Hélène de Montgeroult – La Marquise et la Marseillaise

Jérôme Dorival. Éditions Symétrie, Lyon. 450 pages. 40, 00 €. ISBN 978-2-914373-16-6. Novembre 2006. French.


Recognized in France as the best pianist of her time, Hélène de Montgeroult (1764-1836) was appointed professor of piano at the Conservatoire of Paris in 1795, although she never gave a public concert. “As a “free woman”, she adopted truly modern values, refusing to take refuge in the status of victim despite adventures as incredible as they were unhappy. His life led him to compose a music of interiority refusing the “virtuosity trade” then in full expansion. By her alternative values and this distance with her time, without artistic concessions or compromises, Hélène de Montgeroult now belongs to ours. Qualified as a “learned musician” and therefore little understood in France at the time, she nevertheless composed music where emotion is deeply mixed with science.

She loved to hear Italian opera as much as she loved to play her contemporaries Mozart and Haydn and was the first to introduce pianists to Johann Sebastian Bach’s style. His monumental Cours complet, begun around 1788 and published around 1812, also shows that the romantic piano was already present in Paris during the Revolution and the Empire – long before the rise of Mendelssohn and Schumann.