Pauline Viardot, née Garcia (Paris, 1821 – Paris, 1910), grew up in a family of musicians whose name is closely linked with the bel canto tradition – she was the sister of the celebrated Maria Malibran. A piano pupil of Franz Liszt as a child, a close friend of Clara Schumann, George Sand and Ivan Turgenev, a colleague highly prized for her all-round musicianship by Hector Berlioz, Frédéric Chopin, Charles Gounod, Giacomo Meyerbeer and many other personalities of the cultural life of nineteenth-century Europe, she may be described as one of the most significant representatives of the European culture of her time. She was not only one of the most famous opera and concert singers of the nineteenth century, a highly regarded singing teacher and a very good pianist, but also a productive composer whose output is much more extensive than is generally known. Over a period of more than six decades she produced around 250 compositions in a variety of genres, with the biggest share going to songs for one or more voices with piano accompaniment. In addition to this she composed chamber music, solo piano music, and stage works, including opérettes de salon for soloists, chorus and piano, which she invariably staged herself. Finally, she also made arrangements and editions of works by other composers and arrangements of folksongs from various national traditions.
In March 1837 Pauline Garcia made her debut as a concert singer in Brussels, and from May to October 1838 she undertook her first concert tour of Germany. The same year saw the appearance of her first printed compositions, Des Knaben Berglied VWV 1030 and Die Kapelle VWV 1017, both settings of poems by Ludwig Uhland: Des Knaben Berglied was issued in Paris in June in a bilingual printed edition under the title L'Enfant de la montagne (Des Knaben Berglied) as part of the anthology Livre musical des Cent-et-un. Die Kapelle was first published in September 1838 in the third volume of Robert Schumann's Sammlung von Musikstücken aus alter und neuer Zeit. Further information about both editions may be found in the VWV under the entries VWV 1017 and 1030. Pauline Garcia made her operatic debut in 1839 as Desdemona in Gioachino Rossini's Otello, first in London (in May) and then in Paris (October). In the 1839/40 season she had her first engagement at the Théâtre-Italien in Paris, whose director Louis Viardot (1800–83) she married in April 1840. Louis Viardot, originally a journalist and art historian, resigned from his post as theatre director a few weeks before the marriage and became his wife's agent, soliciting engagements and concluding contracts for her and organising and accompanying her concert tours. In 1841 their first daughter Louise Viardot was born; she was later to make a reputation as a composer under the name Louise Héritte-Viardot.
In the 1840s, in addition to the two song albums Album de M.me Viardot-Garcia (Paris 1843) and 10 Mélodies par Pauline Viardot. Album de Chant pour 1850 (Paris 1849) ), she also published a number of individual prints, mostly as newspaper supplements (e.g. Une fleur VWV 1152, 1843; Aben-Hamet VWV 1179, 1847; La jeune République VWV 1215, 1848). During the 1850s, such dates as have been identified up to now suggest that no new works were written or published. The most likely explanation for this is that her Europe-wide career as a singer left Pauline Viardot no time to devote herself intensively to composition; moreover, her children Claudie, Marianne and Paul were born in 1852, 1854 and 1857 respectively. The 1850s also saw her collaboration with Hector Berlioz on the new arrangement of the French version of Christoph Willibald Gluck's Orphée, to which she made a major contribution. At the Paris premiere in November 1859 she sang the title role, newly revised to suit her voice.
