Introduction to The Life and Work
of the French Composer Marie Jaëll
|by Lea Schmidt-Roger|
and the "Valses - quatre mains"
Marie Trautmann-Jaëll (1846 - 1925) was a renowned pianist, composer, and pedagogue. Born in Steinseltz, a small village in Alsace north of Strasbourg, France, Marie Trautmann commenced piano lessons at the age of six, and by nine was concertizing throughout France, Germany, and Switzerland.
At sixteen, after several years of study with the respected pianist and teacher, Heinrich Herz, she won the coveted First Prize at the Paris Conservatoire.
In 1866, Marie Trautmann married pianist Alfred Jaëll. They toured Europe, performing solos, duos, and their own compositions, as well as works by contemporary masters. In 1871, Madame Jaëll's first piano pieces were published. Some eighty compositions followed, including two piano concertos, piano and vocal pieces, and works for various other instrumental combinations.
Only fifteen years after their marriage, Alfred died.
The years 1883-1886 are noteworthy because of the service rendered to the great pianist-composer Franz Liszt in Weimar. An old friend, Mme Jaëll aided him for some months with his correspondence and was privy to teaching sessions that included some of the finest pianists of the day.
Then the productive 1890s. Jaëll's repertory was immense. She was reportedly the first pianist to perform all of Beethoven's piano sonatas in Paris. In addition, she gave concerts that included all of the piano works of Liszt, and then in 1904, the entire body of Schumann's piano pieces.
Around this same time, Mme. Jaëll became intensely interested in piano pedagogy, possibly to better understand her bouts with tendinitis. Some reviews of her concerts at this time were uncomplimentary. Perhaps tendinitis contributed to unsteady performances. She stated, however, that her principal goal in research was to communicate to posterity the great technique of Franz Liszt. This resulted in eleven books on piano technique. She died in Paris in 1925 at the age of seventy-nine.
The "Valses … quatre mains", Op. 8 were premiered by Franz Liszt and Camille Saint-Saèns, around 1878, and published by F.E.C. Leuckart, Leipzig. While Saint-Saèns tutored Marie Jaëll in composition, Franz Liszt became her musical mentor. Liszt revered the "Valses" to the degree that he composed variations (unpublished) based upon them.
Marielle and Katia Lebèque have recorded six of the thirteen "Valses" in 1979 for the Strasbourg Bibliothéque Nationale et Universitaire. Most of Jaëll's correspondence, compositions, books, and articles are also located in the Strasbourg library, Alsatian division.
Four-handed literature was as much a part of Jaëll's repertory as solo literature. She concertized with duo piano and four-handed pieces from the age of fourteen, and later she and husband Alfred transcribed and performed much of the contemporary four-handed literature.
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Last Updated February 4, 2002