Updated: Jun 11, 2018
Here is Marie Pleyel, the subject of my doctoral dissertation. One of the most important pianists of her time, the list of people by whom she was surrounded, admired, and envied, reads like a who’s who in nineteenth-century artistic circles: Kalkbrenner, Moscheles, Fétis, Berlioz, Camille Pleyel, Liszt, Chopin, Hiller, Schumann, Dumas, Nérval.
Chopin’s Op. 9 Nocturnes and Liszt’s brilliant “Réminiscences de Norma” and “Tarantelle di Bravura” were dedicated to Pleyel. Berlioz composed “La tempête” with Marie in mind. Nérval, best known perhaps as the French translator of Goethe’s “Faust”, wrote two short stories with Marie as a model. Berlioz also wrote two stories in his “Evenings with the Orchestra” in which he presents a not-so-thinly-disguised Marie unflatteringly, even violently killing her off in one of them. But then, Berlioz had been jilted by Marie for the older, successful Camille Pleyel, heir to the successful piano firm.
Which brings us to the soap opera in which Marie constantly seemed to place herself. Where to begin? That Berlioz, on discovering that he was betrayed, tried to kill Marie, her mother and her new husband, disguised as a maid? That Chopin returned home to his apartment, only to discover Liszt and Pleyel apparently having a tryst? That Robert Schumann’s lavish praise of Marie’s performance frustrated Clara? And that when Robert went to visit his wife’s rival, he was led into a dark chamber, where Marie greeted him while still in bed? Ah, those artists--how they lived with abandon.
If you’re interested in reading more, let me know.