Les Vêpres de Commun des Saints, Op.31.
Ernest Chausson (1855 -1899) was born in Paris into an extremely affluent bourgeois family. To please his father, Chausson studied law and was appointed a barrister for the Court of Appeals, but had little or no interest in the profession.
In 1879, at the age of 24, he began attending the composition classes of Jules Massenet at the Paris Conservatoire; Massenet came to regard him as 'an exceptional person and a true artist'. He also studied with CÈsar Franck, with whom he formed a close friendship that lasted until Franck's death in 1890.
When only 44 years old, Chausson died while staying at one of his country retreats, the Chateau de Mioussets, in Limay, Yvelines. Riding his bicycle downhill, Chausson hit a brick wall and died instantly.
The creative work of Chausson is commonly divided into three periods. In the first, his output was stylistically dominated by Massenet. The second period, dating from 1886, is marked by a more dramatic character. From his father's death in 1894 dates the beginning of his third period, during which he was especially influenced by his reading of the symbolist poets and Russian literature.
Chausson's work is deeply individual, but it does reflect some technical influences of both Wagner and his other musical hero, Franck. Stylistic traces not only of Massenet but also of Brahms can be detected sometimes. In general, Chausson's compositional idiom bridges the gap between the ripe Romanticism of Massenet and Franck and the more introverted Impressionism of Debussy.
"Les VÍpres de Commun des Saints, Op.31" were composed in 1897 and published around 1900. They are in individual "movements," most quite short, and consisting mostly of antiphons, which would be played (sung) at the start and end of the Magnificat.
They use the Gregorian melodies for thematic material, resulting in often complex interweavings and outcomes.