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Faber Radio Presents:
Leah Broad’s Quartet

By Faber Editor, 3 February 2023

Leah Broad introduces the music of the four trailblazing composers whose work she explores in Quartet: How Four Women Changed the Musical World.
There are some pieces of music that are so extraordinary you remember exactly where you were the first time you heard them.

For me, Rebecca Clarke’s Viola Sonata is one of those pieces. I was having a miserable day and was sat in an optician’s waiting room with a migraine. I’d put on a podcast to try to distract myself from the world wavering disconcertingly around me, but I wasn’t really paying attention to it.

And then I heard an opening theme that was so arresting that I had to stop and listen. The viola swoops and soars, confident and powerful, conjuring up a fantastical world that seems to make everything else dull by comparison. It felt like this music was speaking directly to me, personally. I was so engrossed that I nearly missed my appointment.

When I looked at my phone to check who the composer was, though, I had a definite moment of confusion. I was, at the time, studying music at university, and I had grown up playing the piano. I loved classical music. So while my knowledge of classical composers wasn’t exhaustive, I knew a fair amount. And yet I’d never heard the name ‘Rebecca Clarke’ in my life. Why had I not heard of this composer who wrote such intense, exquisite music?

This was the question that, nearly a decade later, led me to write Quartet. There are so many phenomenal pieces that are still very little-known now, and the thing that links all of them is the gender of their composer. These women deserve to be known and for their music to be heard.

This playlist brings together some of my favourite pieces by the four women in Quartet — Ethel Smyth, Rebecca Clarke, Dorothy Howell and Doreen Carwithen. I hope you love them as much as I do.

Quartet: How Four Women Changed the Musical World is published in hardback on 2 March 2023.
Faber Members Event: join us on 9 March 2023 for an evening of words and music at St George’s Church, Bloomsbury, to mark the publication of Leah Broad’s Quartet. Book here.
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Leah Broad
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The lives, loves, adventures and trailblazing careers of four extraordinary women from a stunning debut biographer.

About the Author

LEAH BROAD is a Junior Research Fellow at Christ Church, Oxford, specialising in twentieth-century music. She was a 2016 BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinker and in 2015 won the Observer/Anthony Burgess Prize for Arts Journalism. She writes and speaks for Glyndebourne, London Chamber Orchestra and the BBC Proms, and she founded the Oxford Culture Review.

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