Pauline Viardot, like many other women featured this month, was fortunate to be born into a musical family. Born in Paris in 1821, Viardot (nee Garcia) has Spanish ancestry. Her parents were opera singers and fostered her talents as a singer, though she was also a highly accomplished pianist. Throughout her lifetime she was a student of Liszt and Reica, and a friend of Chopin and Clara Schumann, sang under Berlioz and knew Jenny Lind. She was also on friendly terms with Tchaikovsky and Rossini, who visited her home. After she retired from the stage, Viardot taught at the Paris Conservatory. She died in Paris in 1910.
More information about Viardot can be found through the Tchaikovsky Research Center, which includes a more detailed accounts of the time and correspondence that Viardot shared with Tchaikovsky. Viardot’s papers are held at Harvard.
Though known primarily as a performer, Viardot composed actively. Her compositional output was primarily songs, and often arranged the instrumental works of other composers (including Chopin, Haydn, Schubert, and Brahms) as songs. Though she never actively pursued the role or title of “composer”, as most of her works were written to be used as educational tools with her students, her work was praised highly in its time. Included in her oeuvre are several salon operas and chamber works.
Here is Cecilia Bartoi performing Viardot’s “Hai luli”: