• The Eternal Feminine

    Poldowski (Régine Wieniawski)

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    In this episode of The Eternal Feminine Podcast Series, we discuss Polish/British pianist and composer Poldowski (1879-1932). A woman of many names, Poldowski was born Irena Régine (Regina) Wieniawski in Belgium to an English mother (Isabella Wieniawski née Hampton) and the famous Polish violinist Henryk (Henri) Wieniawski. Young Régine showed musical talent at a young age and was the only one of her siblings to become a musician. She eventually married into the English aristocracy (thus becoming Lady Dean Paul), and made a name for herself as a sensitive composer of many genres, particularly in her setting of French poetry.

    Listen to the full podcast for more insight into this somewhat elusive figure and hear our live recording of her poignant work Berceuse d’Armorique, which she wrote after the death of her young son.

    To learn more about Poldowski’s famously colorful family, check out From Tsars to Stars.”

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  • The Eternal Feminine

    Poldowski – Featured Song

    Berceuse d’Armorique

    text: Anatole le Braz, 1892
    translation: Suzanne Yeo

    Dors, petit enfant, dans ton lit bien clos:
    Dieu prenne en pitié les matelots!
    Chante ta chanson, chante, bonne vieille!
    La lune se lève et la mer s’éveille.
    Sleep, little child in your closed bed:
    May God take pity on the good sailors!
    Sing your song, sing old woman!
    The moon rises and the sea awakens.
    Au pays du Froid, la boule des fiords
    Chante sa berceuse en berçant les morts.
    Chante ta chanson, chante, bonne vieille!
    La lune se lève et la mer s’éveille.
    In the land of the cold, the swell of the fjords
    Sings its lullaby as it rocks the dead.
    Sing your song, sing old woman!
    The moon rises and the sea awakens.
    Dors, petit enfant, dans ton lit bien doux,
    Car tu t’en iras comme ils s’en vont tous.
    Chante ta chanson, chante, bonne vieille!
    La lune se lève et la mer s’éveille.
    Sleep little child, in your soft bed,
    For you will go as they all do.
    Sing your song, sing old woman!
    The moon rises and the sea awakens.
    Tes yeux ont déjà la couleur des flots.
    Dieu prenne en pitié les bons matelots!
    Chante ta chanson, chante, bonne vieille!
    La lune se lève et la mer s’éveille.
    Your eyes are already the colour of the waves.
    May God have pity on the good sailors!
    Sing your song, sing old woman!
    The moon rises and the sea awakens.

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  • The Eternal Feminine

    “From Tsars to Stars”

    Irena Régine Wieniawski (aka Poldowski) came from a world-famous line of musicians. Her father, Henryk Wieniawski (1835 – 1880), was steeped in music from birth and from a young age, made a name for himself as both a violinist and composer. He embarked on extensive world tours, often accompanied by his brother Joseph, an equally accomplished and respected concert pianist and composer. It was through his friend and colleague Anton Rubinstein, the celebrated pianist, that Henryk met the Hampton family in London and fell passionately in love with their daughter, Isabella. Isabella’s mother looked kindly on the match – her brother was a famous Irish pianist by the name of George Osborne, and so perhaps she felt more comfortable with yet another musician in the family. But Isabella’s father was more hesitant to accept this vivacious violinist into the family.

    A romantic story tells of Henryk Wieniawski finally winning over his future father-in-law by playing his own composition Légende on the violin and gaining his approval. But a more realistic account states that Mr. Hampton only consented to the marriage after insisting that Henryk take out a substantial life insurance policy and stop touring so much in favor of settling into the responsibilities of married life. Henryk and Isabella eventually married in Paris in August 1860 with quite the wedding party! Rubinstein had the privilege of walking Isabella down the aisle, while the opera composer Gioacchino Rossini served as witness and Belgian composer and violinist Henri Vieuxtemps provided the music. Henryk and Isabella then moved to St. Petersburg, where he had been engaged as the court musician. There, Henryk continued to compose, perform, and teach. He imparted a particular bowing technique to his students, which many still use today when playing particularly difficult staccato passages. Sadly, Henryk developed a heart condition and died, while on tour, at the young age of 44 years old.

