Wandering with Suzanne

tue 29 sep 2020

The 13 october episode of our programme De Wandeling tells the remarkable life story of Suzanne Leenhoff, Dutch pianist and singer and wife of the famous French painter Édouard Manet.

The musical inpiration for this walk is a CD which the cello-piano duo Oihana Aristizabal Puga and Lineke Lever recently brought out. Under the titlel La Lecture they follow Suzanne’s life with music and poems from composers and writers who played a role in her life.

From Zaltbommel to Paris
Suzanne Leenhoff grew up in Zaltbommel, but left at the end of the 1840’s with her mother, brothers and sisters for Paris where her grandmother lived. The story goes that one day in 1842 Franz Liszt sailed up the Waal to Den Haag to give a concert there. When he reached Zaltbommel he heard the carillon playing. He disembarked, followed the sound to the Gasthuistoren and struck up a conversation with beiaardier Carolus Leenhoff and his daughter Suzanne. Suzanne played a little piano, and according to the story Liszt was so impressed he advised her to go and study in Paris. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story, as the saying goes.

Once arrrived in Paris Suzanne gave piano lessons, among others to the younger brothers of Édouard Manet. Around 1849 she had an affair with Édouard, but in 1852 she had a son Leon by another man….at least so the story goes. The fact is that Manet painted this son no less than four times and acknowledged him as heir.

Suzanne and Édouard finally got married in 1863 in Zaltbommel. Once back in Paris together with her mother in law they organised weekly musical salons to which the leading composers, poets and writers of the time came. During the broadcast on 13th October you can hear not only pieces by well-known composers such as Liszt, Wagner and Offenbach, but also obscure works by for instance her father Carolus and Leon’s probable father, Gustave-Adolphe Koëlla. There’s also an Impromptu by Emmanuel Chabrier which he wrote especially for her.