1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Chabrier, Alexis Emmanuel

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20454691911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 5 — Chabrier, Alexis Emmanuel

CHABRIER, ALEXIS EMMANUEL (1841–1894), French composer, was born at Ambert, Puy de Dôme, on the 18th of January 1841. At first he only cultivated music as an amateur, and it was not until 1879 that he threw up an administration appointment in order to devote himself entirely to the art. He had two years previously written an opéra bouffe entitled L’Étoile, which was performed at the Bouffes Parisiens. In 1881 he was appointed chorus-master of the concerts then recently established by Lamoureux. In 1883 he composed the brilliant orchestral rhapsody entitled España, the themes of which he had jotted down when travelling in Spain. His opera Gwendoline was brought out with considerable success at Brussels on the 10th of April 1886, and was given later at the Paris Grand Opéra. The following year 1887, Le Roi malgré lui, an opera of a lighter description, was produced in Paris at the Opéra Comique, its run being interrupted by the terrible fire by which this theatre was destroyed. His last opera, Briseis, was left unfinished, and performed in a fragmentary condition at the Paris Opéra, after the composer’s death in Paris on the 13th of September 1894. Chabrier was also the author of a set of piano pieces entitled Pièces pittoresques, Valses romantiques, for two pianos, a fantasia for horn and piano, &c. His great admiration for Wagner asserted itself in Gwendoline, a work which, in spite of inequalities due to want of experience, is animated by a high artistic ideal, is poetically conceived, and shows considerable harmonic originality, besides a thorough mastery over the treatment of the orchestra. The characteristics of Le Roi malgré lui have been well summed up by M. Joncières when he alludes to “cette verve inépuisable, ces rythmes endiablés, cette exubérance de gaieté et de vigueur, à laquelle venait se joindre la note mélancolique et émue.” Chabrier’s premature death prevented him from giving the full measure of his worth.