The A-Z of the piano

We celebrate the world's most popular instrument with a look at 26 of its greatest features

D is for Dames and Damsels: pioneering women pianists

Piano playing has always been a male-dominated profession. For cultural and other reasons, it took some time for the ladies to flourish. A handful led the way…


Clara Schumann (1819-96)
First played in public in 1827 and only stopped in 1888 due to arthritis. Her 1,300 extant programmes reveal a breadth of repertoire unequalled by any other pianist of the time. 

Arabella Goddard (1836-1922)
Another child prodigy who made her official debut in 1853 playing Beethoven’s ‘Hammerklavier’ from memory. From the late 1850s she began programming the last five of Beethoven’s Sonatas, still almost unknown in England.

Sophie Menter (1846-1918)
Munich-born Menter was Liszt’s favourite female pupil. For her he wrote the so-called Concerto in the Hungarian Style which she persuaded Tchaikovsky to orchestrate for her.

Teresa Carreño (1853-1917)
‘The Walküre of the Piano’, the beautiful, charismatic Venezuelan had an overpowering technique, playing the big works usually reserved for her male peers. She could show most of them a clean pair of heels.

Julie Rivé-King (c1854-1937)
The first great American woman pianist. During an 18-year US career, she gave more than 4,000 solo recitals and played more than 500 concerts with orchestra.