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Great Female Violinists: A List

The following is a list of professional women violinists who were born before 1920. It is by no means exhaustive, but as I get more and more information, expect more and more biographies. Let me know if your favorite isn’t on the list!

Remember, you can hear many of these women on my Youtube channel.

This list was last updated on 23 August 2011.

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Grażyna Bacewicz (1909-1969). Bacewicz was born in Poland and studied violin, piano, and composition at the Warsaw Conservatory. She studied under Carl Flesch in the 1930s. Later in life she shifted her professional focus away from performing and onto composition, a field in which she found great success. Her output includes seven violin concertos.

Grazyna Bacewicz

Ethel Barns (1874-1948). Barns was a British violinist, pianist, and composer. She and her husband, baritone Charles Phillips, established a concert series called (appropriately enough) the Barns-Phillips Chamber Concerts. She was passionate about furthering the cause of women in music, and she wrote at least two violin concertos.

Ethel Barns

Lady Ann Blunt (1837-1917). A granddaughter of Lord Byron, Lady Blunt was a polyglot, artist (she studied with John Ruskin), equestrian, and violinist. She and her husband, the adulterous Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, shared a mutual passion for Arabian horses. (In fact, according to Wikipedia, “the vast majority of purebred Arabian horses trace their lineage” to their stock.) She studied under violinist Leopold Jansa, who also taught Wilma Norman-Neruda. Her Stradivari, the 1721 Lady Blunt, was sold in 2011 for $15.9 million.

Lady Ann Blunt

Guila Bustabo (1916-2002). Bustabo was born in Manitowac, Wisconsin, and began to play the violin at the tender age of two. As a child she studied in Chicago and at the Juilliard School in New York. While living in Europe in the forties, Guila played under William Mengelberg, a conductor who came under criticism after the war for not doing more to resist the Nazis. General Patton actually arrested Guilia after hearing that she had worked with Mengelberg, although all charges against her were later dropped. According to Wikipedia, this incident limited her career opportunities in the United States; however, there are also indications that her bipolar disorder may also have contributed to her professional decline. Her recordings of the Sibelius, Bruch, and Wolf-Ferrari concertos (the latter of which was written for her) are landmarks in the discography. She later taught at the Innsbruck Conservatory and played in the Alabama Symphony.

Guila Bustabo

Lillian Shattuck (1857-1940). Shattuck studied under Julius Eichberg in Boston and around 1878 formed the first all-female string quartet in America, called, appropriately enough, the Eichberg Quartet. The members of the group traveled to Berlin to study under Joachim; reportedly he was so astonished to see an all-female group from America that he permitted them all entry to the Conservatory. Shattuck later became an important pedagogue in the Boston area.

Vivien Chartres (1893-1941). Chartres, the daughter of renowned author Annie Vivanti, was one of the foremost British prodigies of the late Victorian era. She was often compared in the press to Mischa Elman and Bronislaw Huberman, and she toured throughout Europe to great acclaim. Her mother wrote a fascinating novel loosely based on her life called The Devourers in 1910. In her later childhood, Chartres gave up touring, although she kept a violin for the rest of her life.

Vivien Chartres

Renée Chemet (c 1888-?). Chemet is somewhat of an enigma. She left us several lovely recordings, including one of the Japanese song Haru no umi (Sea in Springtime), but our knowledge of her career post-1930 is fuzzy. Some refer to her as “the French Kreisler.”

Renee Chemet

Jelly d’Aranyi (1893-1956). D’Aranyi was born in Budapest into a musical family (her great-uncle was Joseph Joachim, and her sister Adila was a famous violinist in her own right). She had fruitful creative relationships with many of the most important composers of the early twentieth century, including Ravel, Bartók, and Vaughan Williams. She was also a sensitive, and along with her sister Adila, she “uncovered” the Schumann violin concerto in a séance. (This is a rather long and interesting story.)

Jelly d'Aranyi

Santa della Pietà (early to mid-1700s). Santa della Pietà was a violinist, singer, and composer at the Ospedale della Pietà, a Venetian music school for female orphans. (Vivaldi famously taught at the Ospedale and wrote large amounts of repertoire for his female pupils.) She was only one of many talented women musicians (including women violinists) who worked at the Ospedale. See the documentary “Vivaldi’s Women” for more information.

Adila Fachiri (1886-1962). Fachiri was born in Budapest into a musical family (her great-uncle was Joseph Joachim and her sister Jelly d’Aranyi). She began to study violin when she was ten, but despite her relatively late start, she advanced extremely quickly. She married Alexander Fachiri in 1915. Several important composers dedicated works to her.

Adila Fachiri

Stefi Geyer (1888-1956). Geyer was born in Budapest, began playing the violin at the age of three, and proved to be a prodigy. She studied with Jenő Hubay in Budapest and toured throughout Europe as a child. When she was a teenager she met Béla Bartók, who promptly fell in love with her and wrote his first violin concerto for her. She never played the work…and never returned Bartók’s affections. Later in her life another composer Othmar Schoeck fell in love with her, and also wrote her a violin concerto. Geyer had a long successful career teaching and performing.

Stefi Geyer

Marie Hall (1884-1956). Hall was born to a poor family in northern England. She was a prodigy, but her family could not afford to send her to a prestigious institution to study. However, in 1901, upon the advice of Jan Kubelík, she made it into Ševčík’s studio in Prague. She had a fantastic debut in 1902 in that city and later became a sensation in London. Vaughan Williams wrote The Lark Ascending for her, and they consulted over revisions to the piece.

Marie Hall

May Harrison (1890-1959). May was one of four musical sisters (Beatrice was a cellist, Monica a singer, and Margaret a violinist). At eleven, May won a scholarship to attend the Royal College of Music. Later she studied in St. Petersburg with pedagogue Leopold Auer. She championed the Brahms double concerto (with Beatrice on cello) and the music of her fellow countryman Frederick Delius. Her quick-study skills were legendary: she learned the massively demanding Elgar concerto in two weeks.

May Harrison and her sister Beatrice

Leonora Jackson (1879-1969). Jackson was born in Boston and studied in Chicago, Paris, and Berlin. In Berlin she was a pupil of Joachim. Frances Cleveland, the former First Lady, provided Jackson with financial support for her studies. Jackson toured throughout the world, playing on a Stradivari from 1714. She retired upon her marriage at the age of 36.

Leonora Jackson

Hélène Jourdan-Morhange (1892-1961). Jourdan-Morhange was a close friend of Maurice Ravel’s (in fact, there is a rumor that he once proposed marriage to her). She met him after a performance in which she played his piano trio. Ravel dedicated his sonata for violin and piano to her, but arthritis kept her from ever performing it. He mused about writing a violin concerto for her, but unfortunately this project never materialized. She later wrote a book about her friendship entitled Ravel et nous.

Helene Jourdan-Morhange

Daisy Kennedy (1893-1981). Kennedy was born in south Australia. She began learning the piano at four and the violin at seven. When Jan Kubelík came to visit Australia, she secured a meeting with him, as well as a letter of recommendation to Kubelík’s teacher, Sevcik. She was a great musical success in both Europe and the United States. She is distantly related to violinist Nigel Kennedy.

Daisy Kennedy

Teresa Milanollo (1827-1904). Milanollo was one of the first great female violinists. Despite her being a girl, her father encouraged her studies and even relocated from Italy to Paris so that she might learn from the best teachers. She and her violinist sister Maria made an extraordinary impact on the European music scene in the 1840s, creating sensations akin to those that greeted Paganini and Liszt. One of her great passions was charity work. She largely retired from the concert stage after her marriage at the age of thirty. Despite her relatively short career, she opened many doors for the multitudes of female violinists who would follow in her footsteps.

Teresa Milanollo

Alma Moodie (1898-1943). Moodie was born in Australia. When she was nine, she won a scholarship to study at the Brussels Conservatory. As a teenager, she befriended famous composer Max Reger, who conducted and accompanied her at many of her concerts, and dedicated his Praludium und Fuge for solo violin to her. For a variety of reasons, she did not play much during World War I, and after the War, she studied under Carl Flesch to rehabilitate her playing (Flesch said that of all his students, she was the one he liked best). She had a brief affair with Gustav Mahler’s daughter’s ex, but eventually married a German lawyer named Alexander Spengler, who was not particularly supportive of her career. Details of her tragically young death, at the age of forty-five, are hazy. She never made a single recording.

Wilhelmina Norman-Neruda, later Lady Hallé (c 1838-1911). Wilhelmina was born into a musical family of prodigies. During her childhood, the violin was not considered to be an appropriate instrument for a lady, so her father encouraged her to play the piano instead. But when he discovered playing her brother’s violin in secret, he relented. She made her first public appearance at seven. Her first marriage was to Swedish composer Ludwig Norman; after his death, she married pianist and conductor Charles Hallé. She was considered to be one of the great violinists of the age, especially in her adopted country of Britain. For a longer biography, click here.

Wilma Neruda

Ginette Neveu (1919-1949). Neveu was born in Paris into a musical family. (Her brother Jean-Paul became a professional pianist who often accompanied her.) She made her orchestral debut at the age of seven. When she was fifteen, she was the winner of the Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition, beating out a 29-year-old David Oistrakh. Neveu died in a plane crash at the age of thirty; her death is one of the great musical tragedies of the twentieth century.

Ginette Neveu

Kathleen Parlow (1890-1963). Parlow was born in Alberta and was one of the first great instrumentalists to come out of Canada. She and her mother moved to San Francisco in 1894, where she began to take violin lessons. She made astonishingly quick progress and by 1906 she had secured a coveted place in the legendary St. Petersburg studio of Leopold Auer. According to Wikipedia, “Kathleen Parlow…[was] the first foreigner to attend the St. Petersburg Conservatory. In her class of forty-five students, Parlow was the only female.” She had an international career as both a soloist and a quartet player, and later became a teacher at Juilliard and University of Western Ontario.

Kathleen Parlow

Maud Powell (1867-1920). Powell was born into a progressive family in Peru, Illinois. She studied in Chicago as a child, then later in Europe with Schradieck, Dancla, and Joachim. As a teenager, she secured her New York Philharmonic debut by walking into the hall and demanding the conductor listen to her play. She was hired on the spot. She was one of the most important American instrumentalists of her day, male or female, and was the first great American violinist who could stand comparison with the best of the European-born virtuosi. She premiered the Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, and Sibelius concertos in America; she was the first white musician to include the works of black composers in her programs; and she was one of the very first recording stars. She is one of the bright shining lights of American music history.

Maud Powell

Emily Shinner (1862-1901). We don’t know a tremendous amount about Shinner, but we do know that she was one of the first female students to study under Joachim in Berlin. Later in her career she became a specialist in chamber music, and the Shinner Quartet, which was made up of women, became internationally renowned. She died at the age of 39 after giving birth to a still-born son.

Maddelena Lombardini Sirmen (1745-1818). Sirmen was born in Venice and studied at one of the many music schools there. She studied under the legendary virtuoso Giuseppe Tartini, and he once wrote a letter to her about violin technique that has since become famous. When she was 22, she married a violinist named Ludovico Sirmen, and the two toured and composed together. Later in her career she began to perform as a singer, although she was not as successful a singer as she was a violinist.

Maddelena Lombardini Sirmen

Marie Soldat Roeger (1863-1955). Soldat was born in Graz, Austria, and began to study the violin in 1871. She was also a gifted pianist and vocalist, and it wasn’t until 1879 that she decided to focus on the violin. That same year she came to the attention of both Brahms and Joachim, both of whom aided her in her musical studies. She became closely associated with the Brahms violin concerto, and she – not Joachim – was the one who introduced it to many European cities. Rachel Barton Pine now plays her 1742 del Gesu, which Brahms arranged for Soldat to acquire.

Marie Soldat

Leonora von Stosch, later Lady Speyer (1872-1956). Von Stosch was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of a professional writer mother and a Civil War veteran father. She studied in Brussels, Paris, and Leipzig. She first married Louis Meredith Howland, but that marriage ended in divorce; later, she married Sir Edgar Speyer. She was well-known in Edwardian music circles in Britain, and she was the one who premiered portions of the Elgar violin concerto in private performance. She suffered an injury that kept her from playing the violin professionally, and so she began to explore her interest in writing. Her book Fiddler’s Farewell won the 1927 Pulitzer Prize.

Leonora von Stosch

Regina Strinasacchi Schlick (c 1761-1839). Strinasacchi was born near Mantua, Italy, and studied at the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice. She toured Europe as a young woman, and while in Vienna in 1784, she met none other than Wolfgang Mozart. He was impressed by her talent, and composed a violin and piano sonata for the two of them to play together (K454). Mozart waited to compose the piece until the last minute. Strinsacchi had to learn the new piece very quickly, and Mozart himself played without sheet music. The next year she married a cellist named Johann Conrad Schlick. She also played guitar and composed.

Arma Senkrah (1864-1900). Senkrah’s real name was Anna Harkness; she arrived at her pseudonym by writing her real name backward. (Once, in sly homage, conductor Hans von Bülow signed an autograph to her as “Snah nov Wolub.”) She was an American, but came to study in Europe in 1873, and in 1881 she won the first prize at the Paris Conservatoire. Eventually came to the attention of none other than Franz Liszt, who worked with her a great deal and praised her talents highly. At her husband’s insistence, she gave up her career after her marriage. She committed suicide in 1900, supposedly after he fell in love with another woman.

Arma Senkrah

Teresina Tua (1866-1956). Tua was born in Turin, Italy, to a musical family. She began playing the violin when she was six, and it wasn’t long before she was touring through Europe. She studied with Joseph Lambert Massart (Kreisler’s teacher), but in 1880, she won a major prize at the Paris Conservatoire and left the school. As a beautiful young woman, she bewitched European audiences throughout the 1880s, although much to her disappointment she received lukewarm reviews in America. In 1890 she married, went into semi-retirement, and gave birth to a pair of twins (who later died young). She eventually returned to the concert platform, touring with no less a pianist than Rachmaninoff. Later in life she became a teacher. In 1940 she sold all of her possessions, gave the money to the poor, and entered a convent.

Teresina Tua

Camilla Urso (1842-1902). Urso was born in Nantes, France, the daughter of a flautist and a singer. As a six-year-old, she insisted upon learning to play the violin, despite the fact it was considered to be a masculine instrument. Thankfully, her father recognized talent when he saw it, and he championed his talented daughter, persuading the officials at the Paris Conservatoire to accept her. She had a professional career that spanned half a century and four continents, but she was especially beloved in her adopted homeland of America.

Camilla Urso

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Article: Women Violinists of the Victorian Era, 1899

Here is a long article entitled “Women Violinists of the Victorian Era” from the February or March 1899 edition of The Lady’s Realm, a British magazine. The author is unknown. Original here.

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Before the days of Paganini, and even as far back as the middle of the last century, a girl-violinist appeared now and then upon the concert platforms of Europe. Yet it may be asserted, without misgiving, that all celebrated lady-violinists are of the Victorian Era.

The first women who attained enduring fame as violinists were the sisters Milanollo, the outlines of whose artistic careers have often enough been sketched, though unfortunately not always with accuracy. But the ever-gracious Teresa Milanollo (now Madame Parmentier) has kindly placed at my disposal the fullest details concerning her public life, and has courteously permitted the readers of THE LADY’S REALM to be told more than is usually known of her personal history.

Born at Savigliano (Piedmont), August 28th, 1827, Madame Parmentier is now in her seventy-first year. But the disposition of Teresa Milanollo is still young and fresh, her interest in things musical, and zeal for philanthropic service, as keen as ever.

The vocation of this great artist manifested itself in very early days. At four years of age she was taken to a funeral ceremony in honour of King Charles Félix of Sardinia, and upon leaving the church her father put to her the question: “Did you pray to God, little one?” “No, papa,” was the reply, “I did nothing but listen to the violin.” After this she was persistent in her demands for a violin of her own. Her father instructed her in the elements of solfeggi, and then made for her a little violin in white wood, and put her, for a year, under the tuition of Ferrero at Savigliano. Later on she had lessons at Turin from Caldera and from Morra, but not of Gebhard, as has been often stated.

She was only in her ninth year when she made her début and appeared at several concerts in the vicinity of her native town. In the year 1836 she was taken to France, to play at the Musard Concerts at Marseilles. There she had an immediate success, and went on to Paris, where she had some lessons from Lafont and played once or twice at the Opéra Comique. The same year she went with Lafont for a tour in Belgium and Holland, and in 1837 played at Amsterdam and the Hague. In this year too – the year of the Queen’s accession – she came to London, and was heard at Covent Garden.

In London she took some lessons with Mori and Tolbecque, and was engaged by the harpist Bochsa to make a three months’ tour in Wales.

It was upon her return to France, in 1838, that her little sister Maria, then six years old, was first presented to the public. Soon after this, Teresa put herself under the musical direction of Hebeneck, who made her play his Grand Polonaise in C, at one of the celebrated Conservatoire concerts, April 18th, 1841. In the opinion of all the critics of that time, and notably of Berlioz, her success was immense, and it was this appearance that definitely crowned her reputation.

The same year, the sisters Milanollo played before Louis-Philippe at Neuilly, and from this period, they were inseparable until the death of Maria. The younger sister never received any lessons except those given her by Teresa. About this time the sisters met de Beriot, who communicated to Teresa the masterly bowing of the school of Viotti and de Baillot, and the faultless intonation which so many, even illustrious, performers lack. To de Beriot Madame Parmentier accords the distinction of having “completed her artistic education.”

From this time (1842) forward until 1848, when the melancholy event of Maria’s death from rapid consumption occurred, the sisters were continuously journeying through Europe. In every capital, and in most towns of importance, they appeared at series of concerts; their reputation increasing each year. In Vienna, particularly, the honours of public favour were heaped upon them. They appeared with Liszt at the Castle at Brühl before the King of Prussia, and in Berlin the furore they created had, according to the cirtic Kellstab, been equalled only three times in the century. The three performers whose successes he ranked with theirs were Catalini (the prima donna), Paganini, and Liszt. While in Berlin the sisters twice played before the Court, accompanied by the composer Meyerbeer.

In 1845 they paid their second and last visit to London, where they gave several concerts, and played before Her Majesty at Court.

It is a strange thing that at a time when the music-lovers of the Continent were all wildly enthusiastic for the sisters Milanollo, and their popularity abroad supreme, the English public gave them a comparatively lukewarm reception. But in 1845 England had scarcely earned the reputation of a music-, or rather virtuosi-loving nation. The days of Sarasate- and Paderewski fever had not yet dawned in Britain, and the really musical among us could be counted only by hundreds, instead of, as now, by many thousands.

The terrible sorrow into which Teresa fell, upon the loss in 1848 of her much-cherished sister and pupil, was stupefying in its intensity. But her father, who had recently bought a country estate at Malzéville, near Nancy, urged upon her the wisdom of reappearing in public.  She played, therefore, at a concert in aid of the Association des Artistes Musiciens, gave two quartet concerts in Paris, and subsequently toured in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.

Her last professional concert was given on April 6th, 1857, at Nancy, and on the 15th of the same month she married General (then Captain) Théodore Parmentier. At the time of their marriage, General Parmentier was aide-de-camp to General Niel, with whom he took part in the siege of Sebastopol. Since her marriage, Teresa Milanollo’s appearances in public have been comparatively few, and all have been at the call of charity.

Many are the charming stories told of the ceaseless benevolence of Teresa Milanollo. During the lifetime of Maria, the sisters had already put themselves into direct personal relations with the poor of Lyons; but it was after Teresa had roused herself from her mourning that she invented the system of “Concerts aux Pauvres,” which she carried out in nearly all the chief towns of France. At these concerts she reserved part of her receipts for the benefit of the poor. Then in each town she appeared again before an audience composed exclusively of the children of the public schools and their parents. To these she played in a manner which strangely silenced and moved her hearers, and at the conclusion of her performances, money, food, and clothes, the products of her self-charged receipts from the previous concerts, were distributed.

From 1857 to 1878 she, a soldier’s wife, followed the fortunes of her husband, and one of her later appearances was at a concert at Constantine, Algiers. Since 1878 the gallant General who is “Grand Officier de la Légion d’Honneur,” and his gifted and famous wife, have resided quietly in Paris; but, generous and accessible as ever, Madame Parmentier is still to be met by a fortunate few in select musical and social circles of the French capital.

Teresa Milanollo is not alone distinguished as the first really famous lady-violinist, she is also remembered for being the most pathetic and soul-moving performer of modern times. All her effects were obtained by legitimate means. Maria’s distinction rested on other grounds. Without pretending to the grand style and electric emotion of Teresa, she had remarkable vigour and boldness of execution, and her staccato was so perfect that she received, in Germany, the nickname of Madamoiselle Staccato, in opposition to her sister, who was dubbed Mademoiselle Adagio.

To Brussels, the cradle, then and now, of so much musical talent, belongs the honour of having given to the world, in the early ‘fifties, some excellent lady-performers on the violin. Among them was a Mademoiselle Fréry, a favourite pupil of Charles de Beriot. Dr. T. L. Philson, who was present in the great concert-hall of the Grande Harmonic when Mademoiselle Fréry competed for the first violin-prize of the Brussels Conservatoire, states that she was not only a fine player, whose performance on that, as on subsequent occasions, was greeted with storms of applause, but a very beautiful girl. He recalls her, with black, flashing eyes and dark hair, sitting behind the stage with her mother, fingering her violin in an agony of nervousness, though apparently calm, until it should be her turn to appear before the judges. When the moment came, to the surprise of every one, her courage failed her. She refused to go forward. Nor could her bashfulness be overcome until de Beriot himself, leaving the conductor’s desk, went to her and led her in her little white frock and pink sash, blushing and trembling, before the audience. The chief merits of this player were her “full, luscious tone,” and refined expression. Like many another talented beauty she was married early (to a pianist, with whom she went to the United States), and disappeared from European musical circles.

Not long after her successes, Brussels – in 1853-4 – hailed with the enthusiasm the début, at the Opera House, of the Demoiselles Ferny, who were pupils of Artot. These two sisters speedily became popular favourites; and the similitude of their name – Ferny – with Fréry, undoubtedly completed the extinction of the earlier star, who deserved to shine a little longer in the recollection of music-lovers.

After Teresa Milanollo, the next name to stamp itself indelibly upon the public consciousness is that of “Norman-Neruda.” Other women-violinists, notwithstanding great talents and sensational successes, scarcely attained to the true immortality of fame. But the position of Neruda, in the hierarchy of musicians, is one that cannot easily be overthrown.

Wilhelmina Neruda, born in 1840 at Brünn in Moravia, began to play the violin almost as soon as she could walk, and appeared in public at Vienna in 1846. Her master was Jansa. At nine years old she played a concerto of de Beriot’s at the London Philharmonic Concert, and was enthusiastically received. In 1865 she married Ludwig Norman, a Swedish musician, and five years afterwards played again at the Philharmonic, and was induced by Vieuxtemps to remain in London until the winter, when she accepted the post of leader of the quartet at the Popular Concerts. From that time it has been the good fortune of Londoners to hear her every winter at St. James’s Hall.

Of her perfect education, refined and intelligent phrasing, and depth of feeling, it is unnecessary to speak. The violin she uses is the “Strad” that belonged to Ernst; it was presented to her by the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and a few other distinguished amateurs.

Upon the death of Ludwig Norman, Madame Neruda married Sir Charles Hallé, with whom she made a most successful tour in Australia. In 1895, as none of us have forgotten, Sir Charles Hallé died, and, upon the suggestion of the Princess of Wales (of whom “Neruda” has long been a personal as well as a musical favourite), a subscription was raised for his widow. In 1896 Lady Hallé was presented by many admirers with the title-deeds of an estate and villa in Italy, and a purse of £500.

For so long now Lady Hallé has been a favourite of the British Public, for so long she has resided in our midst, that it is difficult to think of her as other than an Englishwoman. Yet neither her birth nor her parentage gives us the right to claim her as our own. But there is something in the repose and “at-homeness” of Lady Hallé’s bearing, both in public and private, and much in her devotion and loyalty to the British audiences who have delighted to applaud her through nearly half a century, that warrants the pride we all feel in our lion’s share of possession of her personality and talents. More than any other of the great violinists of the Victorian Era, she belongs to us. England may be proud of being the country of this great artist’s adoption. Her Majesty’s recognition of her husband, and the English title which, through him, “Norman-Neruda” bears, only serve to emphasize our claim to count her one of us.

Gabrielle Wietrowetz was born at Graz in Styria, in 1866. She is the daughter of an orchestral musician, who taught her all he could until she was placed in the Styrian Musical Society’s School under Caspar. Aided by the Styrian Government, Fräulein Wietrowetz entered the far-famed Hochschule in Berlin, where she worked under Joachim. Twice she won the Mendelssohn prize, and, at eighteen years of age, appeared at the Berlin Philharmonic Concert, when she played Max Bruch’s second concerto.

After playing in Bremen and other German towns, she came to London, and, among other engagements, has been heard several times as leader of the “Pop” Quartet. The breadth of her tone and beauty of her phrasing are remarkable; her interpretation of the music of Brahms being particularly striking. A woman of great strength and determination, she puts it all into her playing, adding much charm and tenderness.

Teresina Tua was born in 1867, and first appeared as a prodigy in Nice when seven years old. After a successful concert, she attracted the notice of a wealthy Russian, Madame Rosen, through whose interest she became pupil of Massart at the Paris Conservatoire. Queen Isabella of Spain, and Madame MacMahon (wife of the Field-Marshal) were also among those whose early notice contributed to the fostering of “La Tua’s” remarkable gifts. She appeared for the first time in England in 1883, when she created much sensation at the Crystal Palace Concerts, and played with success at the Philharmonic. She has visited America, and appeared in most of the chief cities of Europe. Upon her marriage with the Comte de Franchi Verney della Valetta, she retired for a time from public life, but re-appeared in Italy in 1891. In the January of last year she was heard once more in England, and gave a well-attended recital at St. James’s Hall. It is generally agreed that her style is now more matured; some earlier eccentricities having quite disappeared. Her tone is small, but the refinement of her expression and phrasing are delightful. She is, in every sense of the word, a charming player.

Irma Sethe, one of the most remarkable of living violinists, was born at Brussels in 1876. When only five years old she showed exceptional talent, and her mother persuaded the celebrated violinist, Jokisch, to give the little one lessons on the violin. After three months’ study she was able to play a sonata of Mozart’s, and at ten years of age she played a concerto by de Beriot, and a rondo capriccioso by Saint-Saëns, at a charity concert, when she was received with much applause.

The following year she made a still greater success at Aix-la-Chapelle, with the result that many engagements poured in upon her. But her mother wisely refused to allow her to begin her public career so early. She continued under the tuition of Jokisch until her fourteenth year, but spent her holidays in Germany, where she had lessons from Wilhelmj, who gave her a violin. She studied subsequently under Ysaye, who, surprised at her talent, advised her to enter the Brussels Conservatoire. After studying there eight months, she won the first prize. She was then only fifteen. In 1896 she appeared in London, and, during the Jubilee season, gave an orchestral concert at the Queen’s Hall.

Her playing is remarkable for great breadth of town, for refinement, combined with almost masculine power and intellect, and for an absolutely perfect intonation. In the opinion of many musicians, she is the finest lady-violinist who has yet appeared.

It is fortunate for the music-loving public that Irma Sethe’s marriage, which took place in Brussels last August, has not withdrawn her from the concert-room. With her husband, Dr. Saenger (littérateur and Professor of Philosophy at Berlin) Madame Sethe-Saenger has made her home in a charming modern flat in the Prussian capital. And as much as she delights in her Art, there is ever a wrench when she tears herself away from the calm and luxury of home, to fulfil the numerous engagements which are made for her by her agent Cavour in different parts of the Continent and British Isles. Her recent autumn visit to this country, when she played in the more important of our provincial towns, re-visited Scotland, and made her first appearance in Ireland, proved to her numerous admirers that hand and soul have not lost their cunning, nor wifehood staled the marvellous artistic power of Irma Sethe-Saenger.

Of English lady-violinists of the present reign, the earliest perhaps to commend herself to critical favour was Miss Browning (now Mrs. Osborne Ince) whose name is almost forgotten, though she is still living in our midst, and in touch with London musical life. This player had a breadth of tone which, in days of too exclusive devotion to technique, is refreshing to recall.

It was in 1874, in her very youthful days, that Miss Emily Shinner went to Berlin to study the violin. At that time – it is hardly credible in our more enlightened days – female violinists were not admitted to the Hochschule, so Miss Shinner had to content herself with taking private lessons from Herr Jacobsen. But one morning she was suddenly made aware of the fact that a lady-student who, in ignorance of the rules, had travelled all the way from Silesia, was, through the kindness of Professor Jachim, about to be examined for admission to the Hochschule. The English student lost no time in presenting herself as a second candidate. The result of the examination of both ladies was their acceptance of probationers, and they became thus the first two lady-students for the violin admitted to the famous Berlin Academy. At the end of six months, Joachim heard Miss Shinner play, and decided to take her as a pupil, whereby she gained the further distinction of being the first girl-violinist to study for the profession under the great master of our day.

About fifteen years ago, Miss Shinner was called upon, at short notice, to take Madame Neruda’s place as leader of the “Pop” Quartet. It appears to have been Miss Shinner’s destiny to break new ground, for she was the first lady to receive the honour of appearing in Neruda’s accustomed seat at the Popular Concerts. The middle movement of the quartet was encored; but so inexperienced was the young leader that it was only upon the hint of Mr. Ries that she accepted the encore and began it again. Since that time, Miss Shinner has always been more or less before the English public, and has devoted herself particularly to chamber music and quartet playing. Only two years ago she played Bach’s double concerto in conjunction with Joachim at the Crystal Palace. Her marriage, with Captain A. F. Liddell, took place in 1889.

Miss Ethel Barns is known both as a performer and as the composer of some charming violin solos. If there be anything in graphology, one ought to read some exceptional characteristics – an infinite power of taking pains, a precision, a force – in her musical hand-writing, characteristics which are all invaluable to a violin-player.

Another English violinist, just now coming to the front, is Miss Jessie Grimson. She was trained by her father, Mr. S. Dean Grimson, until 1889, when she won a scholarship at the Royal College.

Among a crowd of stars, whose persistent shining reveals them at last to sight, one appears sometimes with sudden meteor-flash. Miss Leonora Jackson is one of these.

Madame Soldat is a French player of exceptional ability, and the leader of the Viennese Ladies’ Quartet.

Among other lady-violinists who have become known to English audiences during the Victorian Era are Bertha Brousil, who now devotes herself to teaching; Terese Liebe, once resident in London, but at present living abroad; Marrie Motto; Nettie Carpenter; Anna Lang; Frida Scotta, who has appeared in most of the continent capitals, including Moscow in 1896; Marianne Eissler; Beatrice Langley; Louise Nanney; Camilla Urso; Edith Robinson.

We, of this time, have outlived the dark ages when the violin was looked upon as an exclusively manly instrument. It is one of the surest marks of progress in the Victorian Era that those days are passed. The fame of a Paganini, of an Ernst, of a Joachim, of a Sarasate, is a fame which women have proved themselves full worthy to share.

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Article: Woman’s Position in the Violin World, 1901

Every once and a while I come across historic articles that speak about the trend of women playing the violin in general. At least in my online research, they’re not as common as you might think. I just came across a fantastic website of digitized Etude magazines. Particularly awesome is a women’s issue from September 1901. I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but I just had to share this article, entitled “Woman’s Position in the Violin World”…which includes a much-coveted discussion about women playing the violin. Hurrah! Speaking from a modern perspective, it’s interesting to see how male violinists were perceived. This is a bit scandalous to say, but more than once the thought has crossed my mind that Victorians were often sexist…against men. In this article alone they are assumed to lack tenaciousness, steadfastness, and morality, among other things. Is it fair to say the sexism sometimes went both ways? … I think it is.

As an aside, it’s interesting to go through the covers, keeping an eye out for what roles women are playing. In the early years, they start out solely as passive listeners listening to men performing, or as accompanists for men, or as pianists in a domestic setting. Then in August 1910 Maud Powell and Cecile Chaminade and some other women are on the cover…with men. Jenny Lind makes an appearance in December 1913. In February 1920 a woman finally appears with a violin in a full-cover image (and it’s about time). In March 1921, a professional piano student appears in “the Master’s Studio.” In December 1922, there’s a really striking image of a woman in a fancy gown playing a violin concerto; it’s captioned “Her Hour of Triumph.” (You go, girl!) A liberated flapper who is terrorizing her old teacher with jazz makes an appearance in August 1926 in a cover entitled “The Jazzo-Maniac And Her Victim.” Because that jazz is seriously frightening stuff. Have you heard what Gershwin’s writing nowadays? … And then there’s October 1931‘s cover, which consists of a man and a woman, he playing piano and she playing violin. Apparently it is set in a fantasy decade in which women wore dresses from the Civil War and wore flapper bobs, and men wore outfits from the Regency period (and lipstick, apparently). But the sentiment of the image is nice, leastways; it’s captioned “Perfect Harmony.” It’s a pretty shocking transition to see in the space of twenty years, to say the least. (For additional images of women on the cover of Etude, check out November 1932, October 1933, September 1936, August 1939, January 1940, January 1946, September 1948, and August 1954.)

Anyway, here’s the article I was talking about. Expect to see more Etude articles as I get the chance to scout around the website more.

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About sixty years ago two young Italian girls, Teresa and Maria Milanolla, astounded European audiences with their beautiful violin-playing. They had been trained by the best virtuosi of their day, and their instrumental abilities, coupled with their youth and their charming personality, easily won the hearts of all music-lovers who had the privilege of hearing them play. Teresa, the elder of the gifted sisters, was born August 18, 1827; Maria was born June 18, 1832, and received her earliest instruction from her sister. Marvelous as it may seem to those who, in mature years, are still struggling with comparatively simple problems of violin-playing, these two Italian children were, in 1840, so far advanced in their art that they were enabled to appear with uncommon success on the concert-platforms of Germany, England, Belgium, Holland, and France. Maria’s untimely death (at Paris, October 21, 1848) greatly affected her sister’s artistic career; and though, after a long period of retirement, Teresa resumed her work as a concert-violinist, she was not heard in public later than 1857.

It may come as a surprise to those who associate woman and the violin with the “innovations” of quite recent years, that two young girls should have achieved success as violinists so long ago as did the Milanolla sisters, for it is hardly more than thirty years ago that the girl, more especially the American girl, who appeared in the street with a violin under her arm was generally regarded as a new, if not ridiculous, species of feminity. Little more than a quarter of a century ago violin-playing was hardly considered an “elegant” accomplishment for any young lady. Indeed, most parents had very decided views on this question, and they did everything in their power to discourage, rather than encourage, their daughters in a field of art which seemed to them to promise only social degradation. The ignominy attached to the ancient usuage of “fiddler” had not yet entirely lost its force. It was surely bad enough for a man to be a fiddler; but the mere thought of a refined young gentlewoman playing the violin, either in private or in public, was, indeed, intolerable.

