“…she is a thousand times a finer player than he; and I got quite beside myself at the idea of his presuming to teach her how to play this and that instead of going down on his knees and begging her to deliver him from his occasional vulgarity, and to impart to him some of her Mendelssohnic sense of form in composition…”
G.B. Shaw on Agathe Backer-Grøndahl and Edward Grieg
The musical talent of the norwegian composer Agathe Backer-Grøndahl (1847 – 1907) was early discovered. Aged 17 she left for Berlin against the will of her parents to study the piano. Three years later she made her début in Christiania (now Oslo) with Beethoven’s 5th piano concerto under the baton of an unknown conductor named Edward Grieg. After this, she went on studying with the very best of the times: Franz Liszt and Hans von Bülow personally.
One glance at her music and you can tell she must have been an excellent pianist, and indeed she was hailed, even by G.B. Shaw, to be the “true heiress of Clara Schumann”. In 1875 Backer-Grøndahl was elected member of the Royal Academy of Music in Sweden. She was of great influence to the nordic music scene, and in my opinion would probably have been better known to us today than Grieg, had she only been a man. She was part of the norwegian suffrage movement, bur kept a low profile in this not to jeopardize her music sales.
There is an excellent essay on Backer-Grøndahl by Camilla Hambro at the very informative site of “The Kapralova Society” here.