Great female violinists of the past

December 27, 2010 at 04:24 AM ·

In the 2011 New Year's Resolutions thread, Elana Lehrer mentioned that we should have a thread about the great female violinists of the past. It’s a great idea, so here it is. Please post any names of musicians - any biography you’re able to dig up - any good books - links to pictures or recordings - etc.

A handful of female violinists performed in public in the eighteenth century, including Sarah Ottey, Catherine Plunkett, Anne Nichol, and La Diamentina. Most of these women were heard from once or twice, then disappeared into the mists of musical history. The following is an incomplete list of some of the ones who we know something about.

Maddalena Sirmen - (1745-1818). Studied under Tartini. Was an accomplished composer. According to Wikipedia, was one of the finest musicians ever taught in a Venetian orphanage.
Regina Schlick Strinasacchi (c 1761 - 1839). A violinist, guitarist, and composer. Performed with Mozart; his Sonata in b-flat for violin and keyboard, K. 454, was written for her.
Caterina Calcagno - (c1797 - ?). Reportedly took lessons from Paganini during her childhood. She apparently disappeared from the public view in 1816.
Teresa (1827-1904) and Maria Milanollo (1829-1848). Violin-playing sisters who made a great impression on the European music scene. Teresa’s career ended after her marriage. Teresa was also a composer.
Camilla Urso (1842-1902). One of the most famous violinists of her day. She traveled all over the world, including in the United States in the 1850s.
Wilma Neruda (c1840 - 1911). Born into a large family of musical prodigies. One of the first great female violinists. Joachim praised her and even played the Bach double concerto with her. She was extremely popular, especially in Britain. I wrote a three-part essay on her life and career, which can be found here. To the best of my knowledge, it is the longest essay on her on the Internet.
Marie Soldat (1863-1955). A pupil of Joachim. Brahms helped to arrange payment for her studies. She was a regular chamber music partner of Brahms's, and introduced his concerto to several cities.
Teresina Tua (ca 1867-1956). An Italian virtuoso who studied in Paris under Massart. She had a glittering career in Europe, impressing audiences by wearing gowns decorated with the jewels given to her by members of various royal families. She was the inspiration for Grieg’s third sonata.
Maud Powell (1867-1920). The first great American violinist, male or female. The Maud Powell Society is devoted to celebrating and preserving her legacy.
Juliette Folville (1870-1946). Virtuoso pianist and violinist. She was also a composer of renown.
Irma Saenger-Sethe (1876-post 1958). Born in Belgium. Studied under Ysaye. Once when Ysaye could not serve on a competition jury, he recommended Sethe for the job. She toured throughout the world.
Leonora Jackson (1879-1969). One of the first Americans to gain international acclaim as a violinist. She retired after her marriage.
Marie Hall (1884-1956). A celebrated English violinist. Studied under Elgar and Sevcik. Vaughan Williams wrote The Lark Ascending for her. She was the first violinist to record the Elgar concerto, with the composer on the podium.
Renee Chemet (ca 1888 - ?). A prolific recording artist, especially popular in the United States in the twenties. EDIT: See discussion of her below for biographical details.
Stefi Geyer (1888-1956). Bartok’s first love, and inspiration for his first violin concerto. She had an extensive international career. I wrote an essay about her here.
Adila Fachiri (1889-1962). Sister of Jelly d’Aranyi, grand-niece of Joachim. Dedicatee of Bartok’s two violin sonatas.
Kathleen Parlow (1890-1963). One of the first great Canadian instrumentalists. Studied under Auer. Made a recording at the request of Edison. Toured throughout the world. Played the Glazunov concerto under Glazunov. She taught at the Toronto Conservatory of Music.
May Harrison (1890-1959). Studied under Auer. Sister of the cellist Beatrice Harrison, who was a famous interpreter of Elgar’s cello concerto. Together May and Beatrice championed the works of Delius.
Helene Jourdan-Morhange (1892-1961). Friend of Ravel. Ravel was going to write a violin concerto for her but it never materialized. Instead, he ended up dedicating his violin sonata to her. Unfortunately she had arthritis and could not perform it. There is also a rumor that Ravel proposed marriage to her, but she turned him down.
Jelly d’Aranyi (1893-1966). Adila Fachiri’s sister. Performed with Bartok. Dedicatee of and inspiration for Tzigane. Supposedly received word of Schumann’s violin concerto in a séance she and Adila conducted in 1933.
Erna Rubinstein (1903-?). Studied with Hubay. Toured Europe and America.
Erica Morini (1904-1995). Studied under Sevcik. Made an extraordinary debut in New York in her teens. Heifetz asked her for advice on staccato. She once said, “A violinist is a violinist and I am to be judged as one - not as a female musician.” Her Stradivari was stolen before her death and still has not been recovered.
Guilia Bustabo (1916-2002). Her recording of the first Bruch concerto is considered by some to be one of the greatest ever made.
This is just scratching the surface of the great female violinists born before 1920. There are of course others born after that time; I just didn't want to lengthen this post any more, although I may come back later and add more information on women such as Haendel, Neveu, Martzy, etc. If anyone has anything more to share about any of these remarkable women, or more names to share, please do. Recordings of Bustabo, Morini, Rubinstein, Parlow, Fachiri, d'Aranyi, Geyer, Chemet, and Hall are on Youtube. They are definitely worth looking up. Share the information with anyone who might be interested, as these amazing women deserved to be remembered and celebrated.

Replies (98)

December 27, 2010 at 04:49 AM ·

 Thanks so much for starting this thread, Emily!

The more I trawl around youtube, the more I realize there are females that are right up there with "the boys," yet are virtually unknown in the US.

One I referenced in the other thread is Anahit Tsitsikian.  I just love her playing; it's superb.

Shostakovich is conducting.


From her website (not exact words):

She lived from 1926-1999.  Born in Leningrad (currently St Petersburg) she moved to Armenia.  Performed throughout Soviet Union and 27 other countries, played over 1000 recitals, made recordings.  Professor of music at Yerevan Conservatory, and did scholarly research, authored books and etc.

Another female violinist I connected with is Patricia Travers.  Unforunately the video on youtube where she played in the movie has been taken down.  There was just something special and captivating about her playing.  Her story is poignant and one, I think, many violinists can relate to.  How many of us wonder "if only."  I think, despite her lack of fame as an adult, her place is history as a great female violinist is merited.

re: Emily, Stefi Geyer is someone I listened to on youtube and read about.  I remember admiring her playing.  Here's a clip:

Edited to add: Oh, yes, Erica Morini has some great quotes.  One of my favorite is her views about the frog, "Why would anyone want to play in such a scratchy part of the bow?"  My other is, as you said, when someone would refer to her as a great female player, she said, "why FEMALE?"

Edit again:  you took care of bio info on Marie Hall, so I'll just add a clip of her playing:

December 27, 2010 at 04:54 AM ·

One interesting figure is Maia Bang 1877-1940. She was concidered as her time Delay, and the teaching assistent of Auer. Seidel's most famous arrangement Eili-Eili is dedicated to her.

And btw, Wilma Neruda will always be Wilma Norman-Neruda here in sweden, we don't know any Hallé ;-)

December 27, 2010 at 08:05 AM ·

Sorry I don't have anything to add - except thanks for this.  To be honest, the only one I was aware of was Maud Powel, I found a CD of her playing at my local Luthiers...

One gets the impression that a musical life was hard to sustain for these ladies.  But maybe that was true for most men too?

December 27, 2010 at 08:33 AM ·

 Um, I think another pretty well known one is Ginette Neveu, who at the age of 14, I believe, won the Wieniawski competition, relegating the legendary David Oistrakh to second place. 

December 27, 2010 at 02:55 PM ·

Menuhin,in one of his latest book on the violin, mentionned that Neveu was the greatest woman violinist ever. She had to be heard in the concert hall because she was truly a concert violinist and very projective. Menuhin added that she played like Eugene Ysaïe.

In David Oistrach's DVD "Artist of the people" it is clearly mentionned that Oistrach wrote to his wife after the Wieniawski competition  and mentionned that no one can dispute Ginette Neveu,15, having won the first prize...she is immensily talented.

Now, I report this for one good reason: for years I have heard a totally unfounded story about the fact that the jury in the Wieniawski was antisemite and that was the reason why Oistrach won second prize. Many jews were in the competition, like Ida Haendel, Joseph Hassid and the young Boris Golstein: they all won prizes. And in 1937, in the first Queen Elizabeth competition, Oistrach won the first prize and the panel was about the same as in Warsaw...

I just think that Neveu was victim of prejudice of being a woman and even today, many cannot support the idea of Neveu having won the first prize over Oistrach. Enesco and Flesh were both her teachers and deeply impressed by her rare gifts and musicianship. To be convinced , one has only to listen to her Strauss sonata recorded in 1937 in Berlin while she was still very young...

Neveu is unique and shows great violin playing with a total individual sound. Mutter expressed a similar view about Neveu...

December 27, 2010 at 03:17 PM ·

Also another great player and teacher is  Aida Stucki, teacher of Anne-Sophie Mutter.More information can be found here:

December 27, 2010 at 03:20 PM ·

This topic is long overdue. Bravo.

December 27, 2010 at 03:32 PM ·

I believe that Maud Powell is the first to have introduce the Sibelius concerto in America. Naxos has reissued her complete recordings... Very interesting artist and most singular for her time...

December 27, 2010 at 03:39 PM ·

 How could I not mention Kato Havas?!!

She is a renowned British pedagogue from Hungary, a former prodigy who has dedicated much of her life to training teachers as well as students.  She made her Carnegie Hall debut at 17 and gave up performing while she raised her 3 children.

She wrote a wonderful book called "stage fright"--well worth the read (she authored other books as well).  Many of her principles of playing are exactly as I was trained... so she gets extra "brownie points" for that. ;)  She also focuses on correct use of the body when playing..... so we can perhaps consider her Buri-approved as well. :)  I think she's just an extraordinary human being, having accomplished so much as both a performer, teacher, and mother.

RE: Marc Villeneuve, and the anti-semitism... also, Wieniawski himself was Jewish.  :)

Edited to add clip of Maud Powell playing:

A nice warm tone and tasteful phrasing.  I don't know if it's just me, but there is something especially connecting to me when I hear a great female violinist.  Perhaps it's the idea of there being a "role model" out there... but there is something,  (Tsitsikian's playing in particular), that speaks directly to my heart.

Clip of Erna Rubinstein:

Her playing sounds so charming... Kreisler would certainly approve.  One of my favs as well.

Giulia Bustabo:

Jelly D'aranyi:

December 27, 2010 at 04:23 PM ·

I´ve very rearly heard of famous women violinists. I discovered Ginette Neveau by mistake while watching a DVD about violin playing bu I greatly enjoyed her passionate style and her performances. It´s a lovely thing therefore to see that there were many good women violinists out there in the past.

December 27, 2010 at 05:33 PM ·

 @ Elana -

Thank you for the info. I'm really impressed by Tsitsikian. Thanks for reminding me about Travers, and I'll have to look up Havas! I understand what you mean listening to a female violinist from the past. The experience is somehow different and I don't know why.

@ Mattias -

I've heard of Maia Bang - the Maia Bang method, etc - but didn't know about her connection to Auer. Thanks for sharing her name.

@ Elise -

It was indeed very difficult for them to balance their personal and professional lives. I've run across quotes again and again of women espousing their beliefs that a career and a family were incompatible. Most men virtuosos married and had kids; not as many female virtuosos did. How their careers affected performing artists' life choices, especially in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and especially given their genders, is an interesting topic and one I hope can be researched in the future.

@ Malik -

Yup, I included Neveu at the end of my list. I thought she was born in the early twenties but I just checked and she was 1919. So she should indeed have appeared in my pre-1920s list. Anyway, Neveu is astonishing. A great artist who left us much too soon. Her sound is so raw and expressive.

@ Marc -

Interesting story, thanks for sharing. Interesting to hear the comparison to Ysaye. And yes, Maud Powell did premiere the Sibelius concerto in America. If you Google her name and Sibelius, you can find a New York Times article from 1906 about the concert. It's worth reading in full, but here's an excerpt - "Miss Powell played Sibelius's new concerto with splendid enthusiasm and devotion. It is Miss Powell's distinction that she has always had the courage to seek out and present modern works of promise... It is the more to be regretted that in this work she was working against odds too great - odds that the composer himself has set up against her by the paucity of ideas, its great length and almost unrelieved sombreness of mood. His themes on a first hearing seem singularly devoid of individual character or expressiveness, and even of outline definite enough to be grasped... Miss Powell was warmly greeted, and her admirable playing was recognized by applause that was meant for her." Directly below it is an article entitled: "When Women Vote: Judge Pitman Fears the Price of Hats Would Go Up Before Election." The dissonance has always struck me as jarring.

@ Ronald -

Yes, Aida Stucki, for sure! She studied under Stefi Geyer.

@ everybody -

Thanks for sharing! It is clear that not enough people know about these amazing women. How can we disseminate more information about them? I know that if I was a nine-year-old violin student starting the violin again, hearing about these women and the way that they pushed past social barriers would have been a huge inspiration to me. I want to give the gift of that knowledge to the next generation of players. How can we do it?

December 27, 2010 at 06:42 PM ·

 On a related note, here is a New York Times article from 1922(!) regardein Erna Rubinstein, who is quickly becoming a new favorite of mine.

Also, excerpted from a book:

Edited to remove link; it made the posts appear too wide.  But from that excerpt I learned she was apparently a fantastic dancer and actress as well.  She does look like a movie star.

Re: Emily, I agree, it is SO important for females to have great role models.  It would be nice if there was an effort to make these artists more known.  In the great documentaries, such as "The Art Of Violin," they include Neveu (rightfully so) but not as many other women.  It's my favorite violin documentary of all time.  Still, I can envision a new video, "treasures from the past" or something along these lines, featuring many of these women.  If it made the news..... maybe more students would learn their names.

Of possible interest is this link:

Pictures of, among, others, Erna Rubinstein, Giulia Bustabo, and Maud Powell.  There is also  Juliette Aranyi, a piano prodigy who died in the Holocaust.  There are modern artists there, but also many older and forgotten ones.


December 27, 2010 at 11:35 PM ·

 I have mentioned these names before - I second Guila Bustabo and add three more of my favorite ladies; Michèle Auclair, Gioconda de Vito and Camilla Wicks. 

December 28, 2010 at 01:59 AM ·

 Clip of Renee Chemet (earlier mentioned by Emily).

December 28, 2010 at 05:54 AM ·

 It seems appropriate to add Karen Tuttle, about whom Laurie has just posted... unfortunately this violist passed away two days ago.  She was known as a violist and professor at Julliard Curtis and Peabody  but also was a violinist when younger.

December 29, 2010 at 03:29 AM ·

Kinda boggles the mind that Ida Haendel misses the cut by less than 10 years

December 29, 2010 at 03:30 AM ·

I read a fascinating biography of Alma Rosé.  She was a niece of Mahler and had the sort of macabre distinction of being the concertmaster of the Auschwitz women's orchestra, nearly all the members of which survived the war.

December 29, 2010 at 04:27 AM ·

Johanna Martzy--here playing Mozart 4:

...and here, Bach:

December 29, 2010 at 04:35 AM ·

Another of my favorites--

Camilla Wicks

Listen to some clips on her website:

EDIT--DUH...born before 1920...OK...I guess I should have read the first post all the way to the end before I posted.  Well...check out my links anyway--they're pretty good.  Hey, at least I learned a lot of good info from everybody else's posts.  My apologies...

December 29, 2010 at 05:57 AM ·

 Marc, no need to apologize.  There is no specified time limit here.  All info welcome.  :)  I enjoyed your links... it's rare to hear Camilla Wicks online.

Nicole, I didn't realize somehow that was Mahler's niece and I read more about it.  Thanks for your post.


December 29, 2010 at 04:42 PM ·

Thanks everybody!!

Yeah, there is no time limit. I just personally set one up for my original post because the list was getting mighty long.

December 29, 2010 at 05:09 PM ·


The book looks massive but it's a very interesting read.  I got one for myself and a teacher.

December 29, 2010 at 05:21 PM ·


I'm slow.  What book?  I saw your link which included her bio, but not a book?  Is there a link directly to the title of the book?  I'd definitely be interested in reading it.  I was actually introduced to her story during childhood but hadn't realized who she was.

Thanks, everyone, for bringing womens' names to the forefront and keep it up!  :)

December 29, 2010 at 10:41 PM ·

 very surprised there aren't more mentions of Gioconda devito.  All in all i would say she was the best female violinist.  Just listen to this beethoven romance!!!!  absolutely stunning!  makes any male violinist blush i think...

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December 29, 2010 at 11:28 PM ·

I also find it so sad that these great ladies performers of the past are still unknowned!  This is very unfair. 

Although we think everything of this is finish nowadays, I think the battle isn't over.  Especially for older female players.  I'm afraid our society just like performers (especially female) when they are young.  Ida Haendel told that conductors stoped to invite her as she got older...  It's a shame! How often do we see an older female player soloist out there on famous halls compare to all the aging males we see everywhere (Perlman, Zuckerman, Tetzlaff etc )

What does society advertise nowadays? Good playing or great look?  Do the record labels really want people to remember these artist's playing or do they want to bet on a sexy picture to sell more copies?

I just hope the record labels and society will advertise what's necessary to allow these young female talents of today to be out there and remembered for many decades.  (not just when they are young)

When we think of the great masters of the past we all remember, we firstly think of their musical gifts and huge talents.  That's why we still talk of them nowadays. 

I just hope all the female stars of today (and rightly so because many play very very well!) will still be onstage in 20 or 30 years and not be turned down because they are older.  To not hear their playing anymore would be a serious mistake and loss for the artistic world!    Music is firstly made to be heard, not see and great players come in every age and look (not just in young good looking people)! 


Thanks to talk about these wonderful players Emily!


December 30, 2010 at 12:32 AM ·

 Nicole, thanks!

Anne-Marie, I completely agree and it is criminal the way older women don't get picked to play.  I only care how violinists sound, not look, but the latter has been going on for quite some time now.  I, too, hope for change on this front.

December 30, 2010 at 01:16 AM ·

Elana, yes and if we think about it, the situation for famous older female players is just as bad as before.  Those who truely suceeded in fighting for their rights are not females in general but only the younger females...  As you say, it's criminal...

Violinists should protest to help their older female collegues to get back in the spotlight (I don't know, every soloist could wear a big large T-shirt on their next CD pictures and concerts saying " it's not how I look but how I play!" )  Maybe crazy but something has to be done?



December 30, 2010 at 06:45 AM ·

 Of the four ladies I named above, Michèle Auclair is probably the hardest to find in digital domain. But she is apparently much sought-after among die-hard collectors as you can see here.

December 30, 2010 at 02:04 PM ·

Here is an interesting and fairly extensive list compiled in 1913.

Also check out:

Alma Moodie, Australian, 1898–1943

Dora Becker Shaffer, American, 1870?–19??

Josephine Boudreaux, American, 1898–1993

December 30, 2010 at 02:36 PM ·

 Tosca Berger Kramer, New Zealand/U.S., 1903–1976. She has a Wikipedia article:

December 30, 2010 at 03:03 PM ·

The maketing image applies to men too...just compare Oistrach to Joshua Bell public image for instance or Stern to Vadim Repin... I remember a picture of Gill Shaham laying on the floor with his violin for a picture of Deutche Gramophone... I wonder what impression would Neveu have made into that "business" today, when we see the way the image of some women is exploited... Neveu would'nt be able to rivalised with the image of Anne-Sophie-Mutter ( both are truly talented) Looks are very important nowadays

December 30, 2010 at 04:57 PM ·

@ Sam -

Auclair gives an astonishing performance. I love it!

@ Eric -

Dora Becker is, I believe, the first woman violinist to appear on record in 1898. You can hear the recording on Youtube here. I wonder what the story was behind her various names... I've seen Dora Velesca Baker, Baker, Baecker, now Dora Becker Schaffer...hmm.

Alma Moodie's biography is astonishing! I'd heard her name before but hadn't read a biography, or if I did, it slipped through my mind. Amazing that she premiered Pulcinella with Stravinsky. One of these days I'm going to assemble some recital program ideas with the theme of works premiered by or championed by women violinists, and that would be a perfect piece to include. Thanks so much for sharing.

Also thanks for sharing that magazine "The Violinist." When researching, I've found some absolutely fantastic old magazines like these that Google has digitized. They give all the latest gossip about all of the goings-on in the music world in the 1860s to the 1930s. I tried to find a list of them to read in my spare time and I found this link... I - or anyone else who's interested - might be able to uncover some more women violinists by combing through these. They make for fascinating reading, or else I'm just a really big geek!

Re sexism and ageism in classical music... I don't really know what to say. I'd need to think about the subject a lot more. But I do think it's true that our society is more image-driven than it was a generation or two ago. Although, to be fair, look at the pictures of Marie Hall and Maud Powell and tell me they weren't taken for a non-sexist listening public. Marie Hall surely was killing herself by degrees if she laced her corset that tightly outside of her photo shoots. And Teresina Tua, who I'm about to write an essay on, practically made an entire career based on her not inconsiderable sex appeal. I think our society's obsession with image might be a rather inevitable side-effect of improved technology. I agree that we really, really need to be on our guard about that.

I'd like to stay on this thread all day but I do have some other things to do. Thanks for the discussion everybody; keep it up!!


December 30, 2010 at 06:22 PM ·

There is Vera Barstow, who concertized internationally in the early 20th century and had a noteworthy second career as a teacher and coach. The Coleman Competition awards a prize in her name.

December 30, 2010 at 06:38 PM ·

At the same time, a woman had better not look too good.  I think of Nicola Benedetti, who is just amazingly good ... but looks a little too pretty for some people's tastes.  No one can listen to her play without making a comment about how terrible it is that she looks like what she looks like, how awful it is that she's personally (somehow) putting unfair pressure on women just by being pretty, how she's obvious not good enough to be noteworthy without her looks ... *sigh*

If you're not pretty, no one wants to look at you no matter how good you are.  If you're too pretty, then it's "obvious" that you have no talent and only got to where you because of your looks.  There's just no way to win at this BS game.  It's set up to make sure that women lose.

And people also forget how much can be done with photoshop, good makeup, and a well-tailored dress.  A lot of brilliantly talented and well-known women musicians (and ones known for being pretty as well) are simply able to use makeup well.  Extremely attractive professional musicians without professional lighting and makeup are often simply pleasantly pretty or what you might call "cute" in real life.  An awful lot of women could look exactly the same with the same cadre of makeup artists around them.

January 4, 2011 at 12:07 AM ·

Some more names gleaned from the early twentieth century publication The Violinist...

Blanche Blood, active in Chicago in the early 1900s. Probably the first woman to write for viola in America. She performed on the viola d'amore in the early 1900s and was said to be "the only lady playing this instrument." Here's an article she wrote about the instrument in 1908.

Charlotte DeMuth Williams, a violinist and pianist who taught at Oberlin.

Here is a poem that Maud Powell wrote about her time at a summer music festival in Tennessee. I also read about Maud Powell's trio, which, in 1908, consisted of May Mukle (the first great female cellist) and Ann Ford. Here's a sample of Maud's schedule from 1909 -

Feb 2 - St. Paul; Feb 3 - Minneapolis; Feb 4 - Fargo; Feb 5 - Winnipeg; Feb 6 - Grand Forks; Feb 9 - Brandon, MB; Feb 11 - Bismarck; Feb 13 - Faribault; Feb 14 - St. Paul; Feb 16 - Paterson, NJ. Can you imagine that schedule travelling by train? What an amazing woman.

Olive Mead had a well-known ladies' quartet, the Olive Mead Quartet.

Nicoline Zedeler, Swedish violinist who grew up in Chicago. She played with Sousa and toured the world.

Adolph Weideg, a violinist studying abroad in Germany who wrote for The Violinist, wrote that, "The American girl has been for years the standard-bearer of musical culture, but as soon as she marries her love and devotion to music are too often shipwrecked on the rocks of indifference which her husband puts in her way."

Just some little tidbits I unearthed.

January 4, 2011 at 11:23 PM ·

Veddy interesting -- Blanche Blood (aside from having a name that should be a minor character in an Anne Rice novel) seems quite neat.  I'll have to see what else I can find out about her.

BTW, I googled her and found this score for a piece she wrote for viola and piano.  I'll probably take it home tonight after my lesson and see what I think of it.  Maybe if I like it, it'll be something to aim for.

January 6, 2011 at 02:45 AM ·

Forgive me if someone already mentioned Patricia Travers 1927-2010. I saw her playing on you tube and thanks to Laurie Niles who posted news of her death back in February of 2010.

January 7, 2011 at 07:16 PM ·

There were many fine, and some truly great lady violinists who, contrary to now, were not given sufficient credit or opportunity in their time, but blazed a trail for future generations. I’ve since realized that this is even more so with women pianists. Gioconda De Vito recorded enough and a big enough spread of repertoire to “earn” her place among the greats. Her recordings aren't so hard to find, (various Brahms Ctos.especially marvellous) Of that generation, she and Morini (the best-known) stick out. But there was also Jeanne Gautier (born in 1897, I think), of whom I have a number of recordings, Ravel Sonata and Trio, and various small pieces: a fairly limited scope of repertoire, no concertos that I know of, but what I have is magical. A while back I included her in a Strad article on forgotten French violinists and only found very sketchy biographical information. I haven’t made a study of this but I wonder if in France women performers were less of an anomaly, the number of excellent and then successful performers was considerable. Also included in that article was Denise Soriano, b.1916, who made a handful of wonderful sonata recordings. Of that generation, born pre-1920, Neveu, of course, and Bustabo stand out.

I run Camilla Wicks’s website, it’s been lying dormant for a while but with a whole raft of recordings due out in the near future, after complicated negotiations, I’ll aim to add to it! I keep meaning to ask for her to give me permission to put a few samples of her recordings on Youtube, I’ll get round to it at some point. I think some of the articles and interviews with her point to the problems female soloists of those days faced.

January 7, 2011 at 08:29 PM ·

Ooo, now I'm interested in Gautier. Thanks for that name. I see that she knew Stravinsky. She played Ravel's works, as well... I wonder if she knew him, especially since Helene Jourdan Morhange obviously did, and I wonder if they moved in the same circles or had the same teachers, etc. I have a soft spot for French repertoire of that time period, so this is an interesting name to me.

I found a record of Gautier, Genevieve Joy, and Andre Levy playing Ravel and Faure that just went for $2000 on ebay a few days ago. Is that particular version on disc?

January 8, 2011 at 08:55 AM ·

@ Emily:

 This recording o the Ravel trio does not exist on disc, however there's another one, together with pianist Vlado Perlemuter and André Lévy, on the Tahra label. Gautier knew Ravel very well.

 Aida Stucki is turning 90 this year. Doremi is going to issue another set of her recordings (already availble are the complete Mozart concertos and sonatas). Tahra also issued a live recording of the Beethoven concerto, under Hermann Scherchen.

For more recordings by french female violinists, try to find "A bouquet of french violinists",issued in Japan on the Classic Press label (CPCD2006): you can hear Gautier, Yvonne Curti, Yvonne Astruc and Renée Chemet ( and a few males..), recorded between 1925 and 28.



January 8, 2011 at 09:43 AM ·

Hi Emily,

I understand about the research on this subject.

Does it make sense to extend the attention to present female violinists?

Firstly It is very hard to get good records of ealier femal violinists and thus it is hard to comment on them.

Secondly it would be easy to get record/CDs of present female violinists and so we could all have the opportuniy to listen and comment.

Thnirdly it would give present female violinists compliments by giving them attention from this community.

If the violinists could extend their attention to present violinist, violin fans like me could benefit from the comments of violinists and have better ideas on what CDs we could buy or who performance we could buy tickets.


January 8, 2011 at 01:25 PM ·

Hi Emily, aside from the Ravel Trio on Tahra that Daniel mentions, there is nothing else by Gautier that I know of that is available on disc. The things I know are from a private collector and I don't know his sources. I have contacts with some record companies and I do hope one may be interested at some point.

Since you mention an interest in that repertoire, do you know Germaine Tailleferre's Sonata (no.1)? Very interesting piece. There is a fantastic recorded performance by Camilla Wicks that is due to come out soon (also Ravel's early opus posthumous sonata, which is a bit better known) 

I feel strongly that a thread dedicated to historical women violinists is important and well deserved. Nothing prevents many threads on present players from running alongside but it would be a shame to dilute discussion on past players who are much more likely to be forgotten/not known. The point that their recordings are harder to find is precisely it. But actually, for some of these older players, recordings exist and are available, it's just a case of knowing about them and perhaps doing a bit of a (worthwhile) search. There is enough out there by Morini, De Vito, Neveu, Martzy, Wicks, Haendel, to point to their importance - though too little as yet by Wicks (that should change soon) and Martzy. Stucki and Lola Bobesco were also extremely fine. Two Russians, Galina Barinova and Elizaveta Gilels (Kogan's wife and the pianist's sister) were excellent and there are a handful of recordings available on CD. Bustabo was a spectacular player but her few recordings are hard to come by and there is sadly nothing by Auclair on CD, she made some marvellous, marvellous recordings (her Schubert Fantasy is the best I've heard Brahms and Tchaikovsky Concertos)

This is just the kind of threat can fulfil a precious purpose. Specialist labels like Music&Arts, Doremi, Tahra, APR, Arbiter, Symposium, Biddulph are full of hidden treasures, some of which puts today's performances in the shade, in my opinion, and at the very least there would be an awful lot to learn from them.

Best, Nathaniel


January 8, 2011 at 04:43 PM ·

Michele Auclair was a true great violinist who had to put a stop to her career as a virtuoso because of  an accident. She studied with Line Taluel and Jules Boucherit who were also the teachers of  Ginette Neveu ( Neveu studied also with Enescu and Flesh). Auclair left remarquable recordings of the Brahms and Tshaïkovski concerti with no less than the great Charles Munch, who also conducted with Neveu during her U.S.A. tours with the Boston phil. and New-York phil.

January 8, 2011 at 04:56 PM ·

'Renee Chemet (ca 1888 - ?). A prolific recording artist, especially popular in the United States in the twenties. She became interested in Japanese music (even recording a few Japanese pieces) and apparently vanished "in the Far East" after 1932.'

The story about her vanishing in the Far East may sound intriguing, but I doubt whether it’s true. According to an American work, Who's who in the musical world, NY1938, compiled 1936/7, she was based in New York at the time of compilation. The work lists Freeman Concert as her Management. So it looks like she didn't get lost in Shanghai, but made it to New York at least.

As for her playing Japanese music, the Strad published my letter about this a few months ago. As far as I know Chemet played and recorded only one piece, the famous Haru no umi (Sea in Springtime) composed in 1929 by Michio Miyagi (1884-1956), one of the first Japanese composers with Western musical training and a pioneer of "new Japanese music". Originally written for koto and shakuhachi, Sea in Springtime is most often heard in this combination, at least in Japan, and most Japanese regard it as a "traditional" piece, which is frequently heard during the new year festivities. At the time of its premiere, however, contemporaries hailed it as proof of how well Japanese musicians had assimilated Western music. And this is where Chemet comes in.

Indeed, it may well be its "Western" elements – it reflects Miyagi’s admiration for Debussy as much as its "Japanese" character that made it appeal to the Chemet, when she heard it during her tour to Japan in 1932.

Renée Chemet was born in Boulogne, Paris in 1888. At the age of six she entered the Conservatoire, where she won a solfège prize at the age of ten. In 1902 she graduated top of her class and joined the prestigious Colonne Orchestra as first violinist. A year later she performed for the German Kaiser. In 1906 she toured America, Canada and Mexico giving 50 recitals. In America she was hailed as the "French Kreisler". In 1919 she gave 15 performances in England, and in 1921 she again performed in America. In 1932 she toured China and Japan, coming to Japan in spring 1932.

Chemet was taken to visit Miyagi Michio and was so impressed by his performance of Haru no Umi that she asked for the score. By the following day she had arranged the shakuhachi part for violin and wanted to perform the piece with Miyagi. They rehearsed it together and it was included in Chemet’s recital on 3 May 1932 where she also performed Tartini, Sontata in g minor, Kreisler/Paganini, Allegro, and the violin concertos by Bruch and Mendelssohn. In June 1932 Miyagi and Chemet recorded Sea in Springtime, and the recording sold well over 10. 000 copies in the first six months. British and American Victor then sold it worldwide, and it helped make Miyagi Michio known internationally.

Chemet took liberties with the printed score, changing some of the notes and playing others at a different octave. Although she used harmonics, she did not necessarily aim to imitate the effects produced by a shakuhachi. She even employed pizzicato resulting in effective interplay with the different plucking sound of the koto.

Although we today would tend to regard this kind of performance as kitsch – or would we call it ‘crossover’? - it was well received by contemporaries, some of whom even felt that Chemet’s version represented an improvement.

According to Miyagi’s biographers, he met Chemet again in 1953 when Miyagi visited the Second International Festival of Folk Music and Dance in Pamplona.

The recording is available on CD (Miyagi Michio, Japan Traditional Cultures Foundation 2005, VZCP- 1101). Personally I prefer Chemet's version to Anne Akiko Meyer's on her CD Smile, because Chemet does not go out of her way to make the piece sound 'oriental'.

Incidently, the violin was pioneered in Japan by women, beginning with the Koda sisters (I wrote about them for the Strad, May 2007). One of my New Year resolutions is to start a blog on, which will include information about pioneering women violinists of Japan.


January 8, 2011 at 05:15 PM ·

Bingo! Thanks to an earlier posting with a link to Chemet on Youtube I found this:

It's the recording Chemet made with Miyagi.

Happy listening!



January 8, 2011 at 05:16 PM ·

@ Daniel and Nathaniel -

Thank you so much for this information. I'm going to squirrel it away and keep an eye out for the discs you mention. I'm so interested to hear Gautier knew Ravel. I do know that Jourdan-Morhange and Perlemuter together wrote a biography of Ravel, so there's another connection. I'm also interested in I mentioned in my original post, I wrote an essay about her teacher, Stefi Geyer, so that's exciting. I didn't know she was still alive. I wish I could meet her!

@ Wei -

In my opinion, for what it's worth, I think there is room for a separate thread to celebrate female violinists from the past. Most serious violin lovers are immediately familiar with the work of Sarah Chang, Julia Fischer, Hilary Hahn, and other great women violinists of the present. Unfortunately, fewer know the names of Maud Powell, Marie Hall, and Michele Auclair. As for the fact that it is "hard to get recordings", it really isn't. The recordings just haven't been well-publicized, usually because they're printed on small niche labels, or haven't been released on disc, period. With the Internet, it's easy to find discs that a few years ago would have been very difficult to find. And always check youtube for some samples.

@ Margaret -

Interesting!!! I had found a couple of references to her "disappearance" online but I bet they both just copied the same erroneous information. Alas, this happens way too often. I wonder what happened to her career, that led people to assume she had vanished? I don't remember finding any references to her online post 1930. I'll have to go back and check again. Anyway, thank you for your clarification and edification. Yet another reminder to take everything gleaned on the Internet with a grain of salt, right? I wish I could read your writing for Strad but I can't afford it and my library doesn't carry it, boo. But BRAVO for your research!

I can not WAIT to read your blog. Please get working on it. Hehe.


January 8, 2011 at 06:14 PM ·

@Margaret: thanks for the link...her sound is absolutely amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Found a program concert of 1919 in Paris were she performed the Symphonie Espagnole (Lalo) with symphony orchestra

January 9, 2011 at 02:22 PM ·


Thanks for the explanation to my layman's concern.

You and other vlionists are doing wonderful things for the past female violinists. You shall bring back the lost treasures to this world.

You all will have a great success!


January 10, 2011 at 04:49 PM ·

This wonderful discussion made me think about major events toward women contribution to music.

Like many others,I was raised with the dominant male figures of Jascha Heiftetz and Vladimir Horowitz...

But new horizons and perspectives were presented to me as a young boy. First, my aunt who was a skillful pianist and the first female surgeon doctor here in the Province of Quebec. Than, the first recital of pianist Martha Argerich I attented. After, discovering the complete discography of Ginette Neveu. Also, my first reading of "Letter to a young poet" by german author Reiner Maria Rilke, written as early as 1903 - 1908, and speaking about women and predicting their awakeness and raise in the fields forbidden and unaccessible to them during that era...

In the past five years or so, I also discovered how much Maud Powell was such an important figure in the art of violin playing... to me she sounds as good,if not better than Joachim, Sarasate, Kubelik, Ysaïe . I do not mention Kreisler, because to me, he was the one who made drastic changes in violin playing after all these violinists including Powell, that influenced in turn Francescatti, Gingold, Flesh, Heifetz, Seidel, Oistrach, Milstein, the cellist Pablo Casal and his followers, and so many others...

January 10, 2011 at 05:32 PM ·

Thanks for your thoughts, Marc. It is indeed wonderful to see our perspectives shifting.

You speak of Joachim, Sarasate, Ysaye, etc... I really wish we could hear Wilma Norman-Neruda. Joachim said that once people heard her, they would think less of him. Hans von Bulow also praised her to high heaven in print in 1880. I wonder what role she played in the artistic evolution of the violin world in Europe in the late nineteenth century, that just for whatever reason is ignored today. I'd also like to know if she made any recordings before her death in 1911, even if they were only privately circulated... She was still performing in public as late as 1907, so it would have been possible. There is just so little information about her out there, despite the fact she was considered to be Joachim's equal.

Here is a wonderful picture of Wilma Norman-Neruda sitting in a quartet with men. It says it's from 1859 but I believe it's later, as I don't think she played these concerts until the early 1870s (although I could be wrong on that). Here's a print from 1872.

January 11, 2011 at 04:24 AM ·

Yeah, that picture is later. Probably closer to 1890.

January 11, 2011 at 04:24 PM ·

 That was what I was thinking, based on her dress.

January 12, 2011 at 09:36 PM ·

Joan Field (1915-1988) was an American violinist very active in the US and Europe from about the 1930s to late 1960s. I'll be creating a Wiki page for her shortly, but there's some information here:

Unfortunately Joan's recordings of Bruch, Mendelssohn, Dvorak, Mozart (#5), Spohr and the Beethoven Romances with the Berlin Symphony, as well as her first recording of two of Ives' sonatas, are all out of print. Some are available in LP form on Ebay and can also probably be found at collectors' sites. The head of Lyrichord Records tells me that they may remaster the Ives and release it as a download next year.

I'm happy to answer any questions from any readers about her.

January 14, 2011 at 07:33 PM ·

Ginette Neveu 1919-1949

French born won Wieniawski Competition aged 15.  Was a very prominent violinist of her time, but after giving a concert on 20th oct 1949 boarded a plane to America (I think) and the plane crashed killing all on board which is really tragic.

Also a few facts about Marie Hall.  She was apparently spotted by Elgar busking as a child on the streets of a town in the north of england,   She also financed her first tour of America herself. 

January 15, 2011 at 04:16 AM ·

Here's an exciting discovery: Leonora von Stosch, who later became Lady Speyer (1872-1956). She was born in Washington, DC and studied in Brussels. She made her debut with the Boston Symphony at the age of eighteen. She married in 1893 but divorced (a scandalous thing to do in those days); she married Sir Edgar Speyer in 1902. She apparently came down with acute neuritis and was forced to stop playing. So she turned her attention to writing, and became a renowned poet. She was president of the poetry Society of America from 1934 to 1936 and won a Pulitzer Prize for her 1926 book "Fiddler's Farewell," which you can read here.

Here's a beautiful portrait that Sargent did of her.

A wealthy businessman apparently bought a Stradivari for her use in the 1890s that had once belonged to Vieuxtemps. Not sure which instrument this was or is, or for how long she had it. I'd love to find out, though.

She was in Elgar's circle and was apparently the first person, male or female, to play through his violin concerto, with the composer at the piano. In light of the private performance (and perhaps in consultation with Lady Speyer?), Elgar revised the concerto into what it is today.

She also played Faure's first sonata with the composer at the piano in 1909 in England.

And according to her daughter's engagement notice in the New York Times, she was a composer, as well.

So anyway. Wow! This is definitely a lady I'd like to know more about! Anyone have any more information?

January 15, 2011 at 03:22 PM ·

Fascinating!  So according to Cozio, one of the violins that Lady Speyer owned and played is the celebrated "Lord Wilton" Guarneri del Gesu 1742, which became the main instrument of Yehudi Menuhin, and now in the David Fulton collection.  It has been used in some of James Ehnes' recordings.  Here are some photos:


January 15, 2011 at 05:12 PM ·

Ooo, thank you!!! Should have checked Cozio but I was just about to go to bed. And I've talked to James about the project. The world is a small place.

A caveat about her being the first person to play the Elgar... Michael Steinberg says she played through the first movement in May 1910. Byron Adams, in Edward Elgar and his World, says that she performed the slow movement of the violin concerto in a private performance in early 1910. Adams doesn't say if she played more than that, or if he revised it later, as Steinberg claims. Still have to do more research on that. But it still seems that she was the first person to perform excerpts of it.

And now thanks to Cozio we can narrow down which instrument was used for those private premieres. In all likelihood, it was either the 1699 "St. Vallier Sikorsky" Strad (which the Speyers owned from 1903-1911) or the Lord Wilton (which they owned from 1902-1921). (I'm hearing the opening phrase of the concerto in my head played on the Wilton - how divine...)

Another female violinist connected with Elgar is Vera Hockman. He met her when she was playing in the back desk of an orchestra he was conducting, and they seem to have had a really strong connection with one another. She inspired a theme in his unfinished third symphony.


January 15, 2011 at 05:33 PM ·

 What about Nina Beilina, Ana Chumachenko and Linda Cerone (nee Linda Sharon).

January 16, 2011 at 01:22 AM ·

@Hannah: I have in hands the very last program of Ginette Neveu and thought you and everyone would be interested... Also I have her last radio interview in which she describes part of that legendary last recital given with her brother Jean at the piano... She was highly educated, could easily express herself in public and very much involved with composers of her time and the greatest conductors.

Salle Pleyel, Paris, October 20 1949

Haendel    Sonata

Bach Partita 2 ( Chaconne)

Brahms   Sonata 3

Szymanowski   Nocturne et Tarentella

Ravel             Piece en forme de Habanera

Ravel             Tzigane( Rhapsodie de concert )

The 28 of October 1949, she embarked the Constellation, with her brother Jean. On board, also the famous boxer Marcel Cerdan lover of Edith Piaf. They were en route for New-York. Neveu was scheduled for a grand recital the same week at Carnegie Hall and also few performances of solo performances in concerto with Charles Much. The son of Emile Vatelot., the famous luthier,was supposed to be on board but cancelled at the last minute and planned to meet with Neveu a week after in Boston. They were very close "friends"...

Vatelot describes how the insurance-broker brought back from the Acores  the empty box. That box was built by his father for Neveu. Ginette had a splendid Strad of 1733 in perfect condition with a very powerful and mellow tone that was given to her when aged15 by a Swiss banker and collector just before the Wieniawski competition. Also, it contained a rare Guagdanini and four of the very best bows of the golden french period. Only remained were  two precious bows, one completly destroyed, one intact all silver mounted... The two  instruments were never found. All perished and a rumorat first  circulated that many had survived, but these seen by helicopter were natives of the Acore. These natives were criminals and despoiled all the bodies, wacth, jewellery and wallets. It was almost then impossible to identify the bodies. The body of Jean was never found. Neveu was improperly buried in Alsace but after, refound and inhumated in Paris...


Neveu was also a very close friend of Barbirolli and Karajan who planned to record with her the Tschaïkovski and Beetoven concerti. Also, the Elgar and Walton were scheduled at Abbey Road to be recorded after her grand U.S.A. tour.

Neveu first toured Russia, all Europe and U.S.A. between 1936-1939 in all the major concerti with the most famous conductors and was considered as a great prodigy, as much as Menuhin ...After her first performance of the Brahms concerto in the U.S.A., Virgil Thompson wrote:" I am sure that Brahms would have been delighted with Neveu" Neveu, right after the second great war was back in Boston, U.S.A. and gave two memorable performances of the Tschaïkovski violin concerto , previously performed in Zurich, on August 1945 with Charles Much and other great orchestras in Germany and Austria. She was invited many times in Boston and many other major cities of the United States playing with Ormandy and Koussevitsky.

 She played the Sibelius with the Chicago Symphony January 6 and 7 1949 with Eugene Ormandy and caused a "sensation" in the concert hall. The same occurerd in New-York in 1949 with Charles Much and one critic  wrote and published on the front page of the New-York Times: Neveu plays like a dream!!!

In a very brief period of time, Neveu played  all over Canada, U.S.A,. Russia, South America, Australia and all over European countries. She gave during a very busy tour in the U.S.A. more that 45 concerts and recitals in just two months!!!


In the New-York sun, Irving Kolodin wrote; " Certainly a major violinist, who brings to her music the mental fervor that makes for sense, as well as the rithmic solidity which makes for interest"

Robert Bagar of the World Telegram wrote: " A Parisian with soul, temperament, vigor, poetry and lots of musical brains. A triking figure on the stage- tall, dark- haired and of commanding mien, like a robed acolyte, fascinating to see"

The Times( Olin Downes) " She played with a virility and fire that were equated by the noble proportions and sensibility of her conception. She has a big and vibrant tone , which taxed the resources of her instrument. She is a musician to her fingertips and her playing is compact of sincerity and temperament. Her style, at the same time, is nobly tempered. A serenity of spirit accompanied the more dramatics moments of the music; a tone of gossamer fineness and transparency was at her command, as well as the rigged chords and octave passages that stirred the pulses. It has been many seasons in this city since I heard such a compelling performance of the Brahms Violin Concerto, one in which youthful vigor and emotion went hand in hand with the authority and control of a Master"

In La Presse, in 1948, the critic wrote: Mr Heifetz gave us a spendid performance of the Brahms violin Concerto two weeks ago. Miss Neveu simply displayed a memorable and authoritative one last night. It was a triumph and the public gave her an impressive  and everlasting standing ovation. She is certainly one of the greatest violinist of the world and one of the finest European artist to have perform here since two decades...

About six performances of the Sibelius Concerto with John Barbirolli in August 1949, the press wrote that she played " with the ferocity of a panther".

About Ginette Neveu as a child prodigy:

Georges Enesco : "This child is extraordinary; despite her tender age, she played the Bach concerto in E major with a surprising purity of style ( 1930) Neveu was 10 years old !!!!

Le petit Niçois: Here is a young girl whose sensitivity and technique already have made her a prodigy. There is a flame that burns inside her, an unique and truly marvellous gift. The ability to color the most insignificant musical phrase shows a truly artistic temperament." ( Janusry 24 1932) Neveu aged 13 !!!

Le Figaro ( Paris 1932)  "Ginette Neveu seems to have been born just to play the violin" She has all God's gifts: precison, charm, expressiveness, speed."

La Feuille de Lausanne (1931) " I witnessed a real miracle: an authentic little Mozart who happens to be a woman!"

The magazine Excelsior published in March 1935 an interview with her teacher Jules Boucherit just after she won the Wieniaeski competition in 1935 in Warsaw: " Miss Neveu has this particular French musicality: part intelligence, part stylistic purity, and which is the true quality of our violin school. Ginette Neveu's technique is unbeatable, her health is solid, her will to succeed is unlimites, whatever the effort. She is an attentive enthusiastic, so lively, so hard-working that my real job is to prevent her working too much!"

and finally Carl Flesh in 1931:

Ginette Neveu has an uncommon musicality and a gift from God. I can only advise her on few technical matters in order to prevent the purity of her rare musical gifts..."

She was paid the highest fees ( around 5,000$ each concert) with Heifetz and Kreisler. This is related in one of the biographies of Heifetz . She was close friend of the Rosevelt, Queen Elizabeth of Belgium, Francis Poulenc and Samuel Barber...

Ouf, that was a hard one... 30 years that I became a great fan and collected documents and information  here and there... Many thanks to my family who kept so many interesting documents of several artists of the Golden Era...

January 17, 2011 at 07:41 PM ·

Really interesting stuff, Marc.

I uncovered a few more names having to do with Vivaldi and his school La Pieta...

Anna Maria della Pieta (1696-1782)- Vivaldi's protege; he wrote 37 concertos for her. People came from all around Europe to hear her play. She performed on harpsichord, mandolin, lute, theorbo, cello, violetta d'amore, and oboe. She was concertmaster of the orchestra at La Pieta. The novel "Vivaldi's Virgins" is a fictionalized account of her life.

Mariana dal Contralto - (1709-1780) - Studied at La Pieta. Played violin, mandolin, lute, and theorbo.

Santa della Pieta (born c 1725-1750, died after 1774) - Student of Anna Maria's. Contralto and violinist. Played at least six of the concertos written by Vivaldi for Anna Maria. Also a composer.

Here's a documentary on "Vivaldi's Women" that I'm just starting to watch now.

January 18, 2011 at 08:37 PM ·

I just found this sad, if amusing, bit in Grove's Dictionary of Music from circa 1910 (Wilma Norman-Neruda had not yet died).

The success of the lady violinist is now firmly established; she stands upon the concert platform almost coequal with artists of the other sex, able to give a rendering of the great masterpieces of violin literature no less interesting than theirs, though differing in character. Wilma Norman-Neruda (Lady Halle) reached her seventieth year on March 21, 1909, and retains even yet her old supremacy. Teresina Tua (Countess Franchi) leads a somewhat retired life in Rome. On the other hand several ladies of considerable ability are now before the public, amongst them Marie Hall, Emily Soldat [Marie Soldat?], Gabriele Wietrowetz, Renee Chenet [sic], Sofie Jaffe, Maud Powell, Leonora Jackson, Vivien Chartres, Kathleen Parlow, Leonora von Stosch (Lady Speyer), May Harrison, Jessie Grimson, Nora Clench, and Beatrice Langley, the last five resident in London. Lady amateurs are counted by thousands, and if they do not already form the majority, bid fair to do so in the near future. As orchestral players they have not made, and cannot, for obvious physical reasons, be expected to make, the same progress, few of them possessing the force and intensity which belong to the average male performer; but in chamber music the lady violinist holds her own, imparting into it the delicate, and in some works welcome, charm of femininity.

