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From Convent to Concert Hall

Dr Kate Kennedy appraises four female string players from different eras and locations who were all pioneering in their own lifetimes.

Dr Kate Kennedy appraises four female string players from different eras and locations who were all pioneering in their own lifetimes, assessing their impact in the concert hall. In the 18th century, female performers were gaining acceptance and even prominence across Europe as singers in choirs and on the opera stage. But as instrumentalists, progress on the concert platform was slower.

The story begins in Venice, where the four enlightened Ospedale institutions gave disadvantaged girls an education, especially in music. Although many of the students at the Ospedale della Pietà or the Ospedale della Mendicanti gave up their musical studies on marrying or on entering a convent, one notable performer, Maddalena Lombardini, born in 1745, gained prominence as a soloist and as a composer. In the 19th century a young French cellist, Lise Cristianti, caught the attention of Mendelssohn whilst giving concerts in Leipzig, aged 18. She subsequently undertook a perilous journey across Siberia, performing across the region. Another cellist to reach prominence at the start of the 20th century, Beatrice Harrison, is still known today for her recordings outdoors with nightingales, but she also had a serious professional career, as Elgar's preferred interpreter of his cello concerto, and as inspiration for Delius. The final candidate is Rebecca Clarke, whose reputation as a composer has grown since her death, but she was also a prominent viola player.

Presenter: Kate Kennedy
Contributors: Margaret Faultless, Micky White, Fausto Cacciatori, Julian Lloyd Webber, Liane Curtis, Sophie Fuller
Producer: Janet Tuppen

First broadcast in March 2015.

Available now

45 minutes

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