Chabrier España Program Notes
Born: January 18, 1841; Ambert, Puy-de-Dôme, France
Died: September 13, 1894; Paris, France
French composer Emmanuel Chabrier settled down to a career working as a public servant, working for 18 years as a legal official for the Ministry of the Interior. He had a lifelong love of music, and actually began piano lessons with a Spaniard at the age of six. He dabbled in music, composing a couple of operettas and other small pieces, while maintaining friendships with musical and artistic types, including the poet Paul Verlaine, painter Eduard Manet and the composer Gabriel Fauré. But it was a performance, in Germany, of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, which led him to quit the Ministry shortly before his 40th birthday and become a full-time musician. Four years later, in 1883, he published his most popular work, a Spanish-themed rhapsody, called España (or Spain). It captures the bright colors and energy of Spanish culture and dance, with vigorous and singable melodic material and percussion (including cymbals and the tambourine). An episode in the middle seems to evoke the midday heat (a welcome thought in February), before winding up towards its rousing end.