The lives, loves, adventures and trailblazing musical careers of four extraordinary women from a stunning debut biographer.
‘Fabulous.’ Sunday Times ‘A rare gift.’ Financial Times ‘Passionate … Vivid … Timely.’ Telegraph ‘Readable and inspiring.’ Guardian ‘Compelling … Ambitious … Poignant.’ Spectator ‘Magnificent.’ Kate Mosse ‘Riveting.’ Antonia Fraser ‘A breath of fresh air.’ Kate Molleson ‘Fascinating.’ Alexandra Harris ‘Wonderful.’ Claire Tomalin ‘Splendid.’ Miranda Seymour ‘Remarkable.’ Fiona Maddocks ‘Pioneering.’ Andrew Motion ‘Brilliant’ Helen Pankhurst
Ethel Smyth (b.1858): Famed for her operas, this trailblazing queer Victorian composer was a larger-than-life socialite, intrepid traveller and committed Suffragette.
Rebecca Clarke (b.1886): This talented violist and Pre-Raphaelite beauty was one of the first women ever hired by a professional orchestra, later celebrated for her modernist experimentation.
Dorothy Howell (b.1898): A prodigy who shot to fame at the 1919 Proms, her reputation as the ‘English Strauss’ never dented her modesty; on retirement, she tended Elgar’s grave alone.
Doreen Carwithen (b.1922): One of Britain’s first woman film composers who scored Elizabeth II’s coronation film, her success hid a 20-year affair with her married composition tutor.
In their time, these women were celebrities. They composed some of the century’s most popular music and pioneered creative careers; but today, they are ghostly presences, surviving only as muses and footnotes to male contemporaries like Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Britten – until now.
Leah Broad’s magnificent group biography resurrects these forgotten voices, recounting lives of rebellion, heartbreak and ambition, and celebrating their musical masterpieces. Lighting up a panoramic sweep of British history over two World Wars, Quartet revolutionises the canon forever.