Another factor to be noted is that Pauline and Louis Viardot were strongly opposed to the political system of the French Second Empire and especially the personality and policies of Napoleon III. Louis Viardot was an active republican who had edited the periodical La Revue indépendante with George Sand and Pierre Leroux since 1841. Pauline Viardot made a public statement in 1848 as the composer of the cantata La jeune République VWV 1215 to a text by Pierre Dupont, a commission for a national ceremony at the Théâtre de la République that was purportedly intended to acquire the status of a new Marseillaise (see the entry on VWV 1215). In 1851 the Viardots' Paris residence was searched by police, and Pauline complained increasingly in the late 1850s that she was no longer getting engagements on the Paris stage. It has not yet been established to what extent state censorship may also have hindered publication of her compositions; but at any rate she once more began publishing her own works – and, for the first time, also those of others – in the early 1860s. In 1861 she issued in Paris the collection Mélodies de M.me Pauline Viardot, which assembled in a single collection the songs from the albums previously published in 1843 and 1849. The same year also marked the beginning of the publication in successive instalments of the large-scale anthology École classique du chant VWV 6001–6071, in which she assumed the role of an editor of early music.
In April 1863 Pauline Viardot bade farewell to the Paris theatrical scene with a final performance of Orphée, and that summer the family moved to Baden-Baden in order to escape the regime of Napoleon III. They maintained their Paris residence, a house in the rue de Douai, but Viardot seems to have gone back there only very seldom, and then never for long. Only after the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War did she leave Baden-Baden, initially for London, finally returning to Paris from there in 1872.
In moving to Baden-Baden, Pauline Viardot was clearly acting in accordance with her wish to withdraw from Paris for various reasons, to teach more than she had done hitherto, and above all to start devoting more time to composing once more: first editions of new works by her started appearing regularly once more from 1864 onwards and continued without interruption until a few years before her death. Noteworthy among these are her arrangements of Chopin mazurkas (VWV 4020–4031 – these had already been begun in the 1840s, and Chopin had been able to see at least some of the arrangements before his death) and the songs on Russian and German poems which were her chief preoccupation from the mid-1860s onwards. She achieved particular celebrity from 1867 with the opérettes de salon Trop de femmes VWV 2001, Le Dernier Sorcier VWV 2002 and L'Ogre VWV 2003, which she created with Ivan Turgenev as her librettist and frequently performed in the private theatre of her house in Baden-Baden. Le Dernier Sorcier was also given in public in a fully staged version with orchestra and German translation of the libretto, initially at Weimar in 1869, and later in Riga, Karlsruhe and Baden-Baden. Highlights of the late works include the opérette de salon Cendrillon VWV 2005 and a collection of six mélodies with piano accompaniment (both Paris: 1904), and individually published songs such as En douleur et tristesse VWV 1150, a setting of a song text from the fifteenth century (Paris: 1905) and Alza pepita! VWV 3013, a 'Danse populaire espagnole' for piano (Paris: 1906).
Pauline Viardot's work as a composer is as strongly marked as her other artistic activities by the principle of aesthetic and cultural transfer: she strove to achieve neither a unified personal style nor a 'timeless masterpiece'. Rather, she advocated a conception of music in which the key element was communication and mediation: communication between 'amateurs' and 'professionals', between different stylistic orientations and levels, between different musical cultures. She composed German songs and ballads, Russian romances, French chansons, romances and mélodies, but also short, witty promotional songs for the French brand of soap Savon du Congo (VWV 1157–1164). She set French texts by such poets as Victor Hugo, Alfred de Musset, Théophile Gautier and Sully Prudhomme, fables by Jean de la Fontaine, German poetry by Eduard Mörike, Johann Wolfgang Goethe and Ludwig Uhland, Russian lyrics by Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin, Afanasy Afanasyevich Fet and Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov. (NB: Within the database, all Russian names appear in their German transliteration – 'Aleksandr Sergeevic Puškin' etc. – cf. the Author Index of the database, AutorInnen.) She also took an interest in fifteenth-century French poetry, setting to music texts from an extensive collection of Chansons du XVe siècle. She had some of these printed, mostly with both the original Middle French text and a modern French adaptation (by Louis Pomey). Finally, another group of songs is constituted by the Canti popolari toscani, settings of Italian song texts from Tuscany. The primary sources contain no indications as to where Pauline Viardot took her texts from, but the poems she set are all contained in the collection Canti popolari toscani, edited by Giuseppe Tigri (Florence: 1860).
Pauline Viardot was concerned not only to incorporate different national musical traditions in her work, but also to be understood by different nations. Most of her vocal compositions and arrangements were translated into up to four other languages and were published in a number of different countries in the relevant language, sometimes in bilingual editions. Her songs were published individually and/or in vocal anthologies with varied contents, which often changed in later editions. She worked with publishing houses in France, Germany and Russia, with the result that her compositions achieved dissemination in a wide range of cultural circles.
Pauline Viardot's arrangements of works by other composers mostly transfer instrumental works to a vocal genre, again almost always with translations of the added texts. The best-known of these are the vocal versions of twelve Chopin mazurkas (VWV 4020–4031), but she also arranged Schubert waltzes (VWV 4015–4017), Hungarian dances by Johannes Brahms (VWV 4019, 4039), the Serenade for string quartet once wrongly attributed to Joseph Haydn and which may be by Roman Hofstetter (VWV 4014), and a number of piano works.
She composed the piano accompaniments to some of the Chansons espagnoles of her father Manuel Garcia and also published these (VWV 4033–4038). The work group 'Liedbearbeitungen' (Song arrangements) features arrangements of traditional songs from a variety of countries, most notably the Airs italiens du XVIII.e siècle (VWV 4003–4008); a collection of songs of the same name was printed . However, her activity as a collector of the folksong repertory must have been very much more extensive. We know, especially, that during her visits to George Sand's country estate at Nohant she collected and transcribed songs of the surrounding region, Berry. She made some of them available to Julien Tiersot, who carried out extensive research into the traditional song repertory. A number of the texts and tunes that Viardot transcribed were published separately in the Revue des traditions populaires, the periodical Tiersot co-edited, among them Le Roi Loys from Berry (in Revue des traditions populaires, 10e Année, Tome X n°12, December 1895, p.636) and a Russian song, Loutchina, loutchinouchka, which she gave with a French translation of the text (in Revue des traditions populaires, 3e Année, Tome III, 1888, p.31).
One field of Pauline Viardot's activity that has scarcely been explored up to now is her work as an editor. In the École classique du Chant [1861 ff.] (VWV 6001–6075) she published a total of seventy-five vocal pieces from different genres, dating from the seventeenth century to the nineteenth, issuing them with piano accompaniment and technical advice to singers. The École classique contains arias from operas, oratorios and cantatas, concert arias, songs and romances. Since around 1865 Viardot had been planning the edition 50 Mélodies de Franz Schubert (VWV 6101–6150), which finally appeared probably in . It constitutes a wide-ranging printed collection of Schubert lieder with the original German texts and a French translation (by Louis Pomey). The six-volume collection Échos d'Italie belongs to the Échos series (Échos de France / d'Allemagne / de Pologne / du monde religieux etc.), which were originally issued by the Paris music publisher Gustave-Alexandre Flaxland (1821–95). In 1869 the Flaxland firm and catalogue were taken over by the composer and organist Auguste Durand (1830–1909) and continued under the commercial imprint Durand Schśnewerk et Cie. The Échos series too continued to be issued. The existing literature frequently ascribes the achievement of the entire edition of the Échos d'Italie to Pauline Viardot, but it is perfectly clear from the title page and the Préface to the first volume that she merely revised that initial volume (VWV 6201–6257). According to the publisher's foreword, the great demand for it had made so many reprints necessary that the plates of the first volume were no longer usable and had to be newly engraved. It was decided to take advantage of this opportunity to ask Pauline Viardot to revise and annotate the volume while at the same time providing it with technical guidance for singers, cadenzas and so forth. In the database the individual titles from the three volumes mentioned above are assembled under the work group corresponding to the relevant collection ('Editionen / École classique du chant', 'Editionen / 50 Mélodies de Schubert' and 'Editionen / Échos d'Italie').
Being both a singer and a composer, Pauline Viardot wrote many decorations and cadenzas to arias and songs for her own use. However, these annotations have come down to us only in very isolated and scattered fashion, and in some cases source materials are not readily accessible. Pauline Viardot's known cadenzas and ornamentations of arias and songs and the corresponding source materials are classified in the VWV in the work group 'Vokalmusik / Kadenzen' (Vocal music / cadenzas) (VWV 1010–1015). In addition to these, there are other extant materials that have not yet been evaluated:
The Library of Congress (US-Wc) holds written cadenzas by Pauline Viardot for various operatic arias under the shelf mark ML96.V44 (Case). Among these is a copy of a 'Vocal cadenza for an opera of Gluck' (see https://lccn.loc.gov/unk84181224); this is a cadenza to Orpheus' aria 'L'Espoir renaît dans mon âme' and is included in the VWV under number 1011. The greater part of the material consists of 'Vocalises and cadenzas for various opera arias' (see https://lccn.loc.gov/unk84091294) and '[Vocal and cadenzas for various Italian operas]' (see https://lccn.loc.gov/unk84091295). According to information provided by the library (email dated 20.08.2010), this material can no longer be reproduced and is made available to scholars only in situ. As a result it has not yet been possible to consult it for the VWV.
In the New York Public Library (US-NYph), a collection of cadenzas that belonged to the Polish singer Marcella Sembrich (1858-1935) is preserved (shelf mark JPB 91-94, see https://nypl.bibliocommons.com/item/show/12016032052_cadenzen). Under the heading 'Cadenzen Viardot', its second section includes four pages of short sequences of ornamentation and cadenzas to arias from La Parisina, Lucia di Lammermoor and Lucrezia Borgia (Gaetano Donizetti), La sonnambula (Vincenzo Bellini) and other operas, and a few notes on vocal technique. These annotations are in another hand from most of the collection, but in any case none of the hands is identified in the library catalogue. Hence neither the provenance nor the authenticity of the content of these pages is clearly established, and they have not been incorporated in the VWV for the time being.
Marcella Sembrich initially studied the violin, then singing from 1876 with Giovanni Battista Lamperti (1839–1910) and later with his father Francesco Lamperti (1811/13–1892) in Milan. She made her debut as early as 1877, appearing as Elvira in Bellini's I Puritani in Athens. But there is an important indication of a connection between Marcella Sembrich and Pauline Viardot: Anna Schoen-René (1864–1942), a celebrated representative of the Garcia bel canto tradition who was for many years a pupil of Pauline Viardot's, relates in her memoirs that Marcella Sembrich came to Viardot at the start of her career with a letter of recommendation from Giuseppe Verdi and asked her for advice about her singing career. According to this account, the older singer, deeply impressed by the beauty of her voice and her vocal technique, agreed to give her guidance, went on to introduce her to a number of composers and offer her performance opportunities at her musical salons, and finally advised her to go to Germany. There a letter of recommendation to the influential conductor Julius Rietz, Generalmusikdirektor to the King of Saxony, helped her to obtain her first engagement at the Dresden Opera (cf. Anna Schoen-René: America's Musical Inheritance. Memories and Reminiscences, New York 1941, p.179 f.).
After their international stage careers, in 1924 and 1925 respectively, Marcella Sembrich and Anna Schoen-René both became professors of singing at the Juilliard Graduate School (today the Juilliard School of Music) in New York; on this subject, see Andrea Olmstead, Juilliard: A History, Urbana: University of Illinois Press 1999, p.78).
You will find more detailed information on the works mentioned here and their source materials in the Title Index of the VWV.
If you would like to find out more about Pauline Viardot's life, there is a list of recommended reading in the menu item Quellen (Sources) under Literatur (Literature).
(Translation Charles Johnston)
Christin Heitmann: Pauline Viardot. Systematisch-bibliographisches Werkverzeichnis (VWV), Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg, seit 2012, Online-Datenbank https://www.pauline-viardot.de/Werkverzeichnis.htm (Abrufdatum).