Jane Bathori, mezzo-soprano, was a central figure in promoting avant-garde music her entire career. She was constantly associated with new music. Even at the age of 74, she was organizing contemporary music concerts. Jane was special because she was an intelligent artist who felt that she did not have “the right to ignore the works of one’s time, literary as well as musical,” (Emerson 231)1. Jane spoke these words during a radio interview in 1953, very effectively summing up her career.
Jane’s experience with music began with piano, but turned to voice when she discovered that her tiny hands would not allow her to go much further. She turned to voice, and never looked back. Her premiere in Paris was with Reynaldo Hahn when she was 20. She continued to perform in Paris and Brussels, becoming more widely known with her performance of Ravel’s “Asie” from Shéhérazade. She became very involved with performing the music of “Les Six”, especially while she was the director of Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier from 1917-1919. Eventually when Les Six became more independent from each other and more famous, she sought ought newer and younger composers, still constantly supporting new music around her. She spent lots of time in Argentina, singing new French music and then bringing Argentinian music home. When she couldn’t sing, she directed ensembles and played piano.
Jane Bathori was “ modern French song incarnate,” (Emerson 239). Her influence on the music of France in the beginning of the 20th century was enormous for a single person. Her voice wasn’t the most incredible or beautiful, but she was an “accomplished musician, a brilliant and perfect singer, an artist full of intelligence and sensitivity,” (Emerson 232). Without her willingness and selflessness to perform the works of new French composers so artistically and sensitively, perhaps their songs would have been lost.
The information most useful to me so far has been found in the secondary source of the book Five Centuries of Women Singers (quoted above). The first source I found was a New Grove article about her. It was quite short, so I looked for more. I found the Emerson book through Bridge. It is a book that has short chapters on the careers of 20 women from the late 16th to the middle of the 20th century. I have also found a primary source of a CD of Jane Bathori, and will soon be receiving a book she wrote translated as On the Interpretation of the Melodies of Claude Debussy. Besides these four, I have not found anything else of good quality and information. I would really love to find recordings of the radio shows she did, but haven’t had any luck yet.
1 Emerson, Isabelle. Five Centuries of Women Singers. Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2005.