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Vieille Chanson by Pauline Viardot
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Fig. 4.7 Pauline Viardot

Pauline Viardot (1821-1910) composed "Vieille Chanson" in the 1890s. Viardot was a French singer, composer and voice teacher. Her musical works include pieces for violin and piano, operettas, and many songs for voice and piano. Viardot's birth name was Michelle Ferdinande Pauline Garcia (her married name was Viardot, thus Pauline Viardot). She was the daughter of two opera singers: Manuel Garcia, and Joaquina Garcia-Stiches. Her brother, Manuel Garcia Jr., was an opera singer, and her sister Maria Malibran was a world famous opera star (Malibran was Maria's married name, and Maria's second husband was the famous violinist Charles de Bériot). Viardot received vocal training from her parents, studied piano with Meysenberg and Franz Liszt, and composition with Anton Reicha. [20]

Viardot sang in operas such as Rossini's Otello, Meyerbeer's Le prophete, Berlioz's 1859 Paris production of Gluck's Orfeo, and gave Brahm's debut performance of his Alto Rhapsody. In 1840, she married the French writer Louis Viardot, and their Parisian home was an influential gathering place for musicians and intellectuals. Viardot followed the Parisian tradition of having a music salon. The purpose of a music salon was not only to offer entertainment, but also to feature musical works by promising composers and performers. Viardot regularly held informal salon concerts on Thursday nights and Sunday afternoons in her home (the Sunday afternoon concerts were generally reserved for close friends). Musicians such as Schumann, Saint-Säens and Fauré dedicated songs to her, and some of her close friends included Chopin, Gounod, Massenet, George Sand, and Ivan Turgenev. Some composers even credited Viardot for helping launch their careers (musicians such as Massenet, Saint-Säens, Gounod, and Fauré). [21]

Viardot had four children: two daughters who became concert singers, a daughter who became a writer and composer (Louise Heritte-Viardot), and a son, Paul (1857-1941) who studied violin with the renowned violinist Hubert Léonard. Paul Viardot later became a conductor, composer and violinist. Viardot composed and dedicated a set of six violin and piano pieces entitled 6 Morceaux pour Piano et Violon to her son Paul, and this work was first published in Paris by J. Hamelle in the 1890s. "Vieille Chanson" is the fifth piece in this collection of lyrical, romantic pieces for violin and piano. [22]

TECHNIQUE TIPS: "Vieille Chanson" is in a minor key, and Viardot's expressive melody and dynamic changes add to the emotional quality of this lovely piece. The intimate nature of this composition makes it likely that it was one of the pieces performed in Viardot's music salon in her home.