Close Notification

Your cart does not contain any items

Women and the Piano

A History in 50 Lives

Susan Tomes



In stock
Ready to ship


Yale University
21 May 2024
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.
Imprint:   Yale University
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 235mm,  Width: 156mm, 
ISBN:   9780300266573
ISBN 10:   030026657X
Pages:   304
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

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.

Reviews for Women and the Piano: A History in 50 Lives

“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 “Once again, Susan Tomes has delivered a work of genuine stature. Women and the Piano is an important book, superbly written, and an essential read.”—Andrew Eales, Pianodao “Just as valuable as Tomes’s judicious selection is her fresh look at the situation now for professional women pianists. . . . An important book.” —Rebecca Franks, BBC Music Magazine “The author is both a fine pianist and a writer of elegance and erudition—she was the first woman to take a music degree at King’s College, Cambridge. . . . A fascinating investigation of the way in which female pianists have confronted a history of being excluded, ignored and misrepresented.”—Henrietta Bredrin, Country Life “Highly readable, meticulously researched and elegantly crafted. . . . This book is an important, valuable contribution to the debate and a rich celebration of the essential role of women in the history of classical music and the piano in particular.”—Art Muse London “She has hit the nail on the head with this, because these are things that we actually don’t think about. . . . I have to say this is a real page-turner. . . . I think she really gets to the heart of it. I hadn’t heard of half the people in her book. . . . She’s gone to a place that other people haven’t tapped into. That’s very clever, and there’s a lot of insight.”—Lucy Parham discussing Women and the Piano on Radio 3’s Music Matters “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

See Also