Chabrier was a 19th century French composer, best known for his orchestral piece España. His output is small, but of a very high quality and includes songs, piano and stage works. His works greatly impacted the French composers of the early 20th century.
Emmanuel Chabrier was born in the small village of Ambert, though he moved with his family to Paris in 1856. He came from a family of jurists and tradesmen. At the age of six he began piano lessons and soon after tried his hand at composing, mostly short dances for the piano. Chabrier’s famous wit is already evident in his Aïka (c1954), which features the description pola-mazurka arabe.
In Paris, Chabrier studied harmony and composition with Thomas Semet, among others. He also studied piano with Edward Wolff, eventually becoming a piano virtuoso. Chabrier established his grande valse, Julia (1857) as his opus 1.
Despite his passion and talent for music Chabrier was bound by the family tradition to study law, which he began in 1858. He gained employment at the Ministry of the Interior, where he worked for nearly 20 years. Despite his full-time job, Chabrier continued his musical pursuit. He studied many scores and completed the nine melodies in 1862, which were inspired by Parnassian poets. Among the poets was Paul Verlaine, with whom he collaborated on two operettas in 1864, Vaucochord et fils 1er and another entitled Fisch-Ton-Kan, a vulgar French pun. The former was never performed in his lifetime, and the latter just once.