(b Rostrevor, Co. Down, 27 July 1953). Irish composer. She studied at Queen’s University, Belfast (BMus) and Bristol University (MMus), where her composition teachers included Raymond Warren. In 1983 she was appointed deputy principal of the Dublin College of Music. Sabbatical leave and a fellowship (1988–90) enabled her to pursue doctoral studies in composition at Rutgers University, New Jersey (PhD 1991), where she studied with Wuorinen and Moevs, among others. Her honours include a fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts and membership in Aosdána (1996), Ireland’s academy of creative artists.
Farrell’s style is characterized by a concentration on texture and timbre within an atonal idiom. She has been particularly influenced by the music of the medieval and Baroque periods; her employment of neo-Baroque techniques, such as polyrhythm, fugato and the juxtaposition of instrumental groupings, is particularly evident in the Concerto grosso (1988). Exaudi voces (1991) represented Ireland at the International Rostrum of Composers in Paris in 1993. Many of the texts set in her vocal music are taken from Latin and old Irish sources, or from the work of Dublin writer, Anne Hartigan.
Orch: A Day at the Races (An Afternoon Flutter), orch, 1976 [arr. for concert band, 1994); Popcorn Ov., 1977; Threnody, 1979; Romanza, fl, orch, 1980; Concerto grosso, 2 vn, vc, str, 1988; Sinfonia, 1990; Soundshock, concert band, 1992; Island of Women (1996)
Vocal: 11 Celtic Epigrams, S, orch, 1976; Moods (W.B. Yeats, J.M. Plunkett, trad.), SSATB, 1978; Songs of Death (A. Hartigan), Mez, pf, 1980; Venus Turned (3 Feminist Lovesongs) (Hartigan), Bar, pf, 1987; A Garland for the President (Sancta Maria) (anon.), S, SSATB, 1990; Windfalls (S. Heaney), S, fl, cl, vn, Irish hp, perc, 1990; Exaudi voces (anon.), S, A, T, B, SATB, 1991; Exultet (Boethius, Easter exultet), S, T, SSATB, orch, 1991; The Lovesong of Isabella and Elias Cairel (anon.), Mez, ob, va, glock, 1992; The Silken Bed (N.N. Dhomhnaill), Mez, vn, vc, hpd, 1993; Caritas abundat (Hildegard of Bingen), 2 S, SATB, (1995); O Rubor Sanguinis, SSATB, 1998
(b Willimantic, CT, 13 Feb 1920). American soprano. She studied with Merle Alcock and Eleanor McLellan, and concentrated on concert singing until her belated operatic début in 1956 as Santuzza in Tampa, Florida. That year she sang Leonora (Il trovatore) in San Francisco, returning in 1958 as Cherubini’s Medea; Chicago appearances followed, and, in 1960, her much delayed Metropolitan début as Gluck’s Alcestis. Her relationship with the Metropolitan management was not easy and she sang there sporadically for only five seasons. Although her voice, temperament and histrionic gifts would have suited the great Wagnerian roles admirably, she sang Brünnhilde and Isolde only in concert performances, notably with the New York PO under Bernstein. She was equally celebrated for her singing of Bach (with the Bach Aria Group) and the blues (at the 1959 Spoleto Festival and on subsequent recordings). She was an intelligent actress; her voice was huge, warm, vibrant and, apart from difficulties at the extreme top in later years, remarkably well controlled. Her recordings, especially of Verdi and Wagner, demonstrate the imposing strength and vitality of her singing.
(b Marseilles, 9 April 1794; d Paris, 31 Jan 1865). Music publisher, flautist, bibliophile and scholar. Determined on a career in music despite his family’s tradition in commerce, he arrived in Paris in 1815; soon an appointment as second flautist at the Théâtre Italien propelled him directly into Parisian musical life. When the Conservatoire was reorganized in the following year, he undertook further studies on the flute and began to learn the oboe. By the early 1820s he had established himself as a teacher and begun to compose flute music, some of which – a book of sonatas and a concerto, among other works – he issued from his own newly formed publishing concern. In 1821 he married Louise Dumont (see §(2) below). He remained active as a publisher during the 1830s, specializing in editions of Hummel and Beethoven. His firm also brought out his wife’s first piano works.
Stimulated by the revelations of Fétis’s concerts historiques (1832–5), Farrenc became an ardent advocate of and researcher into early music. He dissolved his business enterprise about 1840 and devoted his last 25 years to scholarship, concentrating on older music and treatises but also studying the musical thought of the recent past and of his contemporaries. His unusual library, acquired in the course of this research, was sold after his death; the sale catalogue lists 1622 items including rare editions of Dante and other literary monuments as well as an impressive collection of musical memorabilia.
