This week, in the 1 o'clock hour of Intermezzo, hear the music of French composer Ernest Chausson in honour of his would-be 169th birthday.
Amédée-Ernest Chausson was born into an affluent bourgeois family in Paris on January 20, 1855. As the youngest and only surviving of three sons, he grew up interested in the arts, spending formative years moving amongst artistic elite in Parisian salons.
Though well-versed in literature, music and art, Chausson fulfilled his father’s wishes that his son become a lawyer, earning a degree and then a doctorate before being sworn in as a lawyer in Paris in 1877.
Just two years later, Chausson abandoned the profession, dedicating himself to music full-time.
Enrolling at the Paris Conservatoire, he studied as a pupil of Jules Massenet and Cesar Franck, taking great inspiration from the latter. In addition to Franck’s writing, the operas of Richard Wagner also helped shape the musical style of Chausson.
Immersed in the French musical and arts scene, Chausson welcomed luminaries such as Stéphane Mallarmé, Claude Monet, and fellow composers Claude Debussy, Isaac Albéniz, and Henri Duparc to his family salon.
In 1886, he became secretary of the Société Nationale de Musique (an organization founded by Saint-Saëns and others to promote the performance of French instrumental music), a post he served in until his untimely death in 1899.
Tragically, it was while cycling in the countryside that he struck a wall and died as a result of his injuries. He was 44 years of age.
His musical legacy is one that bridges the rich Romantics such as Franck and d’Indy and the newer Impressionist composers.
Though small (only 39 opus-numbered pieces), Chausson’s compositions explore a wide variety of genres – including three operas, one complete symphony, three symphonic poems, many songs, and several chamber works – and often feature a refined, nuanced and elegant musical language.
Throughout the 1 o’clock hour of Intermezzo, hear selections from the Chausson catalogue and don’t forget to follow along using the Classic 107 Playlog.