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Piano Music
Mark Viner
C ÉC ILE CHAMINADE 1 857-1 944 Cécile Chaminade
Born in Paris on the 8th August 1857, Cécile
P I ANO MU S I C Chaminade’s first lessons were with her mother
before pursuing more serious studies with
1 Pierette, air de ballet, Op.41 2’23 Poème provençal, Op.127 Félix Le Couppey (1811-1887) for piano and
10 No.1 Dans la lande 3’14 Benjamin Godard (1849-1895) for composition.
6 Etudes de concert, Op.35 11 No.2 Solitude 4’10 At the age of eight, she played some of her
2 No.1 Scherzo 3’04 12 No.3 Le Passé 3’34 compositions to Georges Bizet (1838-1875) who
3 No.2 Automne 6’17 13 No.4 Pêcheurs de nuit 4’18 was most impressed by her talent. However,
4 No.3 Fileuse 4’35 due to her father’s disapproval of her musical
5 No.4 Appassionato 2’53 14 La Lisonjera, Op.50 3’28 education, these studies were pursued on an
6 No.5 Impromptu 3’37 unofficial basis and it was not until the age of
7 No.6 Tarentelle 3’59 6 Romances sans paroles, Op.76 eighteen that she gave her first concert. It was
15 No.1 Souvenance 2’07 not long, however, before she began touring
8 Les Sylvains, Op.60 3’17 16 No.2 Elévation 2’31 France and her music began steadily increasing
17 No.3 Idylle 2’40 in popularity. In 1892 she made her début in
9 Arabesque, Op.61 4’33 18 No.4 Eglogue 2’27 England where her music was immensely popular and one of her biggest fans,
19 No.5 Chanson Brétonne 1’53 Queen Victoria (1819-1901), invited her to Windsor Castle. She made many
20 No.6 Méditation 4’36 subsequent return tours and in 1897 was awarded the Jubilee Medal from
the Queen. In 1901 she married the Marseilles music publisher, Louis-Mathieu
21 Thème varié, Op.89 4’19 Carbonel, a man many years her senior and, as such, the union was rumoured
to be one of convenience. After his death in 1907 she never remarried. She also
never published anything with her husband, instead maintaining a close and
productive relationship with Enoch & Cie. who continue to publish her music
to this day. In 1908 she toured the USA where her popularity was immense
Mark Viner piano and such that around two hundred Chaminade Clubs had sprung up. By 1913

Recording: 16/17 March 2018, Westvest Church Schiedam, The Netherlands

Producer: Pieter van Winkel
Engineer, editing: Peter Arts
Piano: Steinway D, tuned by Charles Rademaker
Cover: Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939), Poetry
℗ & © 2018 Piano Classics
Piano Classics is a trade name of Brilliant Classics B.V.
she was admitted to the Légion d’honneur; the highest order of merit granted chords with flourishes absent from the printed score – a salutary testimony
to French civilians and a first for a female composer. The outbreak of the First to the liberties which not only interpreters but composers took with their
World War witnessed a decline in her compositional activity while she nursed own music.