Apart from critical writings and a number of music history articles in French periodicals (notably La France musicale during the 1850s), Farrenc’s significance rests on his contributions to two works: the second edition of Fétis’s Biographie universelle (1860–65), for which he helped in the editing and revision of the initial entries, using the results of his own research, and Le trésor des pianistes, a comprehensive anthology of harpsichord and piano music from a repertory encompassing 300 years. Issued between 1861 and 1874, this 23-volume collection originated as a joint undertaking with Louise Farrenc. When Farrenc died in 1865 only eight volumes had appeared but his wife continued the project alone, completing it a year before her death.
(2) (Jeanne-)Louise Farrenc [née Dumont]
(b Paris, 31 May 1804; d Paris, 15 Sept 1875). Composer, pianist, teacher and scholar, wife of (1) Aristide Farrenc. A descendant of a long line of royal artists (including several women painters) and a sister of the laureate sculptor Auguste Dumont, she showed artistic and musical talent of a high order at a very early age. By mid-adolescence she had developed into a pianist of professional calibre as well as an exceptional theory student and promising composer. At 15 she began training in composition and orchestration with Reicha at the Paris Conservatoire; her marriage in 1821 and subsequent travels interrupted her studies, but she resumed intensive work with Reicha a few years later.
Farrenc’s earliest published compositions for piano appeared intermittently between 1825 and 1839; all were issued by her husband and several were published in London and Bonn. Of special note are the Air russe varié, reviewed appreciatively in 1836 by Schumann in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (‘so sure in outline, so logical in development … that one must fall under their [the variations’] charm, especially since a subtle aroma of romanticism hovers over them’), and the 30 Etudes in all the major and minor keys, extolled by the critic Maurice Bourges (La revue et gazette musicale, 1840), who prophesied that the collection would become a piano classic, ‘not only to develop technique but also to mould taste’. The ensuing years substantiated Bourges’ prediction: in 1845 the Conservatoire adopted the Etudes as required study for all piano classes, and the collection was reissued in 1886.
Farrenc’s orchestral compositions comprise two overtures (1834) and three symphonies completed in the 1840s – all unpublished, although each work had more than one Paris performance, and there were single performances in Copenhagen, Brussels and Geneva. Her most notable contribution is the chamber music, uniformly fine in craftsmanship and exceedingly tasteful and attractive, if a shade unadventurous. Two piano quintets (1839 and 1840) established her reputation among critics and cognoscenti; both works were performed by the composer many times in the following years at musical soirées and matinées. In 1844 Farrenc completed two piano trios, also frequently performed and received with generous critical praise. Her productions of 1848–58 include two violin sonatas, a cello sonata, two more trios and two works for unusual combinations – a nonet for wind and strings, and a sextet for piano and wind. Despite the limited audience for instrumental music in opera-dominated Paris, the nonet catapulted its composer to near-celebrity, the more so because the young (but already legendary) violinist Joachim took part in the 1850 première. The Institut de France honoured Farrenc in 1861 and 1869 by awarding her the Chartier Prize for her contributions to chamber music.
In 1842 Auber, the director of the Conservatoire, appointed Louise Farrenc professor of piano, a post she retained until her retirement on 1 January 1873. The only woman musician at the Conservatoire in the 19th century to hold a permanent chair of this rank and importance, she distinguished herself by the excellence of her teaching, demonstrated by the high proportion of her pupils who won competitions and went on to professional careers. Outstanding among them was the Farrencs’ daughter (3) Victorine Louise.
After Victorine’s death in 1859 Louise Farrenc immersed herself in the task of compiling and editing Le trésor des pianistes, initially in collaboration with her husband and, after his death, as sole editor. She shared his ideal of reviving earlier keyboard music and helped to make it a reality through a number of séances historiques, in which she and her pupils performed selections from the 17th- and 18th-century repertory. From her own research and experimentation she had gained a remarkable comprehension of the essential problems of early music performance style, and her extended introduction to the first volume of Le trésor, ‘Des signes d’agrément’, was issued as a separate manual entitled Traité des abréviations (1895).
Farrenc’s role in music history carries significance beyond that ordinarily accorded to competent minor composers. Having worked in a society whose women musicians attained prominence mainly as performers, and in a cultural environment which valued only theatre and salon music, she merits recognition as a pioneering scholar and a forerunner of the French musical renaissance of the 1870s.
Edition: Louise Farrenc: Kritische Ausgabe Orchester- und Kammermusik sowie ausgewählte Klavierwerke, ed. F. Hoffmann (Wilhelmshaven, 1998– ) [H]
printed works published in Paris
Variations brillantes sur un theme d’Aristide Farrenc, op.2 (1825); Grandes variations sur … Le premier pas, op.4 (1825); Variations sur un air de la Cenerentola [Rossini], op.5 (?1829–30); Variations sur … O ma tendre musette, op.6 (1828); Air suisse varié, op.7 (1832); 3 rondos faciles, op.8 (1828); Rondo brillant sur un theme du Pirate [Bellini], op.9 (1833); Variations brillantes sur un thème du Colporteur [Onslow], op.10 (1828); Rondo brillant sur des thèmes d’Eurianthe [Weber], op.11 (1833)
Variations sur une galopade favorite, op.12 (1833); Rondo brillant sur une cavatine de Zelmire [Rossini], op.13 (1833); Les italiennes: 3 cavatines … variées [Bellini, Carafa], op.14 (1835); Variations brillantes sur la cavatina d’Anna Bolena de Donizetti ‘Nel veder la tua costanza’, op.15 (?1835); Les allemandes: 2 mélodies … variées, op.16 (?1835–6); Air russe varié, op.17 (?1835–6); La sylphide, rondo valse sur un motif de Masini, op.18 (c1836); Souvenir des Huguenots, fantaisie et variations, op.19 (c1837)
Les jours heureux: 4 rondinos, op.21 (c1837); Variations sur un thème du Comte Gallenberg, op.25 (c1838), also arr. pf, str qt/orch; 30 études, op.26 (c1839); Hymne russe varié, op.27 (c1839); Variations sur un thème allemand, op.28 (c1839); Variations sur un thème des Capuleti [Bellini], 4 hands, op.29 (c1839)
12 études brillantes, op.41 (1858); 20 études de moyenne difficulté, op.42 (1855); Mélodie, op.43 (1858); Scherzo, op.47 (1858); Valse brillante, op.48 (?1859–63); Nocturne, op.49 (?1859–63); 25 études faciles, op.50 (?1859–63); 2e valse brillante, op.51 (1864)
Chbr: Variations concertantes sur un air suisse, pf, vn, op.20 (?1835–6); Qnt, a, vn, va, vc, db, pf, op.30 (1842); Qnt, E, vn, va, vc, db, pf, op.31 (?1844–51); Pf Trio, E, op.33 (?1850–55); Pf Trio, d, op.34 (?1850–55); Vn Sonata, c, op.37 (?1850–55); Nonet, E, op.38, 1849, Pn; Vn Sonata, A, op.39 (?1850–55); Sextet, c, fl, ob, cl, bn, hn, pf, op.40, 1851–2, Pn, also arr. str qt, db; Trio, E, cl/vn, vc, pf, op.44 (1861); Trio, e, fl/vn, vc, pf, op.45 (1862); Vc Sonata, B, op.46 (1861); Str Qt, Pn
Vocal: few works, most unpubd
Le trésor des pianistes (Paris, 1861–74) [xxiii vols.; vols.i–viii with A. Farrenc]; introduction pubd separately as Traité des abréviations (Paris, 1895)
(3) Victorine Louise Farrenc
(b Paris, 23 Feb 1826; d Paris, 3 Jan 1859). Pianist, daughter of (1) Aristide Farrenc and (2) Louise Farrenc. She studied the piano with her mother, entered the Paris Conservatoire in 1843, won the premier prix for piano the following year and performed the ‘Emperor’ Concerto at the Brussels and Paris concerts which introduced Louise Farrenc’s First Symphony in 1845. Her promise was denied fulfilment by a disabling illness that led to her early death.
Catalogue de la bibliothèque musicale théorique et pratique (Paris, 1866/R)
C.B.: ‘Nécrologie: Madame Louise Farrenc’, RGMP, xlii (1875), 301 only
A.Marmontel: Les pianistes célèbres (Paris, 1878, 2/1887 [dated 1888])
G.Vattier: Une famille d’artistes: les Dumont (1660–1884) (Paris, 1890)
M.Brenet: ‘Quatre femmes musiciennes’, L’art, iv (1894), 183
H.Barré: ‘Farrenc (Jacques-Hippolyte-Aristide …)’, Les Bouches-du-Rhône: encyclopédie départementale, ed. P. Masson, II/xi (Marseilles, 1913)