Nowadays all this is changed. Narrow prejudices of earlier days have given place to common-sense appreciation. Ignorance of art-matters in general (in this country), and of the high position in musical art occupied by violin-playing, is wholly a condition of the past. Musical knowledge and a wider general culture have superseded ignorance and the most puerile conceptions of feminine refinement and social dignity. Briefly, society’s attitude toward the woman violinist is so completely metamorphosed that a young girl, possessed of neither wealth nor great physical or mental charms, but capable of playing the violin tolerably well, is strongly fortified for social and even material success. And for the young violiniste who is possessed of marked artistic ability in conjunction with pleasing personal attributes, there are absolutely no limitations to social conquest. For her the fiddle opens many a door which remains obdurately closed even to the wealthy. Her fiddle does not plead for her; it commands.

But, it will be asked, what is the woman violinist’s true position in the world of musical art? Ah, that is an entirely different question. Many stern, unyielding critics of to-day refuse to believe that a woman is capable of achieving greatness as a player of the violin. These critics, both professional and amateur, concede woman’s fitness to accomplish agreeable things as players of the king of instruments, but they are unwilling to believe that she possesses either the mental qualifications or the physical strength and endurance to enable her successfully to compete with man in the mastery of violin-technics. Time alone will decide whether these critics are right. But something may be said, even now, both for and against their opinion.

Experience has taught us that woman is, at least in many respects, peculiarly fitted to play the violin, and to play it exceedingly well. The gifted girl has infinitely more tenacity than the average gifted boy. When she is in earnest, her art is an all-governing passion. She applies herself to study with the devotion that characterizes her sex. Her zeal and ambition are steadfast: no petty pleasures could make her unfaithful to her work and her art.

But what shall we say of the average gifted young man? His progress is impeded, his development endangered by a thousand and one unprofitable divertisements. He is not blessed with a fine moral sense of his obligations to himself and his art. Harsh or unjust as such an accusation may seem, a glimpse into the lives of the talented young men who either are studying or have studied at the various European music-schools more than verifies such an unflattering estimate. The whole manner of life and thought of the gifted young woman, her sense of responsibility, her firm purpose and her nobility of character,—all are in fine agreement with an art which demands from its devotees what is good and true and beautiful.

On the other hand, it cannot be denied that, where the higher art of violin-playing is concerned, the average gifted woman labors under certain great disadvantages which too often prove fatal, insurmountable barriers to success. How many are blessed with the physical strength which is necessary to carry them through the long hard years of musical servitude? The limit of their physical endurance is not often commensurate with the demands of their art; and just when the greatest effort is required of them—when their highest musical and instrumental possibilities are dependent upon a continuance, if not an increase, of energy and vitality—they fail to put forth the requisite strength, and stop far short of their aspirations.

Then, again (and here we touch on delicate and dangerous ground), in the art of violin-playing, as in all the other arts, woman is, according to her critics, deficient in originality, and weak in her intellectual grasp of the greater compositions. Whatever there may be of truth or injustice in such an estimate of woman, this is assuredly not the place to attempt to verify or disprove our critics’ conclusion. It is true that many women violinists now before the public prove themselves to be clever imitators rather than original players. They shun all compositions which make serious demands on the intellect, and their repertoire may be said to consist of superficial nothings. But it is equally true that we have had, and still have, violinistes who play such concertos as the Beethoven and the Brahms with as little hesitancy as could be expected of any man. How well or ill they succeed in such bold attempts, however, is a question which elsewhere may be discussed with greater profit than here. Let us rather view the work and personality of a few of the best women violinists of the present day and the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Lady Halle.

Few violinists have had a more brilliant career than Lady Hallé, better known in the musical world as Wilhelmina Normann-Neruda. Few have better merited success than this distinguished artiste; few have retained their powers as concert-players throughout so great a number of years. Born at Brünn, March 21, 1839, Lady Hallé must look backward fully half a century to recall her earliest triumphs. Hardly more than two years have elapsed, however, since she visited the United States and demonstrated to thousands of intelligent admirers how well deserved was her European reputation. The freshness and purity of her style were as delightful as of yore, her technical equipment was most admirable and never betrayed her years. Indeed, her listeners found it no easy matter to believe that she was not in the first flush of womanhood and artistic strength.

It is more than twenty years ago since I first had the pleasure of hearing Lady Hallé play. Though possessed of only a boy’s imperfect musical judgment, I remember well how deeply her beautiful qualities impressed me. More especially do I remember her staccato work in the last movement of Vieuxtemps’s E-major concerto. Its wonderful crispness and rapidity were a revelation to me.

Lady Hallé is a highly-polished, exceedingly brilliant player, thoroughly at ease in all compositions of the virtuoso school; but to designate her as a virtuoso, implying thereby that her gifts and attainments are of an instrumental rather than musical order, would be a serious belittlement of her knowledge and her art. She has always been an earnest player, fortunate in her ability to play bravura pieces and compositions which demand intellectuality equally well. Her teacher, Leopold Jansa, who was far greater skilled as a quartet player than a soloist, early inspired in her a love for chamber-music, with the result that Lady Halle’s musical development kept pace with her budding virtuosity. Though the reputation she has earned is that of soloist, she has frequently appeared in public in London in conjunction with the quartet concerts given in that city for many years by Joachim.

Lady Hallé’s career as a soloist is necessarily approaching its termination; but that her musical and instrumental vitality have not yet departed, and that her abilities justify a continuance of her public work, her comparatively recent visit to the United States proved beyond a doubt. When Lady Hallé returned to Europe from this trip, she took up her residence in Berlin, where she has since been engaged in teaching the art she so nobly represents.

Camilla Urso.

In what may be termed New York’s premusical days, when Alboni and Sontag thrilled American audiences with their vocal art, there appeared in New York a young girl, a mere child of ten, who astounded musicians and music-lovers with her remarkable violin-playing. That Camilla Urso, the prodigy, gradually developed into the serious-minded and highly-accomplished artiste is a fact of which no one familiar with our musical history of the past forty years requires reminder, for since those early days, when the little wonder-girl achieved her first American triumphs at the concerts of Alboni and Sontag, her name has been closely associated with many of our most noteworthy musical ventures.

Camilla Urso was born at Nantes, France, in 1842. She had the good fortune to receive her instrumental training under Massart, that wonderful pedagogue to whom so many brilliant violinists are indebted for their artistry. As early as 1852 she came to the United States, accompanied by her father, practically making in this country the beginning of her artistic career. Shortly after this first successful trip she returned with her father to Europe, and devoted the next ten years or more to conscientious study and the achievement of a European reputation. Then she revisited the United States, and finally concluded to make this country her future home.

It is a much-to-be-regretted fact that the work of so accomplished an artiste as Camilla Urso has not had commensurate material reward. In this respect, at least, the gods have certainly been less kind to her than she deserved, and when, but a few years since, an enterprizing proprietor of vaudeville theaters made to her what seemed a brilliant offer, she was severely criticised in many quarters for accepting this opportunity of redeeming her broken fortunes. Without attempting to set up a logical defense of the position which she took in this unfortunate affair, it should be said, in all fairness, that she deserved the widest sympathy rather than the condemnation of her thoughtless critics.

