References to Jane Bathori (1877-1970) and her contributions are sprinkled throughout the biographies and memoirs of early twentieth-century French musicians. Gathered together, they provide a cohesive account of an interpreter who composers valued for her immediate understanding of their music, and a performer whose artistry led those who heard her to a similar understanding and appreciation of that music.
Although she claimed impartiality, those who followed her career felt that Bathori had a special affinity for the music of ””Debussy, which she often sang to her own piano accompaniment. The fact that she had the opportunity to work with the composer on virtually all of his songs makes her advice to singers especially valuable.
This introduction provides a concise portrait of Bathori as she was known to her contemporaries, and offers an account of her interaction with Debussy, the composer whose songs are the focus of her sole interpretive publication.
Bathori was born in Paris to parents of modest circumstances who had neither musical background nor connections. She aspired to become a concert pianist, but eventually realized that her small hands (she was under five feet tall) could not encompass some of the standard repertoire. She therefore began to study voice with Mme. Brunet-Lafleur, wife of the famous conductor Charles Lamoureux. In 1897 the well-known tenor Emile Engel heard her Paris debut, which was accompanied by composer Reynaldo Hahn. Im-
Jane Bathori's real name was Jeanne Berthier. When she began her career there was
another singer in Paris by that name so her teacher suggested that she change hers.
Wishing to keep the same initials, she began looking under the B's in the Larousse
dictionary and quickly came across the name Bathori, which sounded euphonious.
Her discovery that among the members of this famous Transylvanian family was a
princess who supposedly enjoyed bathing in the blood of children did not dissuade
her from taking the name.
Reynaldo Hahn, primarily a composer, was also a singer, pianist, conductor and
writer. He began composing songs in 1887, and operas in 1898. In 1912 he wrote
the ballet Le Dieu bleu for Diaghilev; his most admired opera, Ciboulette, dates from
1923; he became Director of the Opéra in 1945. His published writings include Du
Chant (1920) and Journal d'un musicien (1933).
Bathori and he became close friends as a result of their musical affinity—she
spoke of their ability to sing the same piece, playing at two pianos, in perfect unity.
She gave the first performances of several of his works, including the Pastorale de
Noël (1908), and Le Ruban dénoué (1915) for two pianos; and included two of his
songs on her recordings of 1929-30.