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 was a significant influence on Schumann and Mendelssohn who owed her a great stylistic debt, albeit one that they never acknowledged.

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 at Snape Maltings in September 2020 below: