Quartet: How Four Women Changed the Musical World

Faber & Faber. Sept. 2023. 480p. ISBN 9780571366101. $29.95. BIOG
Award-winning music writer/historian/debut author Broad (music history, Univ. of Oxford) presents this group biography that considers four musical women of the early 20th century as pioneers, although there were few actual firsts among them. Their predecessors had been ignored and quietly erased by men composers and critics. Their intimate connections, networks, loves, and life choices create a fascinating picture of what it meant to be a woman artist in Britain during the interwar and post–World War II period. Ethel Smyth, Doreen Carwithen, Rebecca Clarke, and Dorothy Howell wrote and performed operas, symphonies, and shorter pieces. Carwithen became one of the first women to be known as a film composer. While these women faced obstacles and disadvantages, their class and race also gave them opportunities to build musical careers and develop networks of friends and patrons. This work is also a social history of 20th-century Britain.
VERDICT A beautifully written examination of complicated, intertwined lives during a period of intense social change. Collections of social history, music, and women’s biographies will benefit.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing