Cécile Chaminade

Cécile Chaminade was born in Paris in 1857 to an upper middle-class, arts-loving family. She took piano lessons from her mother, who, like her father, was an amateur musician.

Her first experiments in composition took place in very early days, and in her eighth year she played some of her sacred music to Georges Bizet, who was much impressed with her talents. She gave her first concert when she was eighteen, and from that time on her work as a composer gained steadily in favor. She wrote mostly character pieces for piano, and salon songs. Chaminade's music has been described as tuneful, highly accessible and mildly chromatic, and typically follows most aspects of late-Romantic French music.

Her compositions were tremendous favorites with the American public, and such pieces as the Scarf Dance or the Ballet No. 1 were to be found in the music libraries of many lovers of piano music of the time. She composed a Konzertstí¼ck for piano and orchestra, the ballet music to Callirhoé and other orchestral works. Her songs, such as The Silver Ring and Ritournelle, were also great favorites. Ambroise Thomas once said of Chaminade: "This is not a woman who composes, but a composer who is a woman." In 1913, she was awarded the Légion d'Honneur, a first for a female composer.