wounded soldiers from the front line. Her remaining years were spent in
increasing isolation and debilitation and, in 1938, a medical complication led to 6 Etudes de concert, Op.35
her left foot being amputated; something her family ascribed to her strict diet. No.1 Scherzo
She was also a vegetarian – quite unheard of in France at the time. Her refusal No.2 Automne
to use a wheelchair left her bedridden and the outbreak of the Second World No.3 Fileuse
War and the subsequent occupation of France brought further difficulties No.4 Appassionato
when she lost all her royalties from her Jewish publisher which was liquidated No.5 Impromptu
by the nazis. She died in Monte Carlo on the 18th April 1944 at the age of No.6 Tarentelle
Alongside the Sonate, Op.21 (1893), Chaminade’s 6 Etudes de concert, Op.35
Pierrette, air de ballet, Op.41 represent a milestone in her early career. They also comprise one of her
As its title suggests, Pierrette is one of those trifling trinkets Chaminade best-loved pieces, the once ubiquitous Automne which graced many a salon
became so well known for and this particular example, published in 1889, at the turn of the last century. Not to be confused with this earlier set which
witnesses her at her very finest. Out of an engaging opening a gracious appeared in 1886 is the later 6 Etudes de concert, published independently
two-step theme emerges; spritely, lithe and with a touch of mischief about from one another and later united in a single volume. The first of the set
it. A brief middle section presents two contrasting ideas before the reprise presented here is a breathless Scherzo in chattering double notes which
ensues and the piece closes with a jubilant amalgamation of the main abound hither and thither, offering the player little respite. The second, the
theme together with ideas from the middle section. It takes a certain type aforementioned Automne, was, and indeed remains, one of the composer’s
of composer to write a piece of this kind – and this well – and there can most enduring solos and has never really left the repertoire, cropping up on
be little doubt that pieces such as these were instrumental in securing compilation disks from time to time and occasionally still finding favour with
Chaminade the enduring success she enjoyed for so many years. It is also the fluent amateur. It is by far the most poetic of the set and is an archetypal
one of the pieces she herself recorded and, in her 1901 rendition of the piece, example of Chaminade’s melodic gifts. The scheme is simple: an expansive
much in keeping with the spirit of the age, she embellishes the two closing main theme provides the foil to a stormy middle section – a typical example
of the composer’s ability to to write music that sounds much more difficult Tarentelle which, taken at Chaminade’s metronome
than it actually is to play. The storm abates and the opening section then mark of dotted crochet = 192 becomes a veritable
returns to draw the étude to a close. The third, entitled Fileuse – (Spinning tour de force. Smoother climes are suggested in a
Wheel), features a warbling stream of semiquavers which, after various more coaxing middle section before the reprise which
iterations, gives way to a more expansive middle section. A brief return to the pursues a truncated version of the previous sequence
opening music signals the inevitable return of the second section now stated of events and a virtuosic windup breathes fire into the
in the home key. After petering out with gossamer-like iterations of the closing pages.
opening figuration, an abrupt forte flourish at the close wakes us with a start.
The following étude, Appassionato, is the shortest of the set; its descending Les Sylvains, Op.60
chains of alternating sixths with single notes suggesting and altogether more Les Sylvains – (The Fauns) is one of those inspired
dramatic stance. Even the earnest entreaties of the middle section offer little compositions which give the impression of having
sanctuary from the turbulences of the outer sections as the main material been conceived in a single sitting. It first appeared
returns with unabated fury; the figuration at the outset now augmented into in 1892 and, like many such short pieces, its structural scheme is simple:
a series of cascading triplets soaring to a coruscating climax. This étude a burgeoning theme in the major, underpinned by pulsating chords, is
is also one of those curious instances where music from another work has introduced first by the left hand and then the right and is contrasted by
been reused: it also doubles as the third and final movement of the Sonate, a quicksilver section in the minor; its iridescent oscillations suggesting a
Op.21 (1893). The fourth, entitled Impromptu, is perhaps the most rhapsodic flash of Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) (who, incidentally, was Chaminade’s
of the set; its long-winded melody, marked con fantasia, suggests a sense favourite composer). The two sections are then repeated and the first returns
of the improvisatory while the undulating left hand accompaniment offers for a third time only to give way to a nostalgic revisitation of the second;
buoyancy to its burgeoning contours. A more anxious interlude leads to a its flutterings now earthbound and its lyricism achingly melancholic. A final
bubbling second section in which the right hand melody in thirds is kept mercurial flurry draws the piece to a hushed close as it flutters into twilight.
aloft by an undulating left hand, giving way to a series of fluttering upwards
gestures which are held earthbound before a capricious sequence of thirds, Arabesque, Op.61
arpeggios and trills culminate in a downwards scale, propelling us headlong Like Claude Debussy (1862-1918), Chaminade wrote two Arabesques, the first
to the reprise. A truncated version of the previous series of events follows (Op.61) appearing in 1892 and the second (Op.92) in 1898. The first section
before the étude draws to a close. The sixth of the set is a breathless presents a duality of character where the first theme is grave while the
second is gay. A second section offers a more playful contrast, balancing the was something she was immensely good at, was highly lucrative and, in
various iterations of the main theme amid playful flourishes before the middle many ways, is a genre in which she has remained unsurpassed.
section proper arrives. Adopting the same rhythmic outline as the theme, an The present writer is of the opinion that the Poème provençal, Op.127
engaging interplay between charming frivolity and mock-seriousness ensues. ranks among Chaminade’s most inspired final productions and, while full of
A curt return to the dominant chord of the home key signals the return of pleasing tunes and wrought with all the typical hallmarks of facile grace, is
the first section, this time in an abbreviated form, where a final passionate of a musical order which stands quite apart from mere trifles of the salon.
iteration of the main theme is underpinned by pulsating left hand chords. An It first appeared in 1908 and, divided into four separate pieces, each seems
abrupt return in the major rouses us from the previous reverie and rounds the to suggest a picture-postcard glimpse into rural life in Provence. The first
piece off curtly. of the set, entitled Dans la lande – (On the moor), is a brisk, simple-hearted
promenade in G major; its uncomplicated scheme and homely cadences
Poème provençal, Op.127 tinged with a touch of melancholy. The second of the set, entitled Solitude,
No.1 Dans la lande is one of Chaminade’s most inward-looking conceptions where a searching
No.2 Solitude right hand melody is accompanied by syncopated chords. A more defiant
No.3 Le Passé middle section gives way to questioning iterations before the reprise,
No.4 Pêcheurs de nuit drawing the piece to a solemn close. The third is entitled Le Passé – (The
Past) – a nostalgic declamation rather than a reminiscence. It opens with a
Even a cursory glance through Chaminade’s catalogue will give an timid, if enthusiastic, theme, groping for a home key which arches to an apex
impression of her evolution as a composer. It is markedly clear that early on of anxious entreaty and plaintive sighs. A brief middle section offers some
she had her ambitions – among the familiar salon pieces, which brought her comfort, entering, quite unexpectedly, in the distant key of A major. Before
fame and fortune, stand large-scale ballet, chamber, orchestral and vocal long, the aching contours of the main theme return, this time to draw the
works. By around the beginning of the twentieth century, however, large- piece to a more sunlit close. The last piece of the set, entitled Pêcheurs de
scale ‘serious’ pieces are practically absent from her catalogue and the nuit – (Night Fishermen), is possibly one of Chaminade’s best if not most
compositional offerings consist mainly of pieces of the salon variety. The atmospheric pieces. It opens with a rumbling left hand figuration, redolent
reasons for this are unclear, though while there is much speculation that of lapping waves, before a plaintive right hand melody enters, the flattened
Chaminade’s compositional aspirations were repressed by the misogyny of seventh notes lending a folk-like element to the harmonic scheme. A sunnier
the time, it should be remembered that writing music of the salon variety middle section becomes more turbulent, giving way to a series of ardent
declamations before subsiding to the calmer waters of the opening music. over a Neapolitan chord at the close and resolved in the sunnier climes of
The sudden arrival of a brief series of questioning phrases holds our attention the major. The second piece of the set, Elévation, also once proved popular,
before a blustery final page blows us out to sea. and features an expansive theme underpinned by throbbing chords which
builds to a powerful and, considering the brevity of the piece, unexpected
La Lisonjera, Op.50 climax. Idylle is the title of the third piece where a wistful theme is contrasted
Another piece which must be counted among Chaminade’s most successful by sunnier sections in the relative major. The pastoral whimsy of the fourth
solos is La Lisonjera – (The Flatterer) which first appeared in 1890; a piece of piece of the set, Eglogue, is only momentarily interrupted by a capricious
delicate irony and the embodiment of charm itself. As with many such pieces, middle section. Chanson Brétonne is the title of the fifth piece and, in many
the structural scheme is a simple one where two different sections alternate ways, is the odd one out; its bold outlines and punchy swagger standing in
before a sort of coda, based loosely on the previous music, winds things up. stark contrast against the other pieces in the set. The sixth and final piece,
Such was its appeal that Leopold Godowsky (1870-1938) was seduced by its entitled Méditation, is perhaps the best known of the set and while its
charms and recorded it in 1922. sumptuous harmonies and stirring modulations are full of immediate appeal,
the actual writing, elegantly conceived as it is, lies well within the grasp of
6 Romances sans paroles, Op.76 most amateurs.
No.1 Souvenance
No.2 Elévation Thème varié, Op.89
No.3 Idylle First published in 1898, the Thème varié has enjoyed something of a vogue
No.4 Eglogue among pianists in recent times. While far from being a variation set, as its
No.5 Chanson Brétonne title suggests, the piece actually centres around two closely related themes.
No.6 Méditation Varied this way and that, the first makes a quicksilver appearance in the
minor before more turbulent passages emerge only to dissipate into a series
The 6 Romances sans paroles first appeared in 1893 and comprise some of of shimmering trills underpinning the now familiar opening theme before its
Chaminade’s most popular pieces, all of which lie well within the reach of the exuberant counterpart is ushered forth in a blazing fortissimo light, drawing
fluent amateur. The first, entitled Souvenance – (Recollection), is in ternary the piece to a triumphant close.
form where a nostalgic outer section is contrasted by a questioning middle
section. A rhetorical wisp of a theme from the middle section is suspended © Mark Viner, London 2018
Mark Viner is recognised as one of the most exciting British concert pianists
of his generation and is becoming increasingly well-known for his bold
championing of unfamiliar pianistic terrain.
Born in 1989, he began playing at the age of 11 and two years later was
awarded a scholarship to enter the Purcell School of Music where he studied
with Tessa Nicholson for the next five years during which time he gave
acclaimed performances at London’s St. John’s, Smith Square and the Wigmore
Hall. Another scholarship then took him to the Royal College of Music where he
studied with Niel Immelman for six years, graduating in 2011 with both first class
honours in a Bachelor of Music degree and winning the Sarah Mundlak Memorial
Prize for Piano after having gained the highest mark in the year for his final
recital and, following a bursary from the Countess of Munster Musical Trust, he
graduated with a distinction in Master of Performance in 2013.
After winning 1st prize at the Alkan-Zimmerman International Piano
Competition in Athens, Greece in 2012, where his official début recital in the
Hellenic capital was hailed by the press as the most exciting musical event of
2012, engagements at home and abroad have flourished. Invitations to festivals
include the Pharos Arts Foundation, Cyprus, ProPiano Hamburg and Raritäten
der Klaviermusik, Husum in Germany, Indian Summer in Levoča, Slovakia,
and the Cheltenham Music Festival and Oxford Lieder Festival in the United
Kingdom, while radio broadcasts include recitals aired on Deutschlandfunk and
interviews on BBC Radio 3. Engagements in his hometown of Oxford include
recitals at the Holywell Music Room, the Jacqueline du Pré Music Building and
the Sheldonian Theatre where he made his début with the Oxford Philharmonic
Orchestra under the bâton of Marios Papadopoulos. On another occasion he
was invited to play for the royal visit of H.R.H. The Prince of Wales. Following
his affiliation with with Keyboard Charitable Trust, he has recently embarked on
Photo © Vladimiros Giannakakos
three extremely successful tours of the USA, Germany and Italy.
Aside from a busy schedule of teaching and performances he is also a
published writer and his advocacy for the music of Charles-Valentin Alkan
and Franz Liszt has led to his election as Chairman of both the Alkan Society
and the Liszt Society in 2014 and 2017 respectively. He is very active in the
recording studio and his recordings of music by Thalberg, Liszt and, more
recently, Alkan on the Piano Classics label have garnered critical acclaim. “We would like to thank the following sponsors
for their generous support:
Philippe Cahill”