Hmm, not quite following the logic that it's more physically strenuous to be an orchestral player than a soloist or chamber musician traveling all around the world... I wonder what prejudice is in the music world today, that most of us take for granted, that our grandchildren will look back and say, seriously?

January 19, 2011 at 07:08 PM ·

I think it'll be the same prejudice.  I have an unpleasant feeling that people will still be looking back and saying, "Wow, there were good women violinists in the 20th century, who knew?" because once again, only the men's names will survive.  It just seems like that happens over and over, and everyone is surprised by it every time.  In 150 years, I have a sneaking suspicion that people will be talking about Perlman and Bell, and only specialists will know the names Chang and Pine, and they'll still be finding reviews of them and saying, "Wow, look at what the men were saying about these brilliant, little-known lady violinists!" and we'll still be acting like it's a big discovery.

It just seems like that happens all the time, through the centuries.  The men's names survive, and the women are forgotten the minute they die, no matter how good they were or are.  I hope I'm wrong, but it's been like that for centuries, possibly longer.

January 21, 2011 at 03:59 AM ·

Eda Kersey - 1904-1944. British violinist. Started playing the violin at six; debuted with the Wieniawski second concerto at the age of ten. According to Wikipedia, she gave the first performances of the violin concerto by Stanley Wilson, the Romantic Fantasy of Arthur Benjamin, the violin concerto of Arnold Bax, and the violin sonata of EJ Morean. Premiered the Barber concerto in the UK.

January 21, 2011 at 04:56 AM ·

Great thread, everyone!


sorry I've been away....

.... here on the Connecticut shore, I've been hearing stories lately about a locally renowned woman violinist performer and pedagogue Margaret Wiles, who famously played for Queen Elizabeth, and I don't know what all else....  I haven't collected the stories yet...

Anyone else here know her name or know more?

This would be her (not to be confused with the visual artist and draughtsman of the same name):

((Is Ali Svenson here?  I know you've been researching early women violinists...))

January 25, 2011 at 12:56 AM ·

Suzanne Lautenbacher !!!!!!!!

Has any one heard her interpretation of L'arte del Violino by Pietro Locatelli ? (Meinz Orchestra conducted by Gunter Kerr) or her J. S. Bach's the sonatas and partitas for unaccompanied violin ?

She is a wonderful virtuoso !

January 25, 2011 at 04:01 AM ·

Emilie, thanks for that youtube link on the Piètà and Vivaldi's women choir/orchestra!

It was very interesting!

It's surely not for nothing that I love Vivaldi's music...  just traduce my name in Italian (lol...)

January 25, 2011 at 05:05 PM ·

Yes, it was an amazing documentary. I've watched it twice. Everybody here should watch it. Vivaldi's Women, on Youtube, or else just click the link I mentioned a few posts above. It totally changed my approach to Vivaldi! I think that this history lesson - the fact that Vivaldi wrote many of his pieces specifically for an virtuoso orchestra of women who he was good friends and artistic collaborators with - should be taught to every boy and girl (or man or woman!) when they start their first Vivaldi concerto. I had heard that he worked at the Pieta, of course, but I didn't know the extent of his creative relationship. This documentary begins to explore that.

January 25, 2011 at 08:11 PM ·

That is rally interesting Marc, I am really fascinated with Neveu, I especially love her recording of Debussy violin sonata I'm currently playing this and listen to her when I'm not performing to inspire me

February 5, 2011 at 03:12 AM ·

I just found an interesting set of six violin pieces by Julius Eichberg on IMSLP. They were published from 1879 to 1880 and all dedicated to women violinists. Julius Eichberg was a teacher in Boston who apparently had a real passion for encouraging female professional musicians. Six of these women were Lillian Chandler, Lillian Shattuck, Abbie Shephardson, Edith Christie, and Lettie Launder, and they were the dedicatees of the six pieces. If anyone was going to present a recital with works associated with female violinists, this would be a great set to check out. (FYI, four of these women were members of one of the first all-female string quartets, the Eichberg String Quartet, which was named after their teacher. Chandler and Shattuck played first and violin, Launder played viola, and Shephardson branched out from the violin to play cello!)

February 8, 2011 at 09:37 PM ·

Here's a list of works with connections to female violinists. I just finished adding some more. If you're interested and haven't checked it out yet, feel free to, and since the blog entry has expired, contact me if some information is incorrect or you have a name or piece to add.

February 15, 2011 at 02:32 AM ·

Hi everyone - I've finished (finally) Joan Field's Wikipedia page. For those of you interested here's the link:

I welcome any and all comments, suggestions and so forth... naturally this is a new article, so still subject to the whims of the powers that be over there. Let's see what happens!

Thanks for reading,


February 15, 2011 at 06:12 PM ·

What a great Wikipedia page!! Lovely picture of her.

I've just been in contact with a student of Denise Soriano-Boucherit. You can hear her playing Faure's first sonata here. She was indeed a brilliant talent! You can find more about her by Googling her name, as well.

More names -

Ethel Barns - (1874-1948) - English violinist, pianist, and composer. Here is an article about her. She wrote at least two violin concertos.

Florence Muriel Austin (1884 - 1927) - Studied under Schradieck and Camilla Urso. Won first prize in the violin competition at the Royal Conservatory at Liege. Death date taken from Chronology of Western Classical Music (1751-1900) by Charles J Hall.

Eldina Bligh

Ruth Breton (active in the 1920s and 1930s)

Bertha Brousil (1838 - ?)

Jeanne Franko (1855-1940). Violinist and pianist.

Those were just picked at random from my list, which is growing and multiplying like mad. I have about 75-100 names, and I'm still uncovering new ones all of the time.

March 30, 2011 at 02:46 AM · has been posting an interesting four-part biography of the life of the fabulously wealthy Baron Knoop, one of the most famous violin collectors of all time. Here's part three. Apparently his second wife, Maya Stuart-King (1875-1945), was a violinist. According to her, she came into the relationship with her own Strad, which, after their marriage soured, he eventually locked up in a bank vault (!). Maya Stuart-King was into the paranormal, and was very close friends with Algernon Blackwood, a very famous and prolific author of ghost stories. The little of Stuart-King's life that is chronicled there reads a bit like a Gothic novel. Very interesting; very strange. Go check it out if you're into that kind of thing.

It's a long shot, but...anybody know anything about Maya Stuart-King?

April 1, 2011 at 03:13 AM ·

Another name I wanted to add to the list...

Lillian Fuchs. 1901-1995. She was the first violist to record the Bach cello suites on viola. Hers is some of the most heartfelt and vibrant Bach I've ever heard. I can't believe I haven't heard her playing before.

April 3, 2011 at 01:41 AM ·

 I enjoyed your research. Have you ever heard the name Gioconda Di Vito? She was an Italian

soloist whose recording of the Brahms concerto has been in my collection since childhood.

Di Vito has a very personal style and I encourage people to take a listen.


April 3, 2011 at 02:00 AM ·

 Gioconda de Vito.. I just don't like it when a name is misspelled.. Not many would be happy to see their own names misspelled.

April 5, 2011 at 11:11 PM ·

 Do not distort what I wrote. I was talking about misspelling names, Jon Cadd

April 6, 2011 at 01:44 PM ·

Mispelling is similar to a false note...Sometimes, like the late Fritz Kreisler or  the French poet Nelligan, they are the most charming. On other occasions, they are not...

April 14, 2011 at 08:56 PM ·

In the thread about Auer's other students, we got to talking about how long-necked players of the past played without shoulder rests. It got me wondering how some of the long-necked ladies got along. Anybody have eyewitness accounts / photographs / video of any of them using any padding? Or have any idea how they might have played comfortably? Yeah, I'm doing it: bringing the shoulder rest debate back to the nineteenth century.

This question also got me wondering - what is the earliest video of a female violin virtuoso? The earliest I can think of is the excerpt of Neveu in the Chausson Poeme in Art of the Violin, followed by Morini in the first Bruch concerto on the Bell Telephone Hour in 1963, and then Kyung Wha Chung in the Bruch in the 1970s or 1980s. Surely there were videos made of women violinists before then. Right???? Hopefully??? If so, where are they? And for that matter, where is the rest of Neveu's Chausson Poeme?

Edit - Also the female violinists from the Heifetz master-classes.

