Is there a link between Chausson's
and the doomed
romance of his friend Faure?
Jessica Duchen
The first manuscript of Chausson's Poeme bears the
inscription Le chant de Vamour triomphant. It indicates
one primary spur behind the work: Ivan Turgenev's
The Song of Triumphant Love, a short story that has
clear resonances with the Russian author's long-
running emotional attachment to the mezzo-soprano
and composer Pauline Viardot. But there may be
another, hitherto unknown, musical link in the origin
of Turgenev's story: a prequel that casts the Poeme
in a light gleaming with irony. It takes the form of
a delicate three-way connection involving another
composer, Gabriel Faure.
In 1843, at the age of 25, Turgenev attended a
performance by Pauline Viardot when she first sang
in St Petersburg, and fell in love with her at once.
She was then 22, but was already one of the most
celebrated mezzo-sopranos of her day. In 1840 she
had married the writer and theatre director Louis
Viardot, 21 years her senior - on her side, a match of
convenience rather than love. Turgenev's passion for
Pauline lasted his whole life, sometimes apparently
unrequited, sometimes not. Gossip suggested that
Pauline's second daughter, Claudie, and son, Paul,
might have been Turgenev's; the truth has never been
established. But Paul, a fine musician, shared with
Turgenev a quality lacking in the uncommunicative
Louis Viardot: he was a great raconteur.
Turgenev took up residence close to the Viardots,
moving around Europe to be near them, first to Baden-
Baden, then London, then back to France once again.
\ t >
friend of the Viardot family
Gabriel Faure . . . friend of
and Viardot family, suitor to Marianne Viardot
Ernest Chausson
friend of
Pauline Viardot
object of Turgenev's affection
Louis Viardot
husband of Pauline Viardot
Claudie Viardot
daughter of Pauline and Louis (or possibly Turgenev)
son of Pauline and Louis (or possibly Turgenev)
Marianne Viardot
daughter of Pauline and Louis, courted by Fame
Alphonse Duvernoy
husband of Marianne Viardot
Muzzio (possibly modelled on Faure)
Valeria (possibly modelled on Marianne Viardot)
married to Fabio, object of
s affections
The Strad January 2005