Happy 200th Birthday, Pauline Viardot!

In celebration of Pauline Viardot’s 200th birthday on July 18th, we are sharing three music manuscripts held in Harvard’s collection. The music, L’hirondelle et le prisonnier (The Swallow and the Prisoner), was first published in 1841 in Paris by Bureaux de La France musicale, as advertised in the contents pages from the January 3rd issue of this publication. The text was adapted from the poem by Hector-Grégoire de Saint-Maur (first published anonymously in the Gazette de Sainte-Pélagie in 1834).

Newspaper clipping from Bureaux de La France musicale stating the publication of L’Hirondelle et le prisonnier by Pauline Viardot Garcia.

Paris: Bureaux de La France musicale, 3 January 1841.

Before jumping into the manuscript, let’s take a look at an early publication of this work digitized by Hathi Trust Digital Library.

First page of L’Hirondelle et le prisonnier

First page of L’Hirondelle et le prisonnier, published by Bureaux de La France musicale.

Our first example is a manuscript held in the Pauline Viardot-Garcia papers held at the Houghton Library, and is contained in a notebook owned by Pauline, along with 22 other songs.

Oblong manuscript of song for voice and piano from notebook. One stave of the music has been slightly extended in order to finish a phrase on the same line.

L’hirondelle et le prisonnier. Pauline Viardot-Garcia papers, MS Mus 232 (60) no. 10. Houghton Library, Harvard University.

The next example is a manuscript also in the Houghton Library as part of the Pauline Viardot-García Additional Papers. This edition is part of a Collection of Songs, Autograph Manuscripts and Manuscript Scores containing incipits of works.

Oblong music manuscript, the first page from Collection of Songs for voice and piano.

Pauline Viardot-García additional papers, MS Mus 264 (97). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Our final manuscript is signed and dated Paris, March 18, 1842. It is part of a collection of autographs compiled by Jenny Vény, daughter of oboist Louis-Auguste Vény. The album contains 75 autographs and 120 leaves of music.

In March of 1842, Pauline was three months shy of her 21st birthday. She married Louis Viardot two years prior, and made friendships with Fredrick Chopin and author George Sands, but had not yet met her lifelong friend Ivan Turgenev.  According to The Life and Work of Pauline Viardot Garcia, in March of 1842 the Viardots were visiting family (her sister’s widow) in Brussels at Ixelles to show off their new baby, returning to Paris in April.

A page from an autograph album manuscript with two lines of music for voide and piano and the signature of Pauline Viardot.

Autograph Album: Manuscript, 1841-1880. MS Mus 103. Houghton Library, Harvard University.

For more information on this work, see page 5-6 of Sarah Christine Ballman’s 2021 doctoral dissertation, A Catalog of Mélodies Composed by Pauline Viardot.

Meet the Problem Solvers: Christina Linklater, Keeper of the Isham Memorial Library and Houghton Music Cataloger

For the last in our Meet the Problem Solvers series, Kerry Masteller spoke with Christina Linklater about metadata, microforms and magic.

Red, orange and purple tulips grown in a sun-dappled garden.

You can take the Keeper of the Isham Memorial Library out of Ottawa, but she’ll fill her Somerville garden with tulips.

So, tell us a little bit about what you do, Christina.

In my role as Keeper of the Isham Memorial Library, I mostly manage the movement of special collections materials at the Music Library. I also co-administer our exhibition program with my colleague Patricia O’Brien, provide reference assistance to patrons and direct the United States RISM Office. That’s one half of my week. The rest of my week is spent as a music cataloger at Houghton Library.

What’s different about those two jobs?

Well, at Isham I’m in a public-facing role most of the time, ready to assist anyone who needs help with Isham’s materials specifically or special collections research generally. At Houghton I spend my entire day at a desk in the stacks, making records that then appear in HOLLIS.

What role do special collections play at the University?

I’ve seen students encounter Isham’s collections in the classroom, as well as for their research and to discover new repertoire. I also think that the presence of Isham is valuable for students as a place to meet visiting scholars, who find that it is simpler to travel to Isham with its 40,000 microforms than to visit multiple libraries. Bringing together researchers at different stages of their careers is something that special collections is uniquely suited to; while we exist at and for Harvard, a collection like Isham’s can’t help but attract a wide user community, and it’s really nice to witness those interactions.

What’s an Isham Memorial Library secret that more people should know?
That the lives and works lists of composers, particularly composers who are not white men, are much more complex, important interesting than most reference sources can tell you. For instance, Isham’s Joyce Mekeel collection was catalogued after the Grove article came out, and the finding aid says so much about Mekeel and her work that that writer simply couldn’t have known. Same with the collections of Fred Ho and Aziz El-Shawan: all stories can be enriched by looking at archival materials, but it’s especially striking in the stories of people like Mekeel and El-Shawan who published not at all or very little in their lifetimes, leaving these large bodies of manuscript scores that are just quietly waiting for you at Isham.

If we could magically go to a concert right now, what would we be hearing?

How magical is this performance? Like, can we bring people back from the dead?

 It is as magical as you want it to be.

Right! Let’s go to Glenn Gould’s cottage on Lake Simcoe, then, where he’ll play the Goldberg Variations. First the drastic 1955 version, followed by the twilight 1981 version. We’ll sleep well after that.

This interview was conducted by Reference and Digital Program Librarian Kerry Masteller. It was condensed and edited by Christina Linklater for clarity.

 

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