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Repertory Archive

Ernest Chausson


Ernest Chausson was born in Paris to a prosperous bourgeois family  At 25, Chausson began attending Jules Massenet’s composition classes at the Paris Conservatoire.  He had already composed some piano pieces and songs, however, the earliest manuscripts that have been preserved are those corrected by Massenet.  In 1882 and 1883, Chausson made the pilgrimage to Bayreuth to attend the operas of Wagner.  On the first of these journeys he went to see the premiere of Parsifal.

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

Chausson’s work is deeply original, but it does reflect some technical influences of both Franck and Wagner.  His compositional idiom bridges the gap between the Romanticism of Massenet and Franck and the Impressionism of Debussy. He completed one opera, Le Roi Arthus (King Arthur).  His orchestral output was comparatively small, but significant.  The works of his that involve orchestra include the Symphony in B-Flat, his sole symphony, Poème for violin and orchestra, an important piece in the violin repertoire and the dramatic mélodie, Poème de l’amour et la Mer.

From 1885 until his death in 1899, Chausson was secretary of the Société Nationale de Musique.  He received many of the Paris artistic elite in his salon, including the composers Henri Duparc, Gabriel Fauré, Claude Debussy and Isaac Albéniz, the poet Stéphane Mallarmé, the Russian novelist and playwright Ivan Turgenev and the impressionist painter Claude Monet.  Chausson also assembled an important collection of impressionist art.

At the age of 44, Chausson died as a result of an accident.  He is buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

Source:      Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia