Women and the Piano: A History in 50 Lives (Hardcover)

Women and the Piano: A History in 50 Lives By Susan Tomes Cover Image
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Women are an essential part of the history of the piano—but how many women pianists can you name?
Throughout most of the piano’s history, women pianists lacked access to formal training and were excluded from male-dominated performance spaces. Even the modern piano’s keys were designed without consideration of women’s typically smaller hands. Yet despite their music being largely confined to the domestic sphere, women continued to play, perform, and compose on their own terms.
Celebrated pianist and author Susan Tomes traces fifty such women across the piano’s history. Including now-famous names such as Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn, Tomes also highlights overlooked women: from Hélène de Montgeroult, whose playing saved her life during the French Revolution, to Leopoldine Wittgenstein, influential Viennese salonnière, and Hazel Scott, the first Black performer in the United States to have a nationally syndicated TV show.
From Maria Szymanowska to Nina Simone, and including interviews with women performing today, this is a much-needed corrective to our understanding of the piano—and a timely testament to women’s musical lives.

About the Author

Susan Tomes is a concert pianist and writer. Renowned both as a soloist and as the pianist of Domus and the Florestan Trio, she is the author of seven books, including Speaking the Piano, Beyond the Notes, and The Piano: A History in 100 Pieces.

Praise For…

“Women were not able to pursue professional music careers for much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, no matter how musically gifted they were. . . . Anyone interested in learning about these hidden musical figures will find much to appreciate in this concise and carefully composed work.”—Carolyn Mulac, Booklist

“A fascinating and stimulating history of the shamefully ignored field that is female pianism. Susan Tomes writes powerfully and with compelling perception, introducing us to one inspirational figure after another – a real page-turner.”—Dame Imogen Cooper, pianist

“A fascinating, informative, and necessary book which makes us realise how female concert pianists, past and present, classical and jazz, have overcome obstacles and prejudices with sheer determination, talent, and amazing stamina. Brava, Susan!”—Angela Hewitt, pianist

“An impassioned argument against the unjust bias of musical history’s received opinions; a sprightly collection of spellbinding life stories; a deft and immaculately researched explanation of the piano, and how it is played. Page-turningly readable, and surely destined to become a feminist classic.”—Dame Judith Weir, Master of the King’s Music

“Some of these women have been my beloved heroines since childhood; others I’d never even heard of; still others I was delighted to learn more about. This book is a thought-provoking collection of vignettes about women who played and loved the piano.”—Sir Stephen Hough, pianist

Product Details
ISBN: 9780300266573
ISBN-10: 030026657X
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication Date: April 23rd, 2024
Pages: 304
Language: English