April 14, 2011 at 10:58 PM ·

There are a couple of films of Camilla Wicks in the late 1940s-early 1950s. The first chronicles her first tour of Norway and features her playing the 1st movt. of Grieg C minor Sonata, in an outdoor concert, intercut with various scenes of Norway in this period of post-war recovery (include gruesome ones of whaling...). From a few years later a Norwegian film of her playing Valen's short Concerto. The Doremi label is planning to release this as a DVD bonus to some great live recordings.

Here is a link I recently received of Wicks playing, aged 14. It’s on the surface of it relatively simple fare, (Svendsen Romance, Tor Aulin Humoreske, among other Scandinavian short pieces. Also Sarasate Zapateado) but what gorgeous playing and incredibly natural artistry...
Spirit of the Vikings:  It's Christmas in Norway
Norway Fights on:      The Young Violinist Camilla Wicks

April 15, 2011 at 02:03 AM ·

 Dear master Sammy,

Thank you for your kratique. I look forward to hearing you play!


April 15, 2011 at 11:32 PM ·

I believe it was Erica Morini that played on the first recording of the Tchaikovsky Concerto I ever heard, featured on the ABC Westminster Gold LP Best of Tchaikovsky. It was just the 2nd and 3rd Movements and the 3rd mvt was heavily edited, even more than an average recording of it, but it was a great way to be broken in.

April 19, 2011 at 02:32 AM ·

Just found an interesting article in the New York Times about violinist Nettie Carpenter (1869-?) from 1887...


Miss Nettie Carpenter, the young violinist who is to appear in the Gerster concerts, went shopping yesterday with her mother. Her long hair was gathered in a knot, and after the prevailing fashion her hat was held in its place by long hair pins. When she arrived at her home and removed her hat her back hair came off with it. It had been deftly cut by some vandal in a crowded dry goods shop. Miss Carpenter went to the Campanini concert last evening without her hair

April 19, 2011 at 05:16 PM ·

 Sorry to keep spamming, but this is too fantastic and bizarre not to share.

From The Violinist...

Women Violinists Should Make Beds

If, being a woman, you're all run down and your nerves are simply driving you crazy, make your own bed after a sleepless night. Shake the sheets, pat the pillows. If you can bite the pillow case and then run clear around the bed to smooth a crease out of the northeast corner of the top sheet, so much the better. Because it's all exercise; and, in the opinion of Mme. Maud Powell, the best exercised in the world to cure fagged nerves.

"Making beds is fine exercise for feminine musicians," declares this greatest of women violinists.

"Still," she observed, adjusting a stray lock of back hair with the end of her diamond-studded bow, "still, I don't know that I'd recommend it for a housemaid or a farmer's wife. But for the multitude of women that haven't the good fortune to be kept well by a reasonable amount of active exercise about their homes - for women with too many servants, women with too much society, or with club duties, literary or artistic pursuits to occupy their minds and tantalize their nerves - there's nothing better than simply making beds.

"I know because I've tried it, and I've tried the more pretentious, fashionable and expensive cures as well. When I got back from England, some time ago, I was a wreck - simply a wreck."

The intonation of this statement was that of some scarcely-breathing graduate from a Siberian prison, but the speaker was so fresh, youthful and energetic - some comely also, as every concert-goer knows - that she might sell her portraits to advertise a breakfast food

"I was, really," she protested. "I was a well-nigh perfect ruin as to nerves. I went to a German doctor in New York whom a friend recommended. 'So?' he exclaimed, when I told him that I might as well be buried at once.

"Then he asked if 'the frau had the beds ge-made.' No, she hadn't; certainly not. 'Aber the frau should the beds make - all of them in the house, not one only.' Well, I went home and made beds and kept making them, and it did me a hundred times more good than tablets, motor-caring, the rest-cure and the Riviera.

"You see, violin playing is hard on any woman or man; it twists the left arm around snake-fashion; it kinks the spine a trifle, compresses the chest, and throws all the exercise upon the right arm. Women, especially girls, who aren't strong, should not take up the 'fiddle.' The closeness of the sound and the vibration to the left ear also tries the nerves. But the woman strong enough to learn the violin has special advantages. Her touch is more delicate than a man's; her ear is often truer; she more quickly masters the technique. After that it's a difference of individuals, not of sex."

This is from October 1909.

April 27, 2011 at 09:11 PM ·

John, thank you. She's great, and I enjoyed listening to her Tchaikovsky very much. One such performance should be enough to dispel any myths about women being unfit for the violin.

April 28, 2011 at 01:09 AM ·

 Why would women be unfit for playing violin? If anything I would think they would be more adept then men as women are more able to tie into the emotional aspect of music while its a bit more difficult for men to identify and bring out the feelings the composer was trying to get out. Also they have smaller fingers which I am infinitly jealous of as my fat flat fingers are always causing me trouble as I play violin and Piano. Bah! Whoever said women are unfit for the violin are just jealous. 


Edit: Hilary Hahn btw though not an old time player is still quite amazing. *in love

April 28, 2011 at 01:27 AM ·

There were a lot of reasons why women and violins weren't thought to be a good mix. Not to be an obnoxious self-promoter, but I wrote an essay that mentioned some of those reasons here.

April 28, 2011 at 05:49 PM ·

John, are you talking about this piece? That's the Melody from the Souvenir d'un lieu cher. :) Gorgeous playing in that video.

In Luis Claudio Manfio's recent blog entry on this site, I read about the impending sale of the Lady Blunt Strad. It turns out that Lady Anne Blunt (1837-1917) studied under Jansa, the same man who taught Wilma Norman-Neruda. If Lady Blunt began at an early age, this was rather unusual, as not many Englishwomen played the violin before 1870 or so. Looking forward to uncover how seriously Lady Blunt took her studies, the history of her training, etc...

I am a bit overwhelmed at all of these names coming from left and right. Overwhelmed in a good way, of course...but their obscurity does get a bit frustrating. There are these many amazing women violinists, who led extraordinary inspiring fascinating lives...right now, I have a list of 250, and I haven't even yet systematically dug through the Strad archives or other contemporary music magazines...but we only hear about one or two, if those. It's a bit ridiculous. Well, hopefully things are changing. Thanks everyone who has participated in this thread so far.

November 2, 2014 at 12:08 PM · Does anyone know of a female violinist who was a student of Leopold Auer and whose 1st name was Rose.

She resided in Evanston Illinois. That's all I remember.

November 2, 2014 at 04:31 PM · Theodore: are you maybe thinking of Ruth Ray?

November 3, 2014 at 11:03 AM · Dear Elise:

You are so right. I visited Ruth Ray at her home in Evanston when I was teaching strings in Highland Park. This was about 40 years ago. She had a wall gallery of black and white photographs of dozens of her violin classmates from Leopold Auer's St. Petersburg violin class.

November 3, 2014 at 12:39 PM · Glad to help. I happen to have a photo of Auer with many of his students and there was no Rose mentioned, so that led me on a hunt...

But this topic will archive before I get a chance to be added to it :D

October 30, 2016 at 01:21 AM · Came upon your thread while browsing. I was pleased to see you'd found Ruth Breton, my teacher. She studied at Curtis with Auer and is pictured in his basic violin course along with one or two other women (I think Ruth Ray is one of them). Another Ruth of considerable fame was Ruth Posselt, born 1911 in Medford, Mass. She studied with Ondricek and later with Jacques Thibaud. She

married Richard Burgin, BSO concertmaster, and appeared more than 60 times as soloist with that orchestra. She also premiered a number of modern concertos. Ruth Bretton gave up a seemingly successful career to tend her family. When I know her she was using a borrowed Stradivari violin, the Abergavenny. She is mentioned in Doring's book, "How Many Strads?", as borrowing the Bott Stradivari from Wurlitzers for a concert tour. Interestingly, for her 16th birthday she was presented with the Goding Amati.

I find your blog very interesting, and the knowledge of some of your correspondents is truly impressive.

October 30, 2016 at 05:03 PM · I have always been a fan of Pina Carmirelli; I don't think she's been mentioned on this list yet, so here it is!

October 31, 2016 at 01:30 PM · Wow. This thread has been around for a while. Great discussion of so many true artists who should have received much more attention through the years.

I would just add my voice to Michele Auclair, whose almost-impossible-to-get recordings of the Tchaikovsky and Brahms concerti are great, great performances by a great artist.


October 31, 2016 at 05:40 PM · Edith Peinemann? Maybe too young to qualify for this thread? I only know her by reputation - I don't think I've ever heard her play.

Sylvia Rosenberg? A regular broadcaster on BBC Radio 3 at one time. I remember her as good but not 'great', but the memory is from many years ago..

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