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CHAMINADE, Cécile (1857-1944)

Cécile Chaminade had to explore her talent for music composition while maintaining her social status as the daughter of an upper-middle-class Parisian family. Although she showed a genuine aptitude for the piano and although Bizet—a family friend—introduced her to Le Couppey (a professor at the Paris Conservatoire), her father did not want her to have a professional music education, since it was not the done thing for a woman of her standing. However, the private lessons she had with Savard, Le Couppey and Godard provided her with a similar education to the one she would have had at the Conservatoire. As her parents regularly held a salon at their house, the young musician used their circle of acquaintances to obtain her first public performance at a chamber music concert at the Salle Pleyel, in 1877. Initial support for her compositions dates from this time: in 1878, Le Couppey organised a concert devoted to her work and the Société Nationale de Musique featured her Trio op. 11 in 1880, as well as a Suite pour orchestre the following year. A private performance, at her parents’ house, of her opéra comique, La Sevillane (1882), then—in 1888—the public performances of her ballet Callirhoé, her dramatic symphony Les Amazones and her Concertstück for piano, established her reputation once and for all. The death of her father and her need to provide for her family prompted her, from the 1890s, to give more international concert tours and sign publishing contracts which obliged her to produce at speed a large number of minor works which generally lack the harmonic sophistication of her early opus numbers.