Chabrier's Reflection


Emmanuel Chabrier, whose life styles were likened to Hector Berlioz and who started his life as a law student and continued as a composer years later, was successful in displaying the never-ending side of his passion for music. Richard Wagner was the person who opened new doors to this passion of Chabrier, perhaps even the first one; This was a common point with other French composers of the Romantic period dating back to the late 18th century. Magical Wagner music… As a matter of fact, the language he tried to incorporate into his music was Wagner influences. He did not get much success in this regard, but he left behind compositions that are important for French music. For example, when it comes to the romantic period, Chabrier had an intense integrating effect on Chopin, one of the leading figures. While adding a more lively orchestral structure to his thoughts, he made Chopin clear in form and more purely French in his music. On the other hand, thanks to his superior dreaming ability Espana in music with spanish fashionHe was the name that started it. This piece would pioneer the Spanish-themed music of Debussy and Ravel (Chanson Espagnole and Rhapsodie Espagnole) and give a new perspective. So much so that as time passed, when only a blind listening was made without reading the notes, his works sometimes reminded Messiaen and sometimes could not be considered apart from Debussy. 

Sometimes he got stuck at the beginning of this stony road. Chabrier had been followed by things that went wrong. However, as we found the support of strong names, it was getting easier to continue. One of the names standing behind Chabrier was undoubtedly Maurice Ravel. When his music seemed inadequate and weak, he was the one to argue the opposite. In addition to music, he had a circle of valuable artists in the field of painting and literature. Moreover, he was really interested in these fields. Because, at a level that can be called a collector, he had many works of impressionist painters of the period. At the same time, Chabrier was also modeling for the paintings of his fellow painters.

As the days passed, Chabrier began to be mentioned and thought about frequently. Great musical geniuses such as Puolenc, Debussy, Stravinsky, Mahler were also his supporters. Of course, Chabrier's influence on Ravel was also quite strong and different. He was obviously one of the people who talked the most about Chabrier. Chabrier's works were a great source of inspiration for him, but, like his many analyzes on the chain of diminutive sevens, later helped him discover different coherences. “I prefer to compose Chabrier's 'Le Roi Malgré Lui' rather than the entirety of Wagner's 'Tetralogy'.” Ravel's words were proof that Chabrier's work, let alone Wagner's magnificent quartet, impressed him greatly. And then he added:Of course, first of all, I was fascinated by a musician because all contemporary French music stems from his work, and it still doesn't get the recognition it deserves.”. This gifted musician really didn't have as much fame as Ravel said he should have been. Likewise, he was one of the unforgettable artists among the artists who prepared the French impressionism movement.

Another point Ravel mentioned was Chabrier's friendship with the painter Edouard Manet. Manet was not someone who had to work for a living, but an economically free painter who followed his own desires. This situation was also reflected in his paintings, point of view and views. Manet painted portraits of fellow artists whose future success he trusted and influenced him. One of them was Emmanuel Chabrier. 

Chabrier by Manet

Apart from his portrait, Chabrier had a reflection on Manet's paintings. For Ravel, however, Chabrier's role was as important as Manet's in painting:

            “To return, in my view, to the connection that exists between Chabrier and Manet, it is not limited to the influence they exert on their art. This connection deepens me: I discovered the impression created by Chabrier's music in Manet's Olympia … In Olympia I always had the feeling of rediscovering the essence of Chabrier's “Mélancolie” simply transposed into another medium.”

Manet's Olympia painting had a different sound than other nude women's paintings of the period. The gaze of the woman (Olympia) in this painting was so realistic that those who looked at the painting felt threatened and even harassed by the woman. Ravel, on the other hand, thought that the feeling of uncertainty in the piece called “Melancolie” of Chabrier's ten-piece series titled “Pieces Pittoresques” created the atmosphere of the Olympia painting. The spirit of the woman portrayed by Manet was actually a reflection of Chabrier's “Melancolie”.

Manet's Olympia
Manet's painting "Olympia"


Bali, S., 2019. Romantic Era Composers in Music. Vakıfbank Cultural Publications, p. 361-365.

Howat, R., 2009. The Art of French Piano Music. Yale University Press, Chapter 7.

Pamir, L., 1989. Wide Breaths in Music. Ada Publications, p. 209.

Prod'homme, J.-G., Chabrier In His Letters, The Musical Quarterly, Volume XXI, Issue 4, October 1935, p. 451

Samson, J, 2000. Chopin, Chopin's Influence on the Fin de Siecle and Beyond. Cambridge University Press, p. 279.

Spence, D., 2011. Manet. Collection Publishing House, Pg. 18-19, 28-29.

Yener, F., 1990. This Unique Art of Music. Cem Publishing House, Pg. 25,159.