Hello everyone, and welcome to the blog of my MFA Extended Project at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.
Since September 2013, I’ve been working on my Project, which has focused on researching the salon of American princess and music patron, Winnaretta Singer de Polignac.
Daughter of the inventor of the Singer sewing machine, Winnaretta Singer spent most of her adult life sponsoring young musical talents in Paris. She helped many composers at the beginning of their careers by financing their works and by offering her salon as a performance platform for their compositions. Winnaretta’s Parisian salon was attended by many contemporary composers such as Gabriel Fauré, Igor Stravinsky, Claude Debussy, Jean Francaix, Sergei Prokofiev, Maurice Ravel, Manuel De Falla and Nadia Boulanger. Beyond the sphere of classical music, her salon was also known and frequented by poets and writers, in particular Marcel Proust, Jean Cocteau, Paul Verlaine and Colette.
Alongside academic research in this field, I have also been organising salon gatherings with performances of chamber music of the years 1870 to 1940. With the contribution of over 25 musicians, we have performed music by composers such as Gabriel Fauré, Claude Debussy, Igor Stravinsky, Maurice Ravel, Sergei Prokofiev, Henrietta Renié, Camille Saint-Saens and Francis Poulenc.
By performing specific repertoire, my aim was to recreate the atmosphere of Winnaretta’s salon, and to present modern-day audiences with an experience quite unfamiliar to us nowadays. We are used to attending concerts and public exams/recitals, where the players provide music for the listeners, but we hardly ever witness informal music performances where both the performers and the audience sit next to each other as part of the same social context. Due to our ingrained familiarity with formal concert performances, this experiment has proven quite challenging, both for the players and for the audience. Beyond my MFA project, I’m hoping to be able to carry on organising concerts and events in the future, in order to provide more audiences with such special musical experiences.
I sincerely hope you enjoy the music and please feel free to write your thoughts and impressions before you leave the blog!
Stella Di Virgilio