Misia Sert – Music above all
Misia Sert came from a musical home and she learnt to play piano even before she could write. Her grandfather was Adrien-Francois Servais, a famous Belgian cellist and composer. As a young girl she was taught piano by the composer Gabriel Fauré, whom she reduced to tears when he discovered that she intended to give up the prospect of a career as a concert pianist. During her lifetime, in five decades of music transformation, she associated with the most inspiring composers of her time, including Debussy, Fauré, Ravel, Stravinsky, Satie and Poulenc. Paintings and prints by Vuillard, Bonnard and Vallotton depict Misia playing piano to her mesmerised listeners and to us are a reminder of the recitals she used to give to her friends and family. Misia never follow her professional career as a pianist. She once said “I hate playing. Because I love music”. In early thirties in Paris, however, Misia organised a series of concerts for two pianos with the famous pianist Marcelle Meyer. It was a great success. During one of the concerts, Francis Poulenc whose 9 pieces dedicated to Polish people in Paris she also played, offered to turn the music pages. She later gave a concert where Princess de Polignac – the last great mecenas of arts played second piano and Serge Lifar danced on top of both pianos to the Afternoon of the Faun. Misia Sert was a valued artistic advisor to Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes.
Misia Sert at 60 (right) with Marcelle Meyer after concert given in 1933 (Vogue – 1934)
Felix Vallotton – La Symphonie, 1897
Misia associated with the most influential composers of her time and this is some of her favourite music.
Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune - 1894
Estampes – 1. Pagodes – 1903
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
Le Tombeau de Couperin – V.Menuet – 1914
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)
Suite Italienne (after Pulcinella) for cello and piano – 1931. Stravinsky wrote the ballet Pulcinella for Ballets Russes in 1920.
The Firebird – The Dance of the Firebird – commissioned for Ballets Russes – 1910
Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)
Sonata for cello and piano op. 143 – 1940-48, dedicated to Misia Sert.
Erik Satie (1866-1925)
Je Te Veux – 1902