The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: You must hear this — Ernest Chausson’s “Piece,” Op. 39, for cello and piano, which is both beautiful and unknown. | December 27, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

Whew! Except for New Year’s and Kwanzaa, which stay lay ahead of us, most of the holidays are behind us. That means a lot of crazed holiday shopping, cooking and entertaining is also behind us.

So how about a Time Out? You know, a brief intermezzo – some kind of respite just for the fun and restorative pleasure of it.

So today what I offer is simply some pleasure for your ears.

Here is a beautiful piece of music I stumbled across, thanks to Wisconsin Public Radio.

It is the Piece for Cello and Piano, Op. 39, written by the French composer Ernest Chausson (below) in 1897. I didn’t know it or recognize it. But I found it lovely, one of those lyrically quiet French works, like so much of Faure’s music, which got largely drowned out or overshadowed by the more dramatic and large-scale late-19th century German and Russian composers, but which nonetheless merits a much wider hearing and more performances. It also sounds like a good piece for cello students performing at an intermediate or perhaps higher level.

Ernest Chausson

Yet it remains a rarity. I even asked a young, well-known touring professional cellist about it. But the cellist had never heard of it. And a lot of Chausson — including his Violin Concerto, his Concerto for Violin and Cello, his chamber Concert for Violin, Piano; and String Quartet (one of more frequently heard works); a piano Trio; a Symphony in B-Flat; and various songs and salon pieces –seems to  fly too far under the radar these days.

But Parry Karp (below), the veteran cellist of the Pro Arte String Quartet for almost 40 years who also teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and who knows the cello repertoire better than anyone else I know, knew the piece immediately when I mentioned it. In fact, he told me, he had recorded it.

Parry Karp

Should you like to get a hold of that,  you can hear Parry Karp performing it beautifully with Jeffrey Sykes, the UW-trained, San Francisco –based pianist who is the co-founder and co-artistic director of Madison’s Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society.

The performance is on the second CD, Volume 2, of the “Postcards from Madison” album that you can get either separately as Volume 2 or as part of a 2-CD set.  Below is the appropriate album art, a painting of Madison area landscape by the famous American Regionalist artist John Steuart Curry, who served as the first artist-in-residence at the UW-Madison.  (There are a couple of other recordings of the Chausson I found on , but surprisingly few.)

Postcards From Madison Vol. 2

The recording is available from the UW School of Music’s on-line CD store and also from

Here are links.

First, to the UW School of Music’s on-line store:

Then to the amazon listing (so far with no reviewer comments or ratings, so you can be the first):

Finally, here is the best performance of the piece I found on YouTube, though a good video is sadly lacking.

I hope you too enjoy it and find it restful or even soothing after the hectic days on the Shopping Season between Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas.

Let me know what you think of it in the COMMENT section.

The Ear wants to hear.


  1. […] Classical music: You must hear this – Ernest Chausson’s “Piece,” Op. 39, for… […]

    Pingback by Make Music Part of Your life Series: Chausson Poème – Olivier Charlier | euzicasa — May 5, 2014 @ 10:05 am

  2. Nice find of a lovely work. I’m a huge fan of Chausson’s Bb Symphony…he’s indeed quite underrated.

    Comment by crackladen — December 27, 2012 @ 5:45 pm

    • Thank you for reading and replying.
      Chausson could use more huge fans.
      Chausson deserves more huge fans.
      I am pleased that you are pleased.
      The Ear

      Comment by welltemperedear — December 27, 2012 @ 6:15 pm

  3. Dear Ear — Speaking of Chausson, there is a magnificent painting by Lerolle at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, “The Organ Rehearsal,” which shows Chausson and family music-making. Chausson’s at the organ. I’ll post the link. Music for the eyes, too.

    Comment by Ronnie Hess — December 27, 2012 @ 8:09 am

    • Hi Ronnie,
      What a terrific link and addition to the Chausson blog.
      Merci beaucoup!

      Comment by welltemperedear — December 27, 2012 @ 9:04 am

  4. Thank you
    This music is all you said and I appreciate the audio clip.
    Again, to be equally appreciated by your readers, are sudio clips of performances given? This enables the reader to actually hear your recommendations and to likely follow that performer’s or group’s programs and available CD’s; and for the list, how about recommending DVD’S when they are video recorded?

    Len Sullivan
    1] Why not incflude audio clips for readers to hear?

    Comment by hi2len — December 27, 2012 @ 4:54 am

    • Hi again Len,
      I am pleased you find the YouTube performance of the Chausson work rewarding. It is quite good, I think.
      As for providing more such performances, I often — though, I admit, not always — link to YouTube videos. In some cases, I offer more than one, so you can compare performers and performances or pieces.
      So I am not quite sure why you think links are missing.
      It is true that I usually embed the link so readers see an image, not just a link.
      But you can always go to YouTube and type in the composer or piece and see that is available.
      Your opinion about the best performance might well differ from mine.
      As for DVDs I don’t see enough of them to recommend them regularly.
      Usually, I offer previews and samples that the recording company uploads to YouTube.
      But I note your suggestions, and will try to do better in the future.
      Thank you again for reading especially for replying.
      My best,

      Comment by welltemperedear — December 27, 2012 @ 7:48 am

  5. -*If this music is so good, why not include a small clip for readers to hear OK?
    Len Sullivan

    Comment by hi2len — December 27, 2012 @ 4:44 am

    • Hi Len,
      Thank you for reading and writing.
      At the bottom of the posting (the usual place) is where you will find not just an excerpt but a complete performance.
      It comes from YouTube, where you can also find one or two other versions that didn’t seems as well performed or recorded to me. Just type in the composer’s name and the piece;s title at the YouTUbe search engine, and you can find other versions.
      Happy New Year to you

      Comment by welltemperedear — December 27, 2012 @ 7:40 am

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