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Classical Sprouts: Cécile Chaminade's Flute Concertino

Cécile Chaminade came from a musical family and given her love of music, she was encouraged by her parents to study music early on.

Even as young as age 10, the Paris Conservatoire accepted her as a student.

But, her dad thought that it was improper for a girl to study at school… Booooo!

So, he had her take private lessons with faculty from the conservatoire instead.

Not only did she take piano lessons, but she also started composing from a young age.

She’d write pieces for her cats, dogs and dolls! 

As she got older and she started performing in recitals around France and other parts of Europe, her music became quite popular.

Super famous composers like George Bizet (who wrote the opera, "Carmen" and even Queen Victoria were known to like her compositions!

Chaminade’s Prélude for organ, Op.78, was even played at Queen Victoria’s funeral in 1901.

She also won lots of important awards for her compositions, including the Jubilee Medal from Queen Victoria, the Laurel Wreath from the Athens Conservatory, and she was elected a Chevalier of the National Order of the Legion of Honour, which is the highest honor you could receive in France, and that was a first for a female composer!

Go Cécile!

In 1902, Chaminade composed The Flute Concertino in D major, Op. 107.

The piece remains a standard and popular part of the flute repertoire even today.

Pretty much every professional flutist knows how to play it - it’s just one of those pieces you HAVE to know if you’re going to play the flute.

It starts off with a beautiful and broad melody, and features many chromatic scales throughout the piece.

Chromatic notes are notes that are only a half step away from each other, like C to C#, instead of a whole step like C to D.

These notes feel really close together and are really fun to play all in a row in a scale!

See how many you can find in the piece as you listen go along.

There are also a lot of runs and scales in the piece that aren’t necessarily chromatic, but they sure do fly!

In the middle of the piece, the flute has a lot of staccato or really short notes played really quickly - followed by some light and fluttery notes — this fits the voice and range of the flute really well.

It’s almost like a bird flying and singing!

Then the flute really gets to show off during the piece’s “Cadenza” - that’s when the rest of the instruments, the piano or the orchestra behind the soloist gets to take a little break, and the flute gets to strut their stuff and play freely, without sticking to a strict metronome or pulse.

We return to that initial soaring melody before coming to a lovely, and gratifying end. Almost...

There's a few more fun and flying flute runs before we finally come to the end of this impressive and beautiful piece!

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Classical Sprouts is produced by Emily Duncan Wilson.

Kate Botello is a host and producer at Classical IPR.
Emily Duncan Wilson is IPR's digital content manager and is the producer of "Classical Sprouts" and "Kids Commute".