Charles Chaynes

Charles Chaynes


• 1925 2016


The name is pronounced somewhat like "shen," and this important French composer was born in Toulouse in 1925. He was a student of Darius Milhaud and Jean Rivier at the Paris Conservatoire prior to winning the Premiere Grand Prix de Rome in 1951. A resident of Rome from 1952 until 1955, Chaynes composed his =First Concerto for String Orchestra= and the critically-acclaimed =Ode for a Tragic Death= during this period.

His list of compositions is considerable: several concerti: for trumpet, for violin, for piano, for organ, as well as two for orchestra; a symphony, music for wind quintet, violin and piano sonatas. His =Quest for Sacredness= for solo organ (1985) is available on a Gallo CD, and two vocal works including his =Lights from Japanese Poetry= are on a CD from REM.

The =Concerto for Organ, String Orchestra, Kettledrums and Percussion= was composed in 1966 and dedicated to the great organist Marie-Claire Alain. It is an example of the composer's wholly atonal technique in service of music inspired by religio-mystical sources, in this case ="The Spiritual Canticle of Holy John of the Cross,"= a set of poems which Chaynes read during a trip through Castile. It is structured in traditional three-movement form, and makes dramatic use of the tone colorations possible with the combination of organ and orchestra; effects created by elements of the text are notable, too, such as the musical version of the beating of a heart at the end of the second movement.

The =Piano Concerto= also dates from 1966, and was first performed in that year by Yvonne Loriod, the famous pianist and wife of Olivier Messiaen. It makes use of a small orchestra of two flutes, trumpet, harp, kettledrums, percussion, and strings. Also wholly atonal and in three-movement form, it retains a wide range of musical freedom in each of the movements.

These two works were originally recorded by Erato and released later in America by Musical Heritage Society.