Louise Farrenc

Louise Farrenc (1804-1875) was a formidable musician, who excelled as a composer, virtuoso pianist and teacher. She was taught the piano by Moscheles and Hummel, and began to study composition with Anton Reicha at the age of fifteen. Although she was a student at the Paris Conservatoire, women did not at this stage have access to the composition class. While at the Conservatoire she met her husband, the flautist Aristide Farrenc, with whom she embarked on an extensive concert tour. Aristide later became a successful publisher, and is responsible for the preservation of much of Farrenc’s music.

In 1842 Farrenc was made Professor of Piano at the Paris Conservatoire, a position which she held for thirty years. Despite being paid less than her male colleagues for nearly a decade, she fought for and won equal pay after the successful premiere of her Nonnet for Strings and Winds. As a composer she was praised by critics including Schumann, and wrote chamber music and music for piano as well as two overtures and three symphonies. She was also interested in early music, editing a book on early musical performance styles and creating with her husband a twenty three volume anthology of piano and harpsichord music. In December 2013 she was the audience chosen composer to celebrate the 70th birthday of BBC Radio 3’s Composer of the Week.