Camilla Urso’s playing has always been characterized by uncommon digital ability, an exceedingly dexterous wrist, and that fine finish which is almost invariably the product of the school in which she was trained. About ten years ago she met with a mishap in New York, and for a time it seemed as though she would not recover sufficiently to resume professional work. As it was, her wrist remained affected, and certain bowings, particularly staccato, remain constant reminders of her accident.

 Teresina Tua.

It would be difficult to imagine a more charming and captivating violiniste than was Teresina Tua in the early eighties. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that both her personality and her art entranced all Europe. Her exceeding loveliness of face and form bewitched her audiences before they heard her play, and it was not long before she was known throughout Europe as “Die Geigenfee” (the violin fairy).

Surely it will always be deplored by all who heard her play in those days—myself among the number—that Teresina Tua’s career was so metorically brief. Comparatively few people are familiar with the unfortunate circumstances which, in reality, had the effect of abruptly terminating her public work. Her sudden retirement from public life, at a time when she gave such splendid promise of future greatness, will always remain an enigma to the majority of her admirers.

Teresina Tua was born in Turin, Italy, May 22, 1867. When only thirteen years of age she received the first prize at the Paris Conservatory. Like so many other players, she owed the development of her remarkable gifts to the genius and faithful guidance of Massart. Under this master her talents ripened so rapidly that, in 1880, she played an ample repertoire of concertos and solo pieces with an artistic perfection which almost defied criticism. Everywhere she played she was the idol of the day. In 1882 she made her first concert-trip through Germany; and in orthodox old Leipzig, as well as in the home of Joseph Joachim, the beautiful Italian girl’s playing created nothing less than a sensation.

Teresina Tua’s visit to the United States, in 1887, proved the first in a series of misfortunes which resulted in her retirement to private life. Feeble health, combined with wretched mismanagement, destroyed all possibilities of success in the United States. What should have been a most brilliant and profitable season proved only a dismal fiasco. She appeared at few concerts, and the critics, as well as the public, withheld from her the homage to which she had grown accustomed. She returned to Europe quite disheartened, if not embittered, with her experience in America, and not long after she decided to abandon the concert-stage altogether. Leaving the scenes of her many triumphs, she returned to Italy, where, several years later, she married an Italian nobleman. Several times it has been rumored that she would re-enter public life, but she has doubtless preferred domestic peace and happiness to the trials and tribulations incident to a public career.

 Maud Powell.

It seems as though it were but yesterday that a little American girl came soberly walking toward the old conservatory, a fiddle tucked under her arm, and resolution plainly written on her comely face. Yet twenty years and more have passed away since then, and the little girl has grown to womanhood and accomplished laudable things. She has more than fulfilled the promise of her childhood, for she has outstripped all her American sisters in the art of violin-playing, and stands to-day the representative woman violinist of the United States.

Miss Powell’s success was not so easily won as that of many of our gifted players. Her career is a striking illustration of the possibilities of earnest endeavor and unfaltering resolution. When she returned to the United States, in 1885, she did not meet with that immediate success which sets all doubts aside; but step by step, year after year, she has risen in the public’s esteem, till her position is at last firmly established and her future success assured.

After a year or more of study at the Leipzig Conservatory Miss Powell decided to go to Paris, feeling that the training of the purely French school was best suited to her needs. But the experiment proved less satisfactory than she had hoped it would; and, after lingering in the French capital for a period of about two years, she betook herself to Berlin, hoping to find in Joachim her ideal of a great pedagogue. But there, too, she was doomed to disappointment. The methods of training pursued at the Berlin Hochschule failed to enlist her sympathies. She did not find at the Hochschule what she had long sought in vain. Nevertheless she decided to remain in Berlin, and during her comparatively brief stay she remained true to her purpose to succeed, and continued her work under Joachim as a painstaking and industrious student.

It must be confessed that when Miss Powell left the Hochschule her playing was crude and immature, revealing none of the admirable qualities which now strongly characterize her work. She had, it is true, a certain degree of technical ability which enabled her to play important compositions with reasonable accuracy; but beyond this there was little in her performances that was truly interesting to the intelligent and exacting musician. In those days, however, girl violinists were not as numerous in the United States as they are to-day, and Miss Powell experienced little or no difficulty in obtaining lucrative engagements.

It was just at this period of her career, during the first few years of success in her native land, that Miss Powell began to reveal those qualities which have since elevated her art. Not content with financial reward and meaningless successes, she applied herself each year more seriously and vigorously to study. The results which she has achieved prove not only a justification of her early self-confidence, but they prove also how important a factor in success is dogged perseverance.

Miss Powell’s abilities are sure to command respect wherever she may play. Her reappearance in the United States last season, after an absence in Europe of several years, materially assisted in strengthening her position both at home and abroad. She has again returned to Europe, where, it is hoped, she will repeat her successes of recent years.

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Works Associated With Female Violinists

An ever-evolving list. Last updated 24 February 2012.

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PREMIERES & DEDICATIONS

Atterberg, Kurt – Violin Concerto – Premiere given by Alma Moodie (1919)

Barber - Violin Concerto - UK premiere given by Eda Kersey in 1943; revised version of the score that violinists use today premiered by Ruth Posselt in 1949

Bartók - Violin Concerto No. 1 - Written for his first love, virtuosa Stefi Geyer

Bartók – Violin Sonata No. 1 and No. 2 (Sz 75 and 76) – There is some question as to whether these works were dedicated to Adila Fachiri or Jelly d’Aranyi; the latter performed them with the composer in London in 1922 and 1923, respectively.

Bax – Violin Concerto – Premiered by Eda Kersey in 1943

Beach, Amy - Romance - Written for and premiered by Maud Powell in 1895

Benjamin, Arthur – Romantic Fantasy for Violin, Viola, and Orchestra – Premiered by Eda Kersey in 1938

Coleridge-Taylor - Violin Concerto - Dedicated to and premiered by Maud Powell in 1912

Copland – Violin Sonata – Premiered by Ruth Posselt with Copland at the piano in 1944

Conus - Violin Concerto in e-minor - American premiere given by Maud Powell

Delius – Violin Sonata No 3 – Dedicated to May Harrison

Delius – Double Concerto (for violin and cello) – Premiered by sisters May and Beatrice Harrison in 1920

Dukelsky, Vladimir – Violin Concerto – Premiered by Ruth Posselt in 1943

Dvořák - Violin Concerto - American premiere given by Maud Powell in 1893

Eichberg, Julius – Dedicated six parlor pieces to six of his most famous female students – find them here

Elgar - Violin Concerto - First played through in private performance with Lady Leonora Speyer on violin; first recording made by Marie Hall in 1916

Erdmann, Eduard – Sonata for Solo Violin, op 12 – Dedicated to Alma Moodie

Gade, Niels - Violin Sonata No. 3 - Dedicated to Wilma Norman-Neruda in 1885

Hindemith – Violin Concerto – New York premiere made by Ruth Posselt in 1941

Hill, Edward Burlingame – Violin Concerto – premiered by Ruth Posselt in 1939

Holst – Concerto for Two Violins – Written for sisters Jelly d’Aranyi and Adila Fachiri in 1930

