Women in Music | Female Pianists | Early Romantic | Classical
Given the long tradition of regarding the keyboard as a suitable and attractive instrument for a woman, it is not surprising that it was mostly as pianists that women made their names as professional virtuoso soloists in the early nineteenth century. The leading female pianist was undoubtedly Clara Schumann, who was acclaimed as one of Europe’s leading players throughout an extremely long career. Schumann was largely responsible for introducing the piano recital, focusing on the composer rather than more showily on the performer. Her female contemporaries included two renowned pianists who both studied with Kalkbrenner and Moscheles: Leopoldine Blahetka (1811–87) and Marie (or Camilla) Pleyel (1811–75). Blahetka was very popular in Vienna in the 1820s. When she retired in the 1830s, she turned to teaching – as did the more successful Pleyel, seen by critics as embodying both masculine and feminine qualities in her playing, on her retirement in 1848. Lucy Anderson (1797–1878) became the first woman to play at the prestigious Philharmonic Society’s concerts when she performed Hummel’s B minor Piano Concerto in 1822. She taught the piano to Queen Victoria and her children.
Later female virtuosos included the fiery Liszt pupil Sophie Menter (1846–1918); the Venezuelan pianist Teresa Carreño (1853–1917) and Anderson’s pupil Arabella Goddard (1836–1922). Several of Clara Schumann’s female pupils, including Fanny Davies (1861–1934), carried on the tradition of their teacher’s style of playing in the course of highly successful solo careers.
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