Pauline von Decker was born Pauline von Schätzell in 1811. Her singing talents were noted early, and in 1824, she was sent to the renowned Berlin singing teacher, Heinrich Stümer. Stümer was a member of the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin, and it was through him that Decker was introduced to the choir. She made her debut with them in 1827 singing the lead soprano role in their annual Easter performance of Graun’s Tod Jesu.
Her singing was well received, and the occasion marked the beginning of a long and successful association in which Decker sang many important lead roles, including in the famous performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion under the baton of Felix Mendelssohn in 1828. She made her debut as a Königliche Sängerin in the Royal Opera House in 1829, as Agathe in Weber’s Der Freischütz. Further appearances would include roles in Die Zauberflöte and Fidelio. Decker had a particularly flexible and technically assured voice, resulting in the ability to sing a phenomenal range of roles, including multiple roles from the same opera. For example, she sang both Pamina and Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte, Donna Anna, Elvira und Zerlina from Don Giovanni, and Ännchen und Agathe in Der Freischütz. During her career, Decker enjoyed considerable fame, although that career was to be extremely brief. In 1832 she married the Court publisher Rudolf von Decker. According to court protocol, married women were not permitted to work and she had to retire from public performance. Her departure from the stage did not go unmarked – two poems in her honour were published in pamphlet form.
However, Decker’s performing career did not end there. She became active in the musical salons of Berlin and also remained active in the Sing-Akademie. She was a close friend of Fanny Hensel’s, often taking part in her Sunday musicales. She premiered at least two of Hensel works, the Choleramusik in 1832 and Hero und Leander in 1833. In 1833 Decker also started giving musicales and performances in her own home. Some of these even included full operas. They attracted many famous names, including the international soprano Henriette Sontag (now Countess Rossi) and later, the Schumanns. In the next twenty years, the only temporary cessations in her musical activities seem to have been during her pregnancies in 1837 (a difficult pregnancy that resulted in a still-birth) and 1839.
There is relatively little information about Decker’s life after 1850, although she continued to be active in Berlin salons. She also published 4 opus numbers anonymously under the name of P.F. Marxhausen, although the exact dates of these Lieder are not known. She reappeared in 1872, when her Opp. 5-14 were published. A review of these Lieder appeared in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung the following year. The remainder of her Lieder, Op. 15-17, werepublished in 1876. Rudolf von Decker died six years later in 1882, and Pauline von Decker four years later in 1886.