HÉLÈNE DE MONTGEROULT
Hélène de Montgeroult (1764-1836) was a French composer and pianist who lived an extraordinary life. She was born into an aristocratic family, outlived three husbands, was involved with exiled political factions in the UK, and abducted by Austrian soldiers in Italy. During the French Revolution she was interrogated by the Committee of Public Safety and only managed to avoid execution by improvising a set of variations on the Marseillaise that apparently moved the judges to tears.
Montgeroult's legacy for keyboard comprises 9 extant sonatas, 114 etudes and a host of supplementary pieces. The etudes, in particular, are extraordinary. Though born only 8 years after Mozart, Montgeroult wrote in an early Romantic style that was well ahead of her time. She has been described by her biographer, Jérôme Dorival, as the "missing link between Mozart and Chopin". Many of the stylistic advances we find in her études anticipate those of Mendelssohn, Schumann and Chopin. Given the time at which she was writing, some of these are astonishing.
Montgeroult started writing these etudes in 1788 for Johann Baptist Cramer, who was a pupil of hers at the time, and the entire set was published by Marquerie frères in 1812. Clare will record a disc of these for BIS Records, due for release in 2022. Watch her performance of Etude No. 55 for the Wimbledon International Music Festival in 2020 below: