Monday, 10 September 2012

The Importance of Listening to Ernest

The name Ernest Chausson rang bells in my mind but I couldn't think why so he's my next choice of French composers. Turns out I have very little reason to know the name, I have a couple of tracks by him on some compilation albums put out by the ABC, and not ones I'm overly familiar with. But I've done a little research and discovered an artistic soul.

He lived a cultured life and studied law because his father wanted him to, but he didn't follow that direction. He tried drawing, he tried writing, then he came to music and he found his calling. He studied under Massenet and Franck, was influenced by Wagner and hung out with artistic types including Faure, Debussy and Monet. Tragically he died after his bicycle hit a brick wall, he was only 44 and he left only a comparatively small collection of works.

Most of his stuff is in the vocal oeuvre and not really something I'm that into but it sounds nice enough. His biggest success these days seems to be his Poeme for violin which is a strong piece I would say fits pretty well into the Romantic style. Apparently he was asked for a concerto by a prominent violinist of the day but he replied that he did not feel equal to writing such a big piece and would write a smaller one instead. Self-doubt or modest truth we'll never know but the result is truly worth it. Interestingly though he did write some major works including a Symphony. I've only heard the third movement but it's strong dramatic stuff with a beautiful finish.

He also seems to have had a love for Arthurian legends. He wrote a symphonic poem on Vivianne fairly early in his career and towards the end an opera on Arthur himself. So an artistic and romantic soul, who drove himself on with a passion to write. He said he had periods where he felt an almost feverish need to write as there was not enough time - tragically prophetic sentiment, but it hints at the passion behind the work.

I will certainly pursue his orchestral and chamber works. And I have to say I feel like I've found a somewhat kindred spirit in this man, I'm touched to have learnt about him, as weird as that might sound.

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