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Cécile Chaminade : a composer at work McCann, Karen Jee-Hae

Abstract

Despite her great popularity in her lifetime, nowadays Cecile Louise Stephanie Chaminade (1857 - 1944) is only a name in the relatively short list of successful women composers. While there is a trend in current musicology to focus on women composers and musicians, the existing literature on Chaminade is limited to a couple of biographies, and a few book chapters, the most significant resource to date being Marcia J. Citron's “Cecile Chaminade: A Bio-Bibliography”. In light of the scarcity of writings on Chaminade, this thesis will discuss her life and selected compositions with the purpose of uncovering the composer's most salient musical characteristics. Chapter one will begin with a biographical sketch and brief discussion of the cultural context of Chaminade's time. In chapter two, I provide analyses of three of Chaminade's songs (“Chanson slave”, “Rosemonde”, and “Tu me dirais”), as well as discussions of three songs by her contemporaries (Jules Massenet, Augusta Holmes, and Vincent d’Indy) in order to compare subject matter and musical techniques. To round off the chapter, I conclude with an overview of a few piano pieces by Chaminade (“Serenade, Op. 29” and “Sonata, Op. 21”, movements 2 and 3) and by her favourite composer, Camille Saint-Saëns (“Chanson Napolitaine”, from “Album pour piano, Op. 72”). Chapter three is devoted to an analysis of Chaminade's large-scale dramatic work, “Les Amazones, op. 26”, a composition that displays both operatic and symphonic characteristics. Finally, I conclude with a general summary of Chaminade's style, in light of the compositions discussed. Through this thesis, my hope is that more interest will be piqued in this most fascinating French woman composer, and by extension, in the many women composers yet to be discovered.

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