Op. 119, theAir de Ballet, Op.30,Pas des Echarpes, Op. 37, andPas des Amphores, Op. 37. The latter two, being from the Callirhoe ballet, are well known and require no comment. Recitalists on the look out for good but neglected works cannot do better than giveScherzoandFileuse, both from the set ofConcert Studies, Op. 35, a trial. TheScherzois difficult, but well worth studying, whilstFileusegives plenty of rotary work and finger exercise for R.H. Other etudes suitable for concert work include Op. 124Etude Pathétique, with L.H. crossing over R.H., many octave passages and bold chordal leaps. InEtude Mélodique, Op. 118 (again six flats) semiquaver triplets accompany a cantabile melody in R.H. Etude Symphonique, Op. 28is difficult and powerful, the L.H. having most of the work.Etude Humoristique, Op. 138, is one of the very best. It provides both hands with plenty of work, and is lighter (as the title would lead one to expect) than the previous studies.Automne, from Op. 35, is perhaps the best known of all Chaminade's work, and together with the lovelyPierette, Op. 41, will keep her name before the public for many years to come
. Lovers of dance rhythms will revel inEcossaise, Op. 151 a sprightly staccato piece, nimble and fluent, with plenty of variety in treatment; alsoLa Morena, Op. 67, a Spanish caprice, bright and airy. A great many of her solos are in the form of ancient dances, and I would single out for special mention the earlyMinuetto,Op. 23 (fairly easy),Piéce dans le style ancien,Op. 74 (a siciliano), which contains more of her favourite device, crossing hands, a very charmingPassacaille,Op. 130, again fairly easy and straight forward,Gigue, Op. 43, a difficult concert solo, full of vitality and containing first-class piano writing (why do pianists ignore such excellent examples of healthy music), an extremely difficultDanse Païenne,Op. 158, lengthy and rather over-developed, but very interesting to try, even if only enjoy the "barbaric" element, so foreign as a rule in her music, and lastly,Air à Danser,Op. 164, a warm and glowing piece, harmonically very interesting. I might mention also the 4th and 5thGavottes,Op. 149 and 162, the former being the easier of the two.
Of the threePreludes, Op. 84, my favourite is No. 2, a wonderful broad melody, treated in a very ingenious manner. It makes the piano "ring" with an intensity which is altogether admirable. And then we have the greatToccata,Op.39, a real firework display, for those who can take it presto. What lightning fingers are required for this! Yet another gem,Divertissement, Op. 105, a splendid rhythmical number; also a collection of sixRomances Sans Paroles, Op. 76, of which at least one, theElevation, is known and loved. This indeed is a treasure store of good things: the gracefulSouvenance, with its flowing melody in bass, really inspired,Idylle, EglogueandMeditation,pieces to be played and heard to appreciate to the full. I cannot praise them highly enough: all pianists should try them. Pastorale, a perfect little tone-poem, simple and sincere. No technical difficulties here, no virtuosity for mere display, just a lovely musical message from a true musician. Arabesque,Op. 61, prattles along in good humour, and needs careful manipulation. Guitarre, Op. 32,Terpsichore, Op. 81 (a lilting waltz in 3/8),Expansion, Op. 106,Chanson Russe, Op. 98,Caprice Humoristique, Op. 113 (rather difficult), the broadCortège, Op. 143 (a majestic affair in 12/8 time, with its fugal suggestion),Vert-Galant, Op. 85 (a delicate morsel), andThème Varié, Op. 89, can all be highly recommended. The list is endless, and one can always be sure of gaining a winner by obtaining any work I have mentioned. Ricordi's publish a few, includingArlequine, Op. 53, andLa Lisongera,Op.50, both fairly well known. The solitarySonata, Op. 21(an early work) is hardly satisfactory, and it may seem strange that Chaminade did not attempt this form again. I feel that sonata form was outside her realm; but as most composers have ambitions to write at least one, we must forgive her for attempting it. As a light composer of piano music, Chaminade can never be beaten, and together with Moszkowski and Schutt, she will always occupy a prominent place in the history of light music. (Incidentally, the Sonata is dedicated to Moszkowski, to whom she was, I believe, related by marriage.) Her excellent two-piano duets were reviewed in my article on Duets in the issue for February, 1939.