Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Thursday, August 8

Chaminade in America

Synopsis

The French composer and concert pianist Cecile Chaminade was born in Paris on this date in 1857. She wrote symphonic works and even operas, but it was her piano pieces and songs that became enormously popular with amateur musicians around the turn of the century, especially in America.

In the decade before World War I, over a hundred "Chaminade Clubs" sprouted up in America, where Chaminade's music was performed by and for her fans. So imagine the excitement when it was announced that Madame Chaminade herself would be giving a concert tour of Eastern and Midwest states in 1908. Chaminade's American tour opened and closed at New York's Carnegie Hall, and over a two-month period she performed in Philadelphia, Louisville, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Chicago, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Boston, and Washington DC.

In 1908, the majority of amateur musicians in America were women, but the majority of music critics were men – the latter gave Chaminade's concerts mixed reviews at best, and downright sexist put-downs at worst. For her part, Chaminade was used to that sort of reception in Europe – and the limited role society allowed women artists in her day.

But in a Washington Post interview published during her American tour, Chaminade remained optimistic: "There is no sex in art," she said. "Genius is an independent quality. The woman of the future, with her broader outlook, her greater opportunities, will go far, I believe, in creative work of every description."

Music Played in Today's Program

Cecile Chaminade (1857-1944) L'Ondine, Op. 101 and Scherzo in C, fr Op. 35 Peter Jacobs, p Hyperion 66584

Additional Information

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