LOUISE FARRENC (1804 - 1875)
Character, determination and connections were all things that Louise Farrenc (1804–1875) certainly possessed. Born to the highly artistic Dumont family, which included a number of royal painters and sculptors stretching back to the late 17th century, she was raised in a liberal, intellectual household in an area of the Sorbonne specially assigned to artists. She showed an early gift for both painting and the piano, but decided to favour the latter and began training with Antoine Reicha, a professor at the Paris Conservatoire; and she gave regular performances both in the private, cultured company of the Sorbonne and in public concerts. Through the private gatherings at her home, she was introduced to the flautist and composer Aristide Farrenc, whom she married in 1821, shortly after her 17th birthday. Musical connections came thick and fast: Hummel became a close friend and advisor; Aristide’s sister married the composer and critic Ernest Reyer; the opera composers Daniel-François-Esprit Auber and Fromental Halévy became admirers; and she received favourable reviews from both Parisian music critics (including Berlioz) and those further afield, such as Robert Schumann.
Aristide was a supportive husband and associate, encouraging Louise to have her music published and never presuming to dictate the shape of her career to her. In 1826 they had a daughter, Victorine, who was to become a talented performer in her own right, and Louise decided not to pursue the gruelling travel schedule of a touring virtuoso, instead choosing to focus on composition and teaching (although she did continue to perform in public in Paris). Most of her early works are for the piano, and from about 1840 she also began to turn towards other genres, including chamber pieces (piano quintets and later piano trios and string sonatas) and orchestral pieces. Two concert overtures, both written in 1834, were given performances in Paris, Brussels and Copenhagen over the next few years. And in 1841, she also composed the first of three symphonies, which occupied her across the decade.