Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Music Criticism


James Deaville




Women in the field of music have always occupied a tenuous position between Madonna and whore. I Despite music being cast as feminine, women who were performers, composers, or have occupied musical positions of power have with few exceptions been marginalized from scholarly discourse. Clara Schumann was perhaps the first and most acknowledged exception, heralded as one of the foremost virtuosi of her time. Her unusual education and her treatment by journalistic critics facilitated this acceptance.

From her early training to her mature career as a concert pianist, Clara Schumann's management by her father is not indicative of a normal upbringing for a girl of the mid-1800's. Friedrich Wieck's specialized piano method empowered Clara with the same skills that male music students received. This transgressive sidelining of her gender, as encouraged by her father, was the first stage in the subversion of societal conventions and expectations of gender evident in her life.

In examining concert reviews from the 1850's, we find a continuation of the negotiation of Clara's gendered identity, especially in light of theoretical insight by Judith Butler into the performativity of gender. Reviews by notable writers Eduard Hanslick and Franz Liszt offer different sides of the same gender coin. Clara was identified male either by her masculine playing or as a survivor of a potentially destructive, masculinized educational tyranny.

Focusing on Clara's letters and diaries, critical accounts of her performances, and a variety of secondary sources, this thesis will examine female virtuosity, using Franz Liszt and Jenny Lind as examples to support an alternative approach to virtuosity for women. In doing so, this study will clarify the effect of gender upon virtuosity in the nineteenth century as well as contribute new insights into Clara's attitude toward virtuosity.

McMaster University Library

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."

Included in

Music Commons