Mitsuko Uchida; Martha Argerich; Imogen Cooper; Yuja Wang....these are just a few of the many female pianists to have risen to the top of their profession in recent decades and become international stars.


But, for a long time the world of professional solo piano-playing was dominated by men, and so it might have continued were it not for the achievements of pioneering female artists who proved that men and women pianists could compete on an equal footing. Here are five of them.

Clara Schumann (1819-96)

Clara Schumann first played in public in 1827 and only stopped in 1888 due to arthritis. Her 1,300 extant programmes reveal a breadth of repertoire unequalled by any other pianist of the time.

We named Clara Schumann one of the best female composers of all time.

Arabella Goddard (1836-1922)

Another child prodigy who made her official debut in 1853 playing Beethoven’s ‘Hammerklavier’ Sonata from memory. From the late 1850s she began programming the last five of Beethoven’s sonatas, still almost unknown in England.

Sophie Menter (1846-1918)

Munich-born Sophie Menter became a pupil of Liszt in 1869, at the age of 23. She was his favourite female pupil, in fact, and he wrote the so-called Concerto in the Hungarian Style for her. Sophie then persuaded Tchaikovsky to orchestrate for her.

Menter was also appointed pianist to the Austrian court, and from 1883 to 1887 was professor of piano at the conservatory in St. Petersburg.

Teresa Carreño (1853-1917)

‘The Walküre of the Piano’, the beautiful, charismatic Venezuelan pianist Teresa Carreño had an overpowering technique, playing the big works usually reserved for her male peers. She could show most of them a clean pair of heels.

Carreño performed for the likes of Rossini and Liszt, and met Gounod and Saint-Saëns. The great Anton Rubinstein insisted on giving her lessons.


Julie Rivé-King (c1854-1937)

The first great American woman pianist. During an 18-year US career, she gave more than 4,000 solo recitals and played more than 500 concerts with orchestra.