During her lifetime, Marie Bigot was a well-respected and well-known musician, not just in Paris where she spent most of her working life, but further afield in Europe. Today, there is little information about Marie Bigot that does not come from material that casts her in a secondary role to others - as the muse of Haydn, the love interest of Beethoven (unsubstantiated), the teacher of Mendelssohn and Hensel. Despite an obviously successful performing, teaching and composing career, the extent of her involvement in and influence on nineteenth-century musical life must be pieced together slowly from contemporary sources.
Marie Bigot de Morogues was born Marie Kiéné on 2 March 1786, in Colmar, at 48 Rue des Marchands, daughter of a cellist and a pianist. The family moved to Neuenberg (now Neuchâtel) in Switzerland, where Marie met and married Paul Bigot de Morogues. The couple moved to Vienna in the same year, after Paul took up the position of librarian to Count Razumovsky - a position that allowed Marie access to a wide circle of musicians, including Haydn and Beethoven. Within a year, she was playing in both public and private concerts, as well as running a salon of her own. Haydn was so taken with her playing that he exclaimed, ‘My dear child, that is not my composition; you have not simply played it, you have written it.’ Beethoven gave her the manuscript of his Appassionata sonata (Op. 57), and was a friend as well as a colleague. Bigot’s performing life was varied, and attracted many favourable reviews. The Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, writing of her concert in the Jahnische Saal in January 1805, mentioned her ‘elegance, simplicity and delicacy’; a later review of her May concert in the Augarten declared that ‘her piano playing has many clear merits: her performance is pure, appropriate, and in the right places, delicate and sensitive.’ The first two of her published compositions also date from this period, with her Op. 1 sonata being published in 1805, and the Andante Variée Op. 2 about a year later.
In 1809, the political situation in Vienna forced a move to Paris. Here, Bigot’s musical success resumed. Some of the eminent French composers of the day such as Hérold and Boëly dedicated piano works to her, and she took composition lessons with Cherubini and Auber. In 1812, Paul was taken prisoner in the Napoleonic wars, and would not return until 1817. In the meantime, Bigot, who had two children to support, turned to teaching. In this too she was extremely successful, leading to students even from further afield, such as Fanny Hensel and Felix Mendelssohn, searching her out during their stay in Paris. She also continued to compose, and two more works would be published - a rondeau, and the Suite d’Études.
Unfortunately Bigot’s health took a battering from the difficult years of Paul’s imprisonment, and she gradually had to lessen her activities. She died in 1820 at 34 years of age. The obituary in Le Journal des Théâtres, de la Littérature et des arts lamented that her premature death had robbed the arts of an extraordinary musician, and that although ‘modesty forbade her publication, [her works] show that if she had concentrated on this particular strand of music, she could produce works capable of being among the classics of the genre.’