    In 1896, Isabella moved her young family of four children back to London, and our story of Régine Wieniawski begins. It seems that Régine held her father’s same zest for life and music, but that didn’t preclude the rest of the family from living intriguing lives. Régine’s older sister Henryka Klaudyna (Henrietta Claudine) married an American stockbroker named Joseph Loring, who was aboard the Titanic during its doomed voyage across the Atlantic. After hearing news of his death, Henrietta booked her own passage to New York on the Carmania, from which she cast flowers into the sea near the site of the Titanic‘s sinking. This poignant scene inspired a New York Times article entitled “Flowers for the Ocean Grave,” which may in turn have have inspired the painting Le supreme adieu, by the French artist Rene Achille Rousseau-Decelle. In the painting, Henrietta is shown casting flowers into the sea, with icebergs floating placidly in the background.

    Régine’s children also led high-profile lives, they became part of a social circle in 1920s London known as the Bright Young Things. This group consisted mainly of young aristocrats and socialites who enjoyed an extravagant lifestyle of fancy dress parties, elaborate treasure hunts, and a (somewhat less salutary) fondness for hard drugs. This lifestyle didn’t work out entirely well for Régine’s daughter, Brenda Dean Paul, an early “It Girl” and celebrated beauty who later became notorious as an opiate user, jailbird, and failed actress.

    Meanwhile, Régine’s son, Brian Dean Paul, earned his nickname “Napper” from his tendency to fall asleep in doorways due to his drug use. He seemed to continue the family tendency to be well-connected with the arts scene – he was a good friend of Lucian Freud and even had his portrait painted by him in 1954! Brian Dean Paul led an apparently less eventful life than his sister, living out his days quietly until his death in 1972, which also marked the end of the Paul baronetcy.

    More first-hand information about the goings on of the Bright Young Things can be found in the novel Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh. Waugh moved in the same circles and it is said that Brenda Dean Paul inspired at least one character in the novel. (Stephen Fry created a film adaptation called Bright Young Things in 2003, featuring such celebrated actors as Peter O’Toole, Stockard Channing, Emily Mortimer, David Tennant, and Michael Sheen.)

    As for Régine herself, it seems that in addition to her musical creations, she also dabbled in fashion at one point (possibly after separating from her husband, although the dates and circumstances are unclear). Régine set herself up as a dressmaker for society ladies and some of her clients were even members of the royal family, but she had to wind up the business when it started taking a toll on her health. Her sudden and early death prompted many tributes from fellow musicians and critics alike, speaking to her much-loved personality as well as to her musical contributions.

    From tsars to stars, just imagine how many lives would have been changed had Mr. Hampton not approved that initial marriage between Henryk and Isabella!

    -Daniella Theresia Teodoro-Dier
    July 2020

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  • Pauline Viardot-Garcia
    The Eternal Feminine

    Pauline Viardot

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    In our first episode of The Eternal Feminine Podcast Series, we discuss French composer and opera singer Pauline Viardot-Garcia (1821-1910). We know her primarily as one of the legendary divas of the 19th century, famed and fêted for the exquisite beauty of her voice and the passion which she infused into her performances. As a singer, she was not only brilliant in her art, but also a very savvy businesswoman. Later, she would become a great voice teacher as well, following in the Garcia family tradition.

    And yet, as much as that would have been, in and of itself, she was still so much more.

    Listen to the podcast to learn about this multi-faceted creator and artist and to hear our rendition of Viardot’s beautiful piece Haï luli.

    To read more about Viardot, check out “Six Degrees of Pauline Viardot“.

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  • The Eternal Feminine

    Viardot – Featured Song

    Haï luli

    text: Xavier de Maistre, c. 1825
    translation: Suzanne Yeo

    Je suis triste, je m’inquiète,
    Je ne sais plus que devenir.
    Mon bon ami devait venir,
    Et je l’attends ici seulette.
    Haï luli, haï luli,
    Où donc peut-être mon ami?

