Great female violinists of the past
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.
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.
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