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Five of the best works by Pauline Viardot

As skilled a composer as she was a singer, Pauline Viardot had 19th-century Europe under her spell

Published: March 23, 2021 at 12:18 pm
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Le dernier sorcier

The third of Viardot and Turgenev’s operettas, this is a delightful fairytale showcasing Viardot’s melodic flair at its finest.


Die Sterne

In one of her most beautiful songs, Viardot evokes rapt stargazing, the music yearning upwards towards the heavens. Cello obbligato adds a layer of dusky gorgeousness.

6 Mélodies

Published only in 1880, this collection includes a few of Viardot’s best loved songs. Among them, ‘Hai luli’ shows a girl longing for her absent lover.

Sonatine in A minor for violin and piano

Pauline’s son Paul (dedicatee of Fauré’s Violin Sonata No. 1) became a fine violinist and composer. She wrote several pieces for him including this Schubertian Sonatine.


The exact date of Viardot’s last operetta isn’t known, but it was probably after Turgenev’s death, as he did not write the libretto. It was premiered in Viardot’s salon in 1904, when she was 83.

Recommended recordings:

Viardot Songs
Ina Kancheva (soprano), Ludmil Angelov (piano), Christo Tanev (cello), Kamelia Kader (mezzo-soprano)
Toccata Classics TOCC0303

'Sung here in Russian, the songs register as pleasing examples of salon music, though the relatively ordinary nature of the accompaniments deny them greatness. Bulgarian soprano Ina Kancheva gives a solid account of them, though her voice lacks an ideal range of colour. She receives constant support from pianist Ludmil Angelov, while mezzo Kamelia Kader and cellist Christo Tanev make occasional contributions.'

Pauline Viardot: Deutsche Lieder
Miriam Alexandra (soprano), Eric Schneider (piano)
Oehms OC1878

'The soprano on this selection of Viardot’s song settings in German obtained her DPhil with a dissertation on the artist.'

Viardot: Cendrillon
Sandrine Piau, Paul Austin Kelly, Elizabeth Vidal, Jean-Luc Viala, André Cognet, Susannah Waters, Jean Rigby; Geoffrey Mitchell Choir/Nicholas Kok (piano)
Opera Rara ORR 212

'The libretto of Cendrillon is paper-thin, but the music has charm and is here sung as beautifully as if it were great.'


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