BBC Music Magazine

CHABRIER Life &Times



LIFE: He is born in Ambert, a village in France’s Auvergne region. He shows promise at the piano at an early age, but his lawyer father is adamant he will pursue a legal career.

TIMES: Adolphe Adam’s ballet Giselle is premiered at Paris’s Salle Le Peletier, with the Italian dancer Carlotta Grisi in the title role. It is an instant success.


LIFE: After a trip to Spain he composes España, a rhapsody for orchestra. It is premiered at Paris’s Théâtre du Château d’eau, conducted by Charles Lamoureux, the work’s dedicatee. TIMES: At the Battle of Paper Bridge in northern Vietnam, French forces under Henri Rivière are defeated by the local Black Flag Army. Rivière himself loses his life in the conflict.


LIFE: He secures a position at the Ministry of the Interior where, highly regarded by his colleagues, he will work for 17 years. He devotes his spare to time to studying music and composing songs.

TIMES: The painter Eugène Delacroix dies in Paris, aged 65. His best known works include The Death of

Sardanapal­us and, most famously, 1830’s Liberty Leading the People.


LIFE: He marries Alice Dejean. At the civil registrati­on of their son Marcel, the painter

Edouard Manet, for whom Chabrier poses three times, serves as a witness. TIMES: The French steam ship Ville du Havre collides mid-atlantic with the Scottish clipper Loch Earn. Of 313 people on board, only 87 survive.


LIFE: He writes his comic opera L’étoile with librettist­s Eugène Leterrier and Albert Vanloo.

TIMES: France’s president Patrice Macmahon dismisses his prime minister Jules Simon, leading to the ‘16 May Crisis’ as parliament refuses to support his government.


LIFE: Suffering from paralytic dementia, he attends the premiere of his opera Gwendoline but is unaware that it is his own music. He dies, aged 53, in September the following year. TIMES: An argument breaks out between villagers and hired Italian labourers at the salt works in Aigues-mortes, southern France. Several Italians are killed in the subsequent brawl.

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