    I am sad, I am anxious,
    I don’t know what’s going to happen.
    My lover was supposed to be here,
    And yet I’m waiting here alone.
    Haï luli, haï luli,
    Where can my love be?

    Je m’assieds pour filer ma laine,
    Le fil se casse dans ma main:
    Allons! je filerai demain,
    Aujourd’hui je suis trop en peine.
    Haï luli, haï luli,
    Qu’il fait triste sans son ami!

    I sit down to spin my wool,
    The thread breaks off in my hand:
    I’m done with it! I’ll spin tomorrow,
    Today I am in too much pain.
    Haï luli, haï luli,
    How sad it is without one’s love!

    Ah! si jamais il devient volage,
    S’il doit un jour m’abandonner,
    Le village n’a qu’à brûler
    Et moi-même avec le village !
    Haï luli, haï luli,
    À quoi bon vivre sans son ami?

    Ah! should he ever become fickle,
    Should he one day abandon me,
    I’ll have to burn down the village
    And myself along with it!
    Haï luli, haï luli,
    What use is it to live without my love?

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  • The Eternal Feminine

    “Six Degrees of Pauline Viardot”

    One of the reasons we chose Pauline Viardot as our first featured composer was that, in her capacity as diva and salonnière, she knew pretty much everyone who was anyone in the musical scene of the time. (This also held true for the literary scene, since many famous writers also moonlighted as music critics, but of that more later.)

    What this also meant was that she connects a number of composers we will be featuring in future episodes of the Eternal Feminine podcast series: she knew Fanny Mendelssohn and was a good friend of Clara Schumann. If we branch out from first-degree acquaintances, we find that her salon guests included George Alexander Osborne, an Irish pianist who later would turn out to be the uncle of Régine Wieniawska aka Poldowski, and César Franck who would later teach Augusta Holmès. A little more remotely, we find Alma Mahler (via Wagner –> Hans von Bülow –> Mahler), and Liza Lehmann (who studied with Jenny Lind, a student of Viardot’s brother Manuel Garcia). If we extend the web even further, we find that her friend Meyerbeer was a friend of Ignaz Moscheles, who taught three teachers of Charles Villiers Stanford, who taught Vaughan Williams, who in turn taught Amice Calverley.

    One cannot help, though, but also marvel at the parade of eminent names that crossed Viardot’s path in general, and so we couldn’t resist leaving you with a partial (and somewhat gossipy) list:

    • as a little girl, she met Lorenzo da Ponte in 1826, at the first unabridged performance of Don Giovanni in the US (her parents and older siblings were starring in it).
    • she studied piano with the young Franz Liszt (and, not entirely surprisingly, had a huge crush on him).
    • the poet Alfred de Musset proposed to her at one point.
    • George Sand based the heroine of her novel Consuelo on her. As her friend and quasi-mentor, she also steered the young Viardot away from the volatile de Musset (whom she had experienced first-hand, having been his ex-lover), and towards the much more stable affections of Louis Viardot, the director of the Théâtre italien in Paris.
    • she played duets with Chopin, who also gave her permission to arrange some of his pieces for voice and piano. Later, she would sing in the performance of Mozart’s Requiem that took place at his funeral.
    • Saint-Saëns dedicated Samson et Dalila to her.
    • Delacroix designed her costume for the role of Orphée in Gluck’s Orphée et Euridice.
    • she sang the Act II duet of Tristan und Isolde with Wagner as Tristan at a private recital, while Berlioz sat by jealously (!!).
    • Gounod, who may or may not have had an affair with her, referred to her as the “godmother” of his career.
    • Meyerbeer wrote the part of Fidès in Le prophète for her.
    • the Russian writer Turgenev fell madly in love with her in 1843 after seeing her in a performance of Rossini’s Barbiere di Siviglia. He promptly got an in with her by offering to coach her in Russian, and ended by having a longstanding affair with her (he lived practically next door to the Viardots for the better part of forty years, in what seems to have been a kind of unofficial ménage à trois). He wrote libretti for three of her operas, and she is also said to have inspired some of his works, such as A Month in the Country and Smoke.

    – Suzanne Yeo
    July 2020

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