Athénaïs Paulian: Airs et variations

Op. 1

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Until quite recently, there was not much information available on the identity of the composer Athénaïs Paulian. There is only one known composition with her name, the current one. We know that she must have been a popular personality in the 1820s in Paris. Antoine de Lhoyer dedicated to her his Duo Concertant pour deux Guitares Op. 44. of 1826. Dionisio Aguado dedicated to her his Huit petites pièces, op. 3, in 1827, Fernando Sor dedicated to her his Trois Pièces de Société Op. 33 of 1828. Her brother Eugène Paulian, the dedicatee of the present work, was a prolific composer for the guitar who published a considerable number of guitar compositions. He dedicated his Variations on Gentil housard, Op. 2  to Sophie Vautrin, the future Madame François de Fossa. Perhaps as a return sign of friendship and admiration, de Fossa dedicated to Eugène Paulian his own Douze Divertissemens Op. 15, here the waltz N° 8 is on the same Gentil Housard theme. All these reciprocal dedications tell us that this was a small group of friends and acquaintances in Paris during the early decades of the nineteenth century, of which Athénaïs Paulian must have been a significant member. Marie-Ursule-Athénaïs Paulian was born in 1802 in the little town of Colmar (Alsace), some 80 kilometers to the southwest of Strasbourg. She married in 1837 a certain Romain Martin. She died in 1875 or 1876.

Angelica Catalani (1780–1849) was an Italian soprano of great renown, who, besides her operatic activities all over Europe, was known for her virtuosic vocal interpretations of instrumental popular themes.

The four themes used by Paulian are as follows:

  1. Tema di Mozart. The theme used here, made famous by the variations Op. 9 by Fernando Sor, comes towards the end of Act I of Mozart’s opera Die Zauberflöte, [The Magic Flute, KV 620).] It is sung there by Monostatos and his slaves to the words of Das klinget so herrlich, accompanied on the glockenspiel by the famous Magic Bells theme.
  2. Tema di Rode. Paulian’s  variations seem to be an almost direct transcription of the original Air varié Op.10  by Pierre Rode (1774–1830).   
  3. Tema sul Margine d’un rio The tune goes back to the eighteenth century and during the time of its highest popularity it was always associated with Italy.
  4. Tema La Biondina. The lyrics of this song, known original as La Biondina in Gondoleta, were first authored by Anton Maria Lamberti in 1788, in the specific dialect of Venice. The music is attributed to Johann Simon (Giovanni Simone) Mayr (1763–1845.)

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