Vicomtesse Marie de Grandval: A composer with pen names galore

At the end of my January blog post about 19th-century French composer Louise Angélique Bertin, I promised that a feature was forthcoming about her contemporary Marie Felicie Clémence de Reiset, the Vicomtesse de Grandval (1828/30-1907). I can’t wait to share some Music Division treasures of hers with you in honor of Women’s History Month!

Marie Clémence de Reiset first studied composition with German composer Friedrich Flotow (1812-1883) during his first few years breaking into the Parisian opera scene, and later with Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921). Before Marie Clémence de Reiset gained her aristocratic title of “Vicomtesse” through marriage, the pianist, vocalist, and composer was a beloved performer-composer in Parisian chamber music salons. She was programmed in her lifetime alongside male contemporaries programmed far more often today than she is, like César Franck (1822-1890) and Camille Saint-Saëns.

Marie de Grandval appears in the Parisian musical press through the 1880s as a performer and composer. She composed for virtually every genre: operas, choral works, songs for voice and piano, orchestral works, and instrumental chamber music. Personally, I adore playing her 1876 Suite for flute and piano – which absolutely gives Charles-Marie Widor’s Suite, Op. 34 from 1877 a run for its money – and Villanelle in G minor for high voice, flute, and piano.

After Marie married military officer Charles de Grandval, her reputation and musical productivity thankfully did not diminish. Her established fame made the marriage newsworthy in the March 23, 1851 issue of La Revue et gazette musicale de Paris, where she is referred to as a composer (“compositeur”). A May 9, 1852 review in that publication refers to her as a vocalist, pianist, and composer, and expresses happiness that marriage did not force her to neglect her talents: “Dédaignant la phrase consacrée: Depuis mon mariage, j’ai négligé tout ça, Mme de Grandval, née de Reiset, la cantatrice, la pianiste-compositrice au talent gracieux, inspiré, mélodique et suffisamment scientifique, n’a heureusement négligé tout ça depuis elle mariage.”

Inscribed title page of Le sou de Lise by Caroline Blangy (Marie de Grandval). Call number M1503 G748 S6 (Case).

Marie de Grandval was held in high regard by her contemporaries; composers Saint-Saëns, Charles Gounod (1818-1893), and Pauline Viardot García (1821-1910) all dedicated musical works to her. Grandval herself even dedicated her lyric poem for choir and orchestra La Forêt to Saint-Saëns. Despite prominent musical dedications to “Mme C. de Grandval,” her own compositions varied greatly with the name she chose for publication! Her pen names were Caroline Blangy, Clémence Valgrand, Maria Felicita de Reiset, and Maria Reiset de Tesier. The Music Division has scores printed in Marie de Grandval’s lifetime with pen names, including ones with handwritten dedications.

Title page of Messe by Marie de Grandval inscribed to Georges Bizet. Call number M2013.G784-M4 (Case).

A Grandval publication of note in our collection is her 1860 one-act operetta Le sou de Lise. This piano-vocal reduction is published under one of her pen names, Caroline Blangy. You can see at the top of the title page that there is a signed dedication as “C. de Grandval” to an individual whose name has been crossed out. Another wonderful example in our collections is a likely 1867 edition of Marie de Grandval’s Messe in keyboard-vocal reduction. Her signed dedication at the top of the title page indicates that this copy was a personal gift to French composer Georges Bizet (1838-1875); it even has his blue ownership stamp! The inscription reads, “A monsieur G. Bizet souvenir amical, C. de Grandval.” This score is bound with a second gift from Grandval to Bizet, the piano-vocal reduction of her 1863 opera Les fiancés de Rosa, also inscribed at the top of the title page. Look carefully at the cover, though – it is published under one of Grandval’s pen names, Clémence Valgrand!

Cover of Les fiancés de Rosa by Clémence Valgrand (Marie de Grandval) bound with Messe. Call number M2013.G784 M4 (Case).

Inscribed title page of Les fiancés de Rosa by Marie de Grandval. Second inscribed copy. Call number M1503.G748 F5 (Case).

Inscribed title page of La Forêt by Marie de Grandval. Printed dedication to Camille Saint-Saëns. Call number M1533.G752 F7 (Case).

The Music Division has a second copy of Les fiancés de Rosa inscribed from Grandval to a man whose name is difficult to read, so it was not transcribed fully in our original card catalog entry for that reason. I can definitely make out “Souvenir amical de l’auteur à Mr …” I believe the rest of the inscription is “Ph. de Cuvillon.” Could this be the violinist Jean Baptiste Philémon de Cuvillon who taught violin at the Paris Conservatoire and performed in Parisian salons with Marie de Grandval? If this is indeed the violinist Cuvillon, it could provide further support for my sleuthing of a second inscription. Remember the work La Fôret dedicated to Saint-Saëns? Our copy has an inscription at the top that I believe says, “A Monsieur Marsick amical souvenir C. de Grandval.” Could this be another violin professor from the Paris Conservatoire, Martin Pierre Marsick (1847-1924)?

Readers, my assignment to you for Women’s History Month is to solve these inscriptions in the comments below!

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.