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Classical music has a history of Composing… Women! So this Women’s History Month Tri States Public Radio and the WIU School of Music shines the spotlight… one every weekday… on over twenty great female composers. From baroque to romantic… to impressionist… to post-serialist. From the mystic Abbess who advised the Pope… to the Chicagoan whose works were rediscovered in an abandoned house. Listen in for Composing Women… Every weekday during March at 7:19 during Morning Edition, or at 5:48 during All Things Considered, as TSPR Music Director Ken Zahnle introduces you to our composer of the day… and at 11:00 a.m. during Ovation for a featured work by our featured classical master.

Cécile Chaminade

Cécile Chaminade

She was one of the most popular composers in England and America at the turn of the 20th century, with one or more of her nearly 400 compositions found in almost every musical home, and the first woman composer to be elected Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor… but she was virtually forgotten her last three decades.

Born in Paris in 1857, Cécile Chaminade was composing from childhood and was recommended for admission to the Paris Conservatoire… something her father forbade, though he did allow private study with the Conservatoire’s professors.

Throughout the 1880’s Cécile composed a number of large-scale works, some performed by the prestigious Société nationale de musique. After 1890 she concentrated on shorter works, including nearly 200 character pieces for piano and around 125 songs for voice and piano, most of which were published during her lifetime.

She toured extensively in France and England before the turn of the century, performing concerts comprised entirely of her own works. Her popularity in America grew in the early 1900’s and performing groups called “Chaminade Clubs” were founded throughout the country… some of which are still active today. Chaminade herself finally toured the U.S. in 1908, performing for the clubs in a dozen cities. The concerts were a popular and financial success, but critical reception labeled her works either too feminine to be serious, or too masculine for a woman. In short, the criticism was sexist.

Her Concertino for flute, written as a Conservatoire test piece, remains her best-known work today, while her 1895 Piano Sonata demonstrates that Chaminade was well aware of the then-modern trends in music.

Chaminade’s output slowed in later years, never quite leaving her belle epoque style, passing away out-of-fashion in Monte Carlo in 1944.

Cecile Chaminade… a Composing Woman.


Piano Trio Op. 11 (1880)
Suite d’orchestre op. 20 (1881) - not found
La Sėvillane (1882)
Callirhoё op. 37, ballet symphonique (1888)
Concertstück, for piano and orchestra, op. 40 (1888)
Les Amazones, symphonie dramatique (1888) - not found
Concertino op. 107 (1902) for flute and piano
Piano Sonata op. 21 (1895)
Scarf Dance, from op. 37 (1888) - this is from Callirhoë above
L’anneau d’argent (1891)

Supporting Materials

Photograph of Cecile Chaminade,

Accessible websites relevant to the composer
Chaminade Club of Providence, RI, founded in 1905

Ken oversees all music programming for Tri States Public Radio, hosting the morning classical music program Ovation, the Saturday nigh jazz survey After Hours, and engineering recorded performances for TSPR. Ken is a native of Highland Park, IL, with degrees in music and broadcasting from Western Illinois University. Teenage years listening to Chicago's old-school fine arts and classical radio stations, coupled with a few months spinning discs on a college residence hall radio station, led him onto the primrose career path of radio. Ken has deep roots at TSPR, starting as a student staff announcer and host, before becoming news director for a group of local radio stations, then Program Director for Tri States Audio Information Services. When he's not deep within our studios and music library, he continues his over quarter-century of assisting Macomb High School's Marching Band.