Women in Music | Women Performers | Classical Era | Classical
During the classical era women, usually from the nobility or royalty, continued to play an important role in promoting music. In Berlin, Frederick the Great’s sister, Anna Amalia (1723–87), encouraged the performance of earlier music by building an impressive library of works by the great composers. Another Anna Amalia, the Duchess of Saxe-Weimar (1739–1807), established a highly artistic court at Weimar, where theatre and opera were particularly encouraged. Women also established important and influential salons, including that run by the Viennese musician Marianne von Martinez (1744–1812), which was attended by Mozart and Haydn.
It would have been unthinkable for women of the upper classes to establish professional careers as musicians. But, like their male contemporaries, women from other classes were able to embrace most aspects of the music profession, working as singers, instrumentalists, composers, teachers and instrument makers. These women usually came from musical families and were taught the family trade by their parents. Corona Schröter (1751–1802) worked as a singer and actor at the Weimar court of Anna Amalia, where she also wrote incidental music for plays. Schröter published Lieder, as did her younger contemporary Louise Reichardt (1779–1826), who supported herself by working as a singing teacher in Hamburg. In France the singer, actress, playwright and composer Julie Candeille (1767–1834) made her debut at the Paris Opéra at the age of 14. Her comic opera Ida, ou L’orpheline de Berlin (‘Ida, or the Orphan of Berlin’, 1807) was based on the life of a female harpist.
The English singer Harriet Abrams (1760–1822) sang in opera, oratorio and at private parties, while organizing concerts and publishing her own vocal music. Another English musician’s career was that of Sophia Dussek (1775–c. 1830). Born in Edinburgh into a musical family of Italian origin, she worked as both singer and pianist, marrying a musician from the well-known Dussek family. After he abandoned her she turned to the more lucrative activities of teaching and publishing. She published numerous compositions and arrangements for the profitable amateur market under the gender-ambiguous name S. Dussek.
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