Riveting: so much I didn't know. Women's history - and musical history - of the finest sort.
- ANTONIA FRASER
** WINNER: PRESTO MUSIC BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2023 **
** SHORTLISTED: SLIGHTLY FOXED BEST FIRST BIOGRAPHY PRIZE 2023 **
** SHORTLISTED: ROYAL PHILHARMONIC SOCIETY STORYTELLING AWARD 2024 **
Ethel Smyth (b.1858): Famed for her operas, this trailblazing queer Victorian composer was a larger-than-life socialite, intrepid traveller and committed Suffragette.
Rebecca Clarke (b.1886): This talented violist and Pre-Raphaelite beauty was one of the first women hired by a professional orchestra in London, later celebrated for her modernist experimentation.
Dorothy Howell (b.1898): A prodigy who shot to fame at the 1919 Proms, her reputation as the ‘English Strauss’ never dented her modesty; on retirement, she tended Elgar’s grave alone.
Doreen Carwithen (b.1922): One of Britain’s first woman film composers who scored Elizabeth II’s coronation film, her success hid a 20-year affair with her married composition tutor.
In their time, these women were celebrities. They composed some of the century’s most popular music and pioneered creative careers; but today, they are ghostly presences, surviving only as muses and footnotes to male contemporaries like Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Britten – until now.
You can read interviews with Leah about Quartet in The Times, The London Magazine, The Strad, Feminist Book Club and Gramophone, or listen on Presto Music, Lost Ladies of Lit, and ABC Australia. There's an extract of the book available on Unseen Histories, and you can listen to musical highlights from Quartet here.
Leah is speaking about the book and introducing Quartet-based concerts throughout the year. To book tickets, please visit the Events page.
The most magnificent biography... Broad has brought four very different women to life and issued a rallying cry for hundreds of others... A wonderful, gripping, page-turning read.
- KATE MOSSE
A new kind of music biography, one embellished with intimate detail and nuance not found in the hagiographies of male composers written by men... it makes for captivating reading.
- GEORGE B. STAUFFER, The New York Review of Books
A stellar work of social and music history sprinkled with emotional dashes of love, sex, and politics... In her first book, a vibrant narrative, music historian Broad redefines whom musicians could be and what they could do.
- KIRKUS STARRED REVIEW
If this sounds like a book for classical music buffs, it isn't. If it sounds rather worthy, again, trust me, it isn't... It's fast-paced, engaging, and an absolute riot at times. I laughed out loud... Quartet is a fascinating and compelling read but, just as importantly, a hugely enjoyable one.
- CLARE WADD, Caught by the River
Passionate...clear-eyed, intelligent...Broad deftly weaves their stories together... And perhaps most importantly she evokes the experience of actually listening to their music. ... Her book appears at a timely moment.
- IVAN HEWETT, The Telegraph
A pioneering book about four pioneering women, and one of its many distinctions is to give each of them a strong individual identity while describing their common purpose and shared difficulties, and in the process magnificently expands the story of classical music.
- ANDREW MOTION
A blast of fresh air... Insightful, probing, full of heart, brilliantly readable... I love that Leah Broad writes about her composers with such up-close fondness and cheeky detail - At times gleefully irreverent as well as fearsomely well-informed... A vivid portrayal of a whole swathe of British music and an important corrective to conventional stereotypes.
- KATE MOLLESON
Subtly devastating... one of the author's serious achievements in Quartet is to insist on the ways in which her subjects...can be frustrating or disappointing or simply human... Hugely ambitious, beautifully written.
- FLORA WILLSON, The Times Literary Supplement
I defy any reader of Broad's splendid, necessary and absorbing book to remain unstirred by these uplifting, harrowing and troubling stories.
- MIRANDA SEYMOUR
The characters are fascinating, the composition is brilliant: a finely developed musical quartet in literary form.
- HELEN PANKHURST
With original research and a powerful sense of purpose. Broad brings four brave and creative lives into fascinating counterpoint.
- ALEXANDRA HARRIS
An inspiring read, illuminating four extraordinary women who forged careers in music through passion and determination.
- DEBBIE WISEMAN
Wonderful... A brilliant introduction to Ethel Smyth and her fellow musical pioneers, Rebecca Clarke, Dorothy Howell and Doreen Carwithen: so neglected and so deserving.
- CLAIRE TOMALIN
Broad has brought the joys, travails and achievements of four remarkable composers - all figures to reckon with (and how) - to vigorous and absorbing life.
- FIONA MADDOCKS
Bursting with fascinating information... QUARTET is much more than a book about four talented, pioneering female musicians. It is also a sweeping social history of the last century with intertwined themes of sex and politics, inspiring and shocking by turn.
- ANNE SEBBA, The Spectator
Broad's eye for character is allied to a way of describing music that makes you want to hear it immediately... readable and inspiring.
- ERICA JEAL, The Guardian
In this absorbing group biography, Broad deftly handles the complexities of different lives and personalities... Broad has a rare gift for eloquent evocation of the music itself and answers the key question (was the work any good?) resoundingly in the affirmative, making a persuasive case for a revision and expansion of the musical canon.
- ANNALENA MCAFEE, Financial Times
There's nothing shouty about Quartet, the musicologist Leah Broad's compelling group biography... The tone is restrained, but the quietly insistent patter of events, statistics, quotations and facts adds up by the end to a polemical roar.
- ALEXANDRA COGHLAN, The Spectator
Broad resists heralding her composers as moral heroes... QUARTET makes a forceful case for re-establishing these four women as composers of note.
- ELLEN PEIRSON-HAGGER, The New Statesman
Fabulous... Each of Broad's quartet...deserves a book to herself, but together they carry this story through the seismic transformations of their world, society and technology.
- JESSICA DUCHEN, The Sunday Times
Engaging... Broad has a vivid turn of phrase, conjuring up images in a handful of words... Most importantly of all, she describes the daily battles these women had to fight.
- HENRIETTA BREDIN, Country Life
Dazzlingly written... Consistently engaging... Broad skilfully weaves together their successes and setbacks to create a vivid picture of what it meant to be a woman composer in the male-dominated musical world of much of the 20th century... Much is still to be achieved, but this is an enormous step in the right direction.
Unfolds with the vividness and emotional tug of a novel... I found myself in tears... Virtuosic.
- Douglas Shadle, Journal of Musicological Research