Born in Paris to a well-to-do family, Cécile Chaminade was, despite her gifts and being taken under Bizet’s wing (he nicknamed her “my little Mozart”), prevented from entering the Conservatoire. Though a music lover, her father felt her primary role should be that of “wife and mother.” She consequently studied piano and composition as a private student, eventually becoming a much sought-after concert performer. Consisting largely of piano pieces and songs, her abundant production connects her to the final wave of French romanticism. In 1913, she became the first female composer to be made a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur.
First composed for flute and piano, her Concertino was commissioned in 1902 by Théodore Dubois as a competition piece for Conservatoire students. Chaminade dedicated it to Paul Taffanel, a flute professor at the institution, and the version she prepared for a concert in London later the same year would be her last orchestral work. Consisting of a single movement, it opens with a broad melody that leads to sections featuring varied tempos and atmospheres. A brilliant cadenza heralds a reprise of the main theme before an animated coda. Though the flute is fully exploited over its entire range, the extraordinary virtuosity in no way distracts from the work’s beauty.
© François Filiatrault 2022
Translation by Craig Schweickert