Hubay - Violin Concerto No. 4 - Dedicated to his student Stefi Geyer in 1908

Krenek, Ernst – Sonata for Solo Violin – Dedicated to Alma Moodie in 1924

Moeran, Ernest John – Violin Sonata – Premiered by Eda Kersey in 1923

Mozart - Sonata in B-flat, K 454 - Written for and premiered by Regina Strinasacchi Schlick in 1784

Pfitzner, Hans – Violin Concerto, op 34 – Dedicated to and premiered by Alma Moodie in 1923

Piston, Walter – Violin Concerto No. 1 – Written for and premiered by Ruth Posselt in 1940

Poulenc – Violin Sonata – Written for and premiered by Ginette Neveu in 1943

Prokofiev – Five Melodies; the third is dedicated to violinist Cecilia Hansen

Ravel - Violin Sonata - Dedicated to Hélène Jourdan-Morhange in 1922

Ravel - Sonata for Violin and Cello - Premiered by Hélène Jourdan-Morhange on violin in 1922

Ravel - Tzigane - Written for, dedicated to, and premiered by Jelly d’Aranyi in 1924

Saint-Saëns - Fantasie for violin and harp, op 124 - Dedicated to Clara and Marianne Eissler (Clara was a harpist; Marianne a violinist) in 1907

Sarasate - Romanza Andaluza; Jota Navarra - Dedicated to Wilma Norman-Neruda (later Lady Hallé) in 1878

Schoeck, Othmar – Violin Concerto – Written for Stefi Geyer in 1910-11

Schoeck, Othmar – Violin Sonata No. 1 – Written for Stefi Geyer in 1908-9

Schumann - Violin Concerto - Joachim’s grand-nieces, Jelly d’Aranyi and Adila Fachiri, received word of the manuscript in a séance with Joachim. d’Aranyi played the London premiere in late 1937 or early 1938.

Scott, Cyril – Danse from Deux preludes – Dedicated to Daisy Kennedy in 1912

Scott, Cyril – Violin Sonata No. 1 – Dedicated to and premiered by Ethel Barns in 1908

Sibelius - Violin Concerto - Maud Powell premiered this piece in America in 1906

Stravinsky – “Suite from themes, fragments, and pieces by Pergolesi” – Premiered by Alma Moodie (and Stravinsky) in 1925

Tchaikovsky - Violin Concerto - American premiere given by Maud Powell in 1889

Vaughan-Williams – The Lark Ascending – Written for Marie Hall in 1914

Vaughan-Williams – Concerto Academico – Dedicated to Jelly d’Aranyi in 1925

Vivaldi – His work was played by women performers at his school Ospedale della Pietà in the early 1700s

Vivaldi – Violin concertos RV 387, 343, 229, 349, 248, 366 – Vivaldi wrote these six violin concertos especially for his protege Anna Maria della Pietà (I don’t believe they are available in a modern edition, but I could be wrong on this; you can see the manuscripts for some of them on IMSLP). Apparently he wrote even more for her but I can’t figure out which ones they were. Research fail. But I’ll get on that, ASAP.

Wieniawski - Gigue, Op. 23 - Dedicated to Wilma Norman-Neruda (later Lady Hallé) in 1880

Wieniawski - Capriccio Valse, Op 7 - Dedicated to Adalbert Wilkoszerwski and Teresa Milanollo in 1854

Wilson, Stanley – Violin Concerto – Premiered by Eda Kersey in 1930

Wolf-Ferrari, Ermanno – Violin Concerto – Written for Guila Bustabo in 1946

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FAMOUS PERFORMANCES

Bach – Double Concerto for Two Violins – Wilma Norman-Neruda (later Lady Hallé) and Joseph Joachim performed this together in London

Beethoven - Kreutzer Sonata - played by Wilma Norman-Neruda (later Lady Hallé) and her husband Charles Hallé in South Africa; their performance was so successful that after it was over, the concert was adjourned

De Beriot - Airs Variée - (don’t know which one) – Performed by Camilla Urso as a child at her recital debut

Beethoven - Violin Concerto - Maud Powell played it with Gustav Mahler on the podium in 1909

Brahms - Violin Concerto - played by Marie Soldat, a friend of Brahms’s; Brahms helped her find her del Gesù violin, which is now being played by Rachel Barton Pine; Gabriele Wietrowitz also played it to great acclaim

Bruch - Violin Concerto No 1 - Maud Powell made her New York Philharmonic debut with it; Teresina Tua made her American debut with it

Elgar - Violin Concerto - First played through in private performance with Lady Leonora Speyer on violin; first recording made by Marie Hall

Elgar - Violin Sonata - After playing it through with his last love Vera Hockman, he referred to it as “our sonata”

Fauré - Violin Sonata in A-major - Lady Leonora Speyer played it with Fauré on the piano in 1909

Grieg - Violin Sonata in c-minor - Inspired by Teresina Tua; played by Wilma Norman-Neruda (later Lady Hallé) with the composer at the piano

Ives – Violin Sonata No. 2 – Patricia Travers made the first complete recording in 1951

Neruda, Franz - Berceuse Slave, op. 11 – Played by Franz’s sister, the famous virtuosa Wilma Norman-Neruda (later Lady Hallé)

Ravel - Piano Trio - Ravel met his friend and muse Hélène Jourdan-Morhange for the first time when he saw her in a performance of this work

Rode - Violin Concerto No. 4 - According to the Victorian book Camilla: A Tale of a Violin, Camilla Urso played the second and third movements of this piece as her audition for the Paris Conservatoire at the age of seven.

Strauss - Violin Sonata - Leonora von Stosch (later Lady Speyer) played this with Strauss at the piano in the summer of 1914, right on the eve of WWI

Vieuxtemps - Ballade and Polonaise - Teresina Tua often played this piece in concerts in Europe and America

Vieuxtemps - Yankee Doodle Variations - Played by Wilma Norman-Neruda (later Lady Hallé) as a child when she made her debut in England

Vieuxtemps - Fantasie-Caprice op 11 - Marie Soldat made her debut with this piece

 Wieniawski - Kujawiack (Mazurka) - to the best of our knowledge, the first piece a female violinist ever recorded (Dora Valesca Backer / Baker / Becker, 1898, available on Youtube)

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VIOLIN WORKS BY WOMEN

Barns, Ethel – Violin Concertos – Violinist, pianist, and composer Ethel Barns wrote at least two violin concertos and many other pieces. Unfortunately the scores are difficult to find today.

Amanda Maier (alternately, Amanda Röntgen-Maier) – Violin Sonata – Maier, a friend of Brahms and Grieg, wrote this lovely sonata in 1874.

Maddalena Laura Sirmen – Duo for 2 Violins in C-major – written by one of the first professional female violinists

Maddalena Laura Sirmen – wrote six violin concertos; one was praised by Leopold Mozart as being “beautifully written” in a letter to his son in 1778

*Note that Maud Powell arranged many pieces and had many more dedicated to her. Thanks to the work of the Maud Powell Society and Rachel Barton Pine, these pieces have been resurrected. If you are interested, visit the Maud Powell Society’s website for more information.

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