Women in Music | Keyboard Players | Classical Era | Classical
As keyboard instruments, from the harpsichord to the new-fangled pianoforte, became available in a variety of European households, they were widely played by well-to-do young ladies, eager to develop what was seen as an important accomplishment. Jane Austen’s novels present illuminating portrayals of women amateurs, from those to whom playing was simply a way of attracting a husband to those for whom music was an important part of life. The increasing numbers of talented amateur female keyboard players provided a healthy market for certain new domestic genres, such as the accompanied sonata, typically performed by a woman playing the dominant keyboard part and a man playing the accompanying flute or violin.
There were also growing numbers of women pianists who performed in public. Mozart wrote several of his keyboard works for female performers, such as Josepha Barbara von Auernhammer (1756–1820), who performed with him in the early 1780s and supervised the printed editions of his keyboard sonatas, or Barbara Ployer (fl. 1770–90), for whom he wrote two of his piano concertos. The blind Viennese pianist and composer Maria Theresia von Paradis (1759–1824) toured throughout Europe and had keyboard works written for her by Haydn, Mozart and Antonio Salieri (1750–1825). In England there were several well-known professional pianists who also wrote piano music, such as Maria Hester Park (1760–1813). There was also the child prodigy Jane Guest (c. 1765–after 1824), who wrote numerous sonatas, concertos and smaller pieces.
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