Ernest Chausson

Female chorus
Mixed chorus
Religious music
Lyric dramas
Lyric operas
Incidental music
by popularity


2 Duos, Op.112 Mélodies, Op.362 Poèmes, Op.343 Lieder, Op.273 Motets, Op.123 Motets, Op.164 Mélodies, Op.134 Mélodies, Op.87 Mélodies, Op.2


Ballata pour quatuor vocal


Chanson perpétuelleChansons de Miarka, Op.17Chansons de Shakespeare, Op.28Chant nuptial, Op.15Concert for Violin, Piano and String Quartet


Hélène, Op.7Hymne védique, Op.9


Jeanne d’Arc


La caravane, Op.14La légende de Sainte Cécile, Op.22La tempête, Op.18L'albatros, SNo.10Le roi ArthusLes Vêpres de Commun des Saints, Op.31


O salutaris


Paysage, Op.38Piano Quartet, Op.30Piano Trio, Op.3Pièce, Op.39PoèmePoème de l'amour et de la mer


Quelques danses, Op.26


Recueil de 20 mélodies


Serres chaudes, Op.24String Quartet, Op.35Symphony in B-flat


Amédée-Ernest Chausson (French: [ʃosɔ̃]; 20 January 1855 – 10 June 1899) was a French Romantic composer who died just as his career was beginning to flourish.
Born in Paris into an affluent bourgeois family, Ernest Chausson was the sole surviving child of a building contractor who had made his fortune assisting Baron Haussmann in the redevelopment of Paris in the 1850s. To please his father, Chausson studied law and was appointed a barrister for the Court of Appeals, but had little or no interest in the profession. He frequented the Paris salons, where he met celebrities such as Henri Fantin-Latour, Odilon Redon, and Vincent d'Indy. Before deciding on a musical career, he dabbled in writing and drawing.
In 1879, at the age of 24, he began attending the composition classes of Jules Massenet at the Paris Conservatoire; Massenet came to regard him as "an exceptional person and a true artist". Chausson had already composed some piano pieces and songs. Nevertheless, the earliest manuscripts that have been preserved are those corrected by Massenet. At the Conservatoire, Chausson also studied with César Franck, with whom he formed a close friendship that lasted until Franck's death in 1890. Chausson interrupted his studies in 1881, after a failed attempt to win the Prix de Rome.[1]
During 1882 and 1883, Chausson, who enjoyed travel, visited Bayreuth to hear the operas of Richard Wagner. On the first of these journeys, Chausson went with d'Indy for the premiere of Wagner's Parsifal, and on the second trip he went with his new spouse Jeanne Escudier (1862–1936), with whom he was to have five children.
From 1886 until his death in 1899, Chausson was secretary of the Société Nationale de Musique. In his own home (22 Boulevard de Courcelles, near Parc Monceau), he received a great many eminent artists, including the composers Henri Duparc, Gabriel Fauré, Claude Debussy, and Isaac Albéniz, the poet Stéphane Mallarmé, the Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev, and the Impressionist painter Claude Monet. Chausson also assembled an important collection of paintings.
When only 44 years old, Chausson died while staying at one of his country retreats, the Château de Moussets, in Limay, Yvelines. Riding his bicycle downhill, Chausson hit a brick wall and died instantly. The exact circumstances remain unclear; although probably an accident, there has been the suggestion of suicide, as Chausson was prone to depression. This suicide theory was propounded by Debussy's biographer Edward Lockspeiser, but has been firmly rejected more recently by Chausson's own biographer Ralph Scott Grover.
Chausson was buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. His funeral was attended by many leading figures of the arts, including Duparc, Fauré, Albeniz, Redon, Edgar Degas, Auguste Rodin, Henri de Régnier, Pierre Louÿs and Debussy. While Chausson's brotherly relationship with Debussy had ended abruptly five years earlier, following his disapproval of Debussy's promiscuity, Debussy never ceased to admire Chausson's music.
A small park, Square Ernest Chausson, in the 17th arrondissement of Paris is named in his honour.
The creative work of Chausson is commonly divided into three periods. In the first, his output was stylistically dominated by the influence of Massenet. The second period, dating from 1886, is marked by a more dramatic character, deriving partly from Chausson's contacts with the artistic milieux in which he moved. From his father's death in 1894 dates the beginning of his third period, during which he was especially influenced by his reading of the symbolist poets and Russian literature, particularly Turgenev, Dostoyevsky, and Tolstoy.
Chausson's work is deeply individual, but it does reflect some technical influences of both Wagner and his other musical hero, Franck. Stylistic traces not only of Massenet but also of Brahms can be detected sometimes. In general, Chausson's compositional idiom bridges the gap between the ripe Romanticism of Massenet and Franck and the more introverted Impressionism of Debussy.
Several delicate and admirable songs came from Chausson's pen. He completed one opera, Le roi Arthus (King Arthur). His orchestral output was small, but significant. It includes the symphonic poem Viviane; the Symphony in B-flat, his sole symphony; Poème for violin and orchestra, an important piece in the violin repertoire; and the dramatic and haunting song-cycle Poème de l'amour et de la mer.
Chausson is believed to be the first composer to use the celesta. He employed that instrument in December 1888 in his incidental music, written for a small orchestra, for La Tempête, a French translation by Maurice Bouchor of Shakespeare's The Tempest.
Not at all prolific, Chausson left behind only 39 opus-numbered pieces. Musical creation for him always proved to be a long, painful struggle. However, the quality and originality of his compositions are consistently high, and several of his works continue to make occasional appearances on programmes of leading singers, chamber music ensembles and orchestras.
"There are moments when I feel myself driven by a kind of feverish instinct, as if I had the presentiment of being unable to attain my goal, or of attaining it too late." Ernest Chausson