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A well-appointed life

Donald Macleod considers the cultural advantages of Chausson’s family circle.

Donald Macleod considers the cultural advantages of Chausson’s family circle.

Amédée-Ernest Chausson grew up in Paris during a period of great political, social and economic upheaval in France. Born in 1855, he was fifteen at the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian; he lived through the collapse of the Second Empire and the advent of the Third Republic. However Chausson’s family was materially little affected by these dramatic events, quite the opposite in fact. His father profited from the 1850s onwards, working as a building contractor for Baron Haussmann, the man Napoleon III had entrusted to remodel the narrow streets of medieval Paris into wide open boulevards. Even after Napoleon was deposed, the re-construction of the capital city continued. Chausson’s bourgeois lifestyle reflects the salon society of the mid nineteenth century, with an extensive art collection adorning the walls of his family’s substantial residence at 22 Boulevard de Courcelles a stone’s throw from leafy Parc Monceau. Chausson remained in the same mansion with his wife and their three children. Supported by a private income, unlike most artists and musicians within his large circle of acquaintances, he was able to devote himself to composing entirely without any pressure to provide financially for his family. That’s not to say that Chausson’s life was without a care in the world. Critics saw him as a dilettante rather than a serious musician. His relatively small output reflects the agonies of doubt in his mind. His battle to find his own voice at a time when Wagner had cast a long shadow over French music resulted in his only opera taking almost ten years to complete. This struggle for artistic recognition was only just turning a corner when he died unexpectedly at the age of 44 in 1899.

Growing up this stimulating environment, Chausson’s education and society encouraged an appreciation for the visual arts, music and the arts that would be hard to match. He read widely, a habit that would lead to some of his most poignant settings of poetic texts.

Pièce for cello (or viola) and piano, Op 39
Gary Hoffman, cello
Pascal Devoyon, piano

Sérénade italienne, Op 2 no 5
Les papillons,Op 2 no 3
La dernière feuille, Op 2 no 4
Chris Pedro Trakas, baritone
Ann Murray, mezzo soprano
Graham Johnson, piano

La caravane
Nathalie Stutzmann, contralto
Inger Södergren, piano

Serres chaudes, Op 24
Felicity Lott, soprano
Graham Johnson, piano

Poème for violin and orchestra
Itzhak Perlman, violin
New York Philharmonic
Zubin Mehta, conductor

Producer: Johannah Smith for BBC Wales

59 minutes

Music Played

  • Ernest Chausson

    Pièce in C major, Op.39

    Performer: Gary Hoffman. Performer: Pascal Devoyon.
    • HYPERION : CDA-67028.
    • HYPERION.
    • 8.
  • Ernest Chausson

    Sérénade italienne, Op 2 No 5

    Performer: Chris Pedro Trakas. Performer: Graham Johnson. Singer: Ann Murray.
    • Hyperion CDA 673212.
    • Hyperion.
    • 5.
  • Ernest Chausson

    Les papillons, Op 2 No 3

    Performer: Chris Pedro Trakas. Performer: Graham Johnson. Singer: Ann Murray.
    • Hyperion CDA 673212.
    • Hyperion.
    • 1.
  • Ernest Chausson

    La dernière feuille, Op 2 No 4

    Performer: Chris Pedro Trakas. Performer: Graham Johnson. Singer: Ann Murray.
    • Hyperion CDA 673212.
    • Hyperion.
    • 2.
  • Ernest Chausson

    La caravane, Op 14

    Performer: Inger Södergren. Singer: Nathalie Stutzmann.
    • 09026683422.
    • RCA.
    • 14.
  • Ernest Chausson

    Serres Chaudes, Op 24

    Performer: Graham Johnson. Singer: Felicity Lott.
    • Hyperion CDA 673212.
    • Hyperion.
    • 5.
  • Ernest Chausson

    Poème for violin and orchestra, Op 25

    Performer: Itzhak Perlman. Orchestra: New York Philharmonic. Conductor: Zubin Mehta.
    • DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON : dg-423 063 2.
    • DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON.
    • 6.

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