5 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
Published: September 8, 2022 at 1:26 pm
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Mitsuko Uchida; Martha Argerich; Imogen Cooper; Yuja Wang....these are just a few of the many female pianists to have risen to the top of their profession in recent decades and become international stars. But, for a long time the world of professional solo piano-playing was dominated by men, and so it might have continued were it not for the achievements of pioneering female artists who proved that men and women pianists could compete on an equal footing. Here are five of them.

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Clara Schumann (1819-96)

Clara Schumann 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. We named Clara Schumann one of the best female composers of all 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.

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