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Classical Composers A-Z: Emmanuel Chabrier

Peter Wintersgill introduces us to the French composer Emmanuel Chabrier, a man with a great sense of humour which showed through in his music.

Born
18th January, 1841, at Ambert, Puy-de-Dome

Father
Jean, lawyer

Mother
Marie-Anne

Childhood
Left Ambert at 12, went to Clermont-Ferrand

Adolescence
Studied law and treated music as a hobby

Adult Life
Became a civil servant, wrote two operettas, L’Etoile (1877) and Une Education Manquee (1879). In 1880 heard Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde at Bayreuth, was so moved that he resigned his post and took up music as a career.

He wrote the orchestral Rhapsody España (1883) and an opera Gwendoline (1886), both of which are still performed. He knew many poets and artists and collected paintings.

He was a great admirer of Wagner, was influenced by him, and he in turn influenced Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc and Milhaud. He became chorus master to the conductor Lamoureaux. He wrote the Ode to Music for female choir and orchestra and le Roi malgre lui (comic opera – 1887).

He had a great sense of humour, which shows in his music, especially the piano pieces.

He died 13th September, 1894, in Paris, aged 53 of a paralysis (polio? M.S.?)

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