Cécile Louise Stéphanie Chaminade (August 8, 1857 – April 13, 1944) was a French composer and pianist.
Born in Paris, she studied at first with her mother, then with Félix Le Couppey, Savart, Martin Pierre Joseph Marsick and Benjamin Godard, but not officially, since her father disapproved of her musical education.
Her first experiments in composition took place in very early days, and in her eighth year she played some of her sacred music to Georges Bizet, the composer of Carmen, who was much impressed with her talents. She gave her first concert when she was eighteen, and from that time on her work as a composer gained steadily in favor. She wrote mostly character pieces for piano, and salon songs, almost all of which were published.
She toured France several times in those earlier days, and in 1892 made her début in England, where her work was extremely popular.
Chaminade married a music publisher from Marseilles, Louis-Mathieu Carbonel, in 1901, and on account of his advanced age the marriage was rumored to be one of convenience. He died in 1907, and Chaminade did not remarry.
In 1908 she visited the United States, and was accorded a very hearty welcome from her innumerable admirers in this country. Her compositions were tremendous favorites with the American public, and such pieces as the Scarf dance or the Ballet No. 1 are to be found in the music libraries of all cultured lovers of piano music. She composed a Konzertstück for piano and orchestra, the ballet music to Callirhoé and other orchestral works. Her songs, such as The Silver Ring and Ritournelle, were also great favorites. Ambroise Thomas, the celebrated French composer and writer, once said of Chaminade: "This is not a woman who composes, but a composer who is a woman." In 1913, she was awarded the Légion d'Honneur, a first for a female composer. In London, 1903, she made gramophone recordings of six of her compositions for the Gramophone and Typewriter Company, these are among the most sought-after piano recordings by collectors. Before and after World War I, Chaminade recorded many piano rolls, but as she grew older, she composed less and less, dying in Monte Carlo on April 13, 1944.
Chaminade was relegated to obscurity for the second half of the 20th Century, her piano pieces and songs mostly forgotten, though her Flute Concertino got a lot of playtime on some classical radio stations in the 1990s. The Concertino was written for a male flautist that Chaminade fell in love with who was planning to marry someone else. She presented the piece to him and he married the other woman later that day.
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