Cécile Chaminade: Automne

Context

Cécile Chaminade was born in Paris, 1857. At a young age she started playing the piano, with her mother being her first teacher. She then learnt with Félix Le Couppey. As well as learning the piano, Chaminade also took an interest in learning the violin. She studied with Marie Gabriel Savard and Martin Pierre Marsick. Chaminade flourished in music composition so much so she showed some of her sacred music to Georges Bizet. He was very impressed by her talent and worked closely with the young composer. When she was 18 she gave her first concert. 

Automne was composed c.1893, and remains one of Chaminade’s most popular works for solo piano. Initially part of her first set of Études de concert (Op.35), Automne is now the most recorded of this set. Presented in the traditional Romantic stylings similar to Franz Liszt and Frédéric Chopin, Chaminade’s Automne is a delicate study for piano.

 

The Music

The cantabile theme is presented at the beginning of Automne, and is then intricately developed and explored. Chaminade’s full textures across the piano create ripples of harmony that aid in the development of the songful theme. Throughout the piece the atmosphere is peaceful, except for the central section, where Chaminade goes full-on Liszt across the instrument. The rhapsodic section is intense and dramatic in its portrayal of the theme. The bold dynamics add to this and the passion that shimmers from the piano makes the section a highlight of the piece. 

As the peaceful character slowly returns and brings the intensity of the music down once more, a reprise of the main theme is heard – this time slightly louder and more broad than before. Automne begins to unwind and the textures begin to disappear until the piece comes to its peaceful and gentle end. 

 

Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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