One of the relatively few women composers of her time to achieve great popularity, Cécile Chaminade was a child prodigy; she began playing the piano very early, and her first compositions date from the age of eight.
Her father wouldn't allow her to attend the Paris Conservatoire, but she did work privately with many instructors, including Benjamin Godard, with whom she studied composition. She gave her first public recital at age 18, and from then on appeared frequently as a pianist in France and Belgium, often playing her own music. She was a regular on British concert stages from the early 1890s, and was a guest of Queen Victoria during one of her British tours. Chaminade made her American debut in 1908, playing her Concertstück, Op. 40 (written around 1896) with the Philadelphia Orchestra. She was a big hit in America, and within a few years many Chaminade clubs sprang up around the country. In 1913 she was the first woman to receive the Legion of Honor from the French government. A large percentage of Chaminade's nearly 400 compositions were published during her lifetime. About half of those are short piano pieces, some of which, like The Scarf Dance and The Flatterer, were once quite popular. She also wrote about 125 songs, as well as a few larger, more ambitious pieces like the ballet Callirhoë (1888), the comic opera La Sevillane, and the dramatic symphony Les Amazones, Op. 26, for chorus and orchestra (1888). She also composed two orchestral suites and a handful of chamber works, including two trios.