Discovering a Very Musical Ancestor
In 1984 Dr Jillian White, then Senior Music Producer of BBC Radio 3 in Bristol, visited the National Trust property of Waddesdon Manor, near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. The house was built by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild between 1877 and 1883. Ferdinand was the son of Baron Anselm von Rothschild and the younger brother of Mathilde de Rothschild. Dr White noticed an interesting volume of music on the piano in the morning room and discovered a collection of 30 songs, which was in a bound volume published by Durand. She did some research and discovered that Frédéric Chopin had taught Mathilde as a young girl and she decided to present a programme of the songs by Mathilde, Baroness Willy von Rothschild, interspersed by those of her teacher. I just happened to turn on the radio at the very end of the programme, catching the last song, which was Les papillons – the butterflies, thinking what a lovely song it was and wondering who it was by - I then heard the announcer saying that the songs by Mathilde, Baroness Willy von Rothschild were receiving their first broadcast performance. By 1985 I was beginning to build a career as a recital and oratorio soloist but was not aware of the existence of such a talented ancestor, so you can imagine my surprise and curiosity. I immediately talked to various relatives and cousins who said they had her music tucked away somewhere and I was able to collect together enough to see that her output was obviously quite considerable.
Hannah Mathilde von Rothschild was born in Frankfurt on the 5th of March 1832. Her mother Charlotte, was an English born Rothschild and her father Anselm, was from the Austrian branch. Known to her family as ‘Matty’, she showed her musical talent early, being an excellent pianist and composer.
At the time of her birth, the Rothschild banking business was flourishing in London, Paris, Frankfurt, Vienna and Naples. As their success increased, so did their social status and their elevation in nineteenth-century society meant that they could employ the best music teachers. Mathilde spent her childhood between Vienna and Frankfurt where the family lived. Frédéric Chopin was a frequent performer at the salon of James and Betty de Rothschild, in rue Laffitte in Paris. He confided to a friend, that he ‘loved the house of Rothschild and the house of Rothschild loved him.’ Chopin taught various Rothschild ladies, including the 16 year-old Mathilde who took lessons from him during one of her frequent visits to her cousins. Chopin was so impressed that even during his last illness, when he took few pupils, he found time for ‘the Rothschild girl’.
The songs of Mathilde have a carefree charm all their own, essentially romantic but with a depth of feeling and pathos well beyond the parlour songs of her contemporaries. Mathilde’s work was published by the major houses of the day under her own name as ‘La Baronne Willy de Rothschild’ or ‘Freifrau Willy von Rothschild’. She was asked by many leading singers to compose for them, including Christine Nillson, Selma Kurz and Adelina Patti. Her most famous song was Si vous n'avez rien à me dire, was written for her friend Adelina Patti; Patti was often asked to sing this piece as an encore and made a recording of it in 1905.
In 1867 the esteemed musician Sir Charles Hallé told Louisa de Rothschild that ‘no-one can have an idea of your cousin’s rare and delightful talent; her compositions are charming, full of tender grace and sparkling originality.’ Mathilde had three daughters and led a long and fulfilled life, surviving her husband by 23 years. She was a truly gifted musician and a composer worthy of greater recognition.
Charlotte de Rothschild © 2013
‘I have admired the artistry and vocal talents of Charlotte de Rothschild since she came to the Royal College of Music as a post-graduate...and am especially pleased that her CD includes songs by Mathilde de Rothschild, whose compositions deserve to be more widely known. The delightful songs on this disc are beautifully constructed and immediately attractive. Each song reflects the mood of the words with telling effect, and Charlotte de Rothschild instinctively responds to the subtle demands of the songs with well-judged rubato.’
Sir David Willcocks
From the Catalogue
Reviews of The Apostles, recorded by the Hallé at The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, May 2012
‘Sir Mark Elder’s Hallé performance last May is of such insight, splendour and breadth of interpretative vision, that one can’t imagine it being surpassed.”Michael Kennedy,The Daily Telegraph 5 Stars
‘It was thrilling to experience the mingling of solos, two or three, or a dozen or so voices, with the Mystic Chorus formed by the massive and resonant Hallé Choir and the fresh-voiced Hallé Youth Choir. The culmination of the work and, indeed, every stage of it, was superbly paced and managed by Elder and his orchestra.’Hilary Finch, The Times Four Stars
‘Elder’s dramatic sense of the whole structure and of the significance of every detail made it all thrillingly compelling.... the choral sound was truly imposing.’‘Elder’s dramatic sense of the whole structure and of the significance of every detail made it all thrillingly compelling.... the choral sound was truly imposing.’ Andrew Clements,The Guardian 5 Stars
UNTIL 31ST MAY 2013
"This is quite simply the best performance ever of The Apostles on disc. Those who enjoyed Elder’s Proms performance and BBC broadcast will find their favourable impressions reinforced, and indeed bettered. Those who found the Boult recording good but not overwhelming will find this an answer to their prayers, with soloists just as good and a much better chorus."
Paul Corfield Godfrey, musicweb-internatinal.com
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Until 31st May 2013