Ethel Smyth

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Ethel Smyth, 1922
John Singer Sargent : Ethel Smyth, chalk drawing from 1901 ( National Portrait Gallery (London) )

Dame Ethel Mary Smyth (/ smaɪθ /; * April 23, 1858 in Sidcup ; † May 8, 1944 in Woking ) was an English composer , conductor , writer and one of the campaigners of the British suffragettes .

Ethel Smyth's life was largely shaped by asserting herself as a composer and receiving public recognition as such. She had the right to be seen in her work not as a sideline composing lady, but as an equal to her male colleagues and to live from her work. Her compositions include symphonic works , chamber music , choral works and operas . Her most famous opera is The Wreckers (German beach law ). Her best known work, however, is The March of Women , which became an anthem for the English women's movement.


Family and early education

Ethel Smyth comes from a typical upper-middle-class Victorian family whose male members - when they were not in the military - made careers as bishops, merchants or bankers. Her father, John H. Smyth, was a major general and long served in the Bengali army. Her mother Nina Struth, who had spent her youth in Paris and spoke better French than English, was more unusual.

Ethel grew up with five sisters and one brother near the English town of Sidcup . The six sisters were raised by German governesses, including one who had completed a full piano course at the Leipzig Conservatory . Under the influence of this governess, Ethel got to know the music of Beethoven , Schubert and Schumann , and she developed the desire to study music in Leipzig as well.

She was a spirited, idiosyncratic child: when she was fourteen she was sent to a girls' boarding school for a short time because she was considered "unmanageable" at home. She was allowed to return home after two of her sisters entered into appropriate marriages for daughters of their shift. Ethel was needed at home to help look after the other three sisters.

Smyth's wish to study music was resolutely rejected at home. Her contacts with a married couple - he was a musician, she was a writer - with whom she studied Wagner scores and Berlioz's theory of instrumentation, were rudely cut off by her father. After all, her family allowed her to hear Clara Schumann play works by Johannes Brahms in London .

In 1877 she finally won her family's approval to study music in Leipzig. This was preceded by psychological terror on her part: with a hunger strike, icy silence and the refusal of the activities that a young lady on her shift was supposed to do - namely going to church, dinner and ball - she achieved her intention. The musicologist Eva Rieger makes it clear how unusual these plans were:

"Her plans were [...] ludicrous for a girl at the time, especially since she did not [...] want to perfect her pianistic skills abroad in order to become a music teacher or piano virtuoso, but entered a 'male territory' by studying composition."

After all, it was possible as a woman to study composition in Leipzig - her contemporary Sabine Lepsius , who studied at the Berlin Music Academy, was denied entry to the composition class there.

At the Leipzig Conservatory

The Leipzig Conservatory disappointed her. The teachers (including Carl Reinecke , who taught them composition) did not seem serious enough to her: They came to class late, were not really interested in the compositions presented by the students and seemed to prefer to spice up the class with anecdotes rather than real content .

More important than the lessons at the Leipzig Conservatory became the circle of musicians in which she was now able to move after she had shed the tight bonds of her family. As before, however, the social conventions of her time also applied to her, which she occasionally circumvented in her unconventional way:

“One day I saw that Hofmann's Serenade in D, a piece of music that I particularly wanted to hear, would be played the next evening at an open-air concert in the Rosenthal restaurant, and announced that I wanted to be there. But Professor said that was impossible, no young girl could go to such a place alone [...] I borrowed a wig with gray corkscrew curls and large horn-rimmed glasses, her [the landlady's] thickest veil and her dress after me Wrapped myself in several layers of newspaper, lashed it with a string and attached other devices, it was an excellent fit. After I had finally painted the corresponding folds, I sailed to Rosenthal. "

Initially, Smyth had very close contact with the Röntgen family. Engelbert Röntgen , conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra , encouraged her to continue in her compositions by comparing the rondo theme of her first piano sonata with compositions by Mozart . She was also strongly encouraged by the wealthy, childless couple Herzogenberg: When she left the Leipzig Conservatory after studying for a year, she took private lessons from Heinrich von Herzogenberg , the president of the Leipzig Bach Society. The Herzogenbergs accepted her as a substitute daughter. The bond with Elisabeth von Herzogenberg , who was eleven years older than him, was much closer, however: The two were linked by a love affair that Heinrich von Herzogenberg either ignored or ignored.

In the house of the Herzogenbergs, Smyth participated very intensively in the cultural life of Leipzig. She got to know Clara Schumann, Anton Rubinstein , Max Friedländer , Edvard Grieg and Johannes Brahms personally and was close friends with Mendelssohn's youngest daughter , Lili Wach. Brahms in particular frequented the Herzogenberg family. However, she developed a distant relationship with Brahms, who had strong reservations about women composing: on the one hand she admired him, on the other hand his negative attitude towards women composers was hurtful.

Encounter with Henry Brewster

In the fall of 1882 Smyth moved to Florence for a short time , where Elisabeth von Herzogenberg's sister, Julia Brewster, lived. The relationship with Julia Brewster was very close at first. Julia Brewster's husband, the wealthy writer Henry Brewster, soon fell madly in love with Smyth, who was actually more lesbian. There was a break between Julia and Henry Brewster, which also led to Elisabeth von Herzogenberg turning away from Smyth. Smyth suffered intensely from this fracture. She tried to win back her friend Elisabeth von Herzogenberg until 1890 and it was only after Elisabeth's death in 1892 that Ethel deepened her relationship with Henry Brewster. However, this remained purely platonic for several years. In her autobiography What happened next , she describes with disarming openness how she decided in 1895 to enter into a sexual relationship with Henry Brewster, and speaks of a “sublime surrender” on her part.

The close relationship with Henry Brewster lasted until his death in 1908. Opera friend Henry Brewster also brought her closer to this art form and was to write all of her future opera libretti for Smyth.

Encounter with Tchaikovsky

The development up to the first public successes in the early 1890s was marked by a series of failures for Ethel Smyth. The German-language songs and ballads that were performed in England in the 1880s found no echo, and Joseph Joachim condescended to her chamber music compositions. In 1887 she returned to Leipzig, where she met the Russian composer Pyotr I. Tchaikovsky . He influenced her further compositional development and encouraged her to continue training, especially in the field of instrumentation, which led her to increasingly turn to great orchestral music. The instrumentation had been neglected during her first time in Leipzig - in her biography she justifies this with the fact that her teachers were significantly influenced by Brahms and for him the instrumentation did not play a major role. She later wrote about Herzogenberg, who influenced her so significantly in her early days, that his instrumentation was so miserable that she hardly recognized his orchestrated pieces, with which she was very familiar as a piano duo.

First performance of the mass in D

Ethel Smyth's first great success, the Mass in D ( English Mass in D ), was the musical processing of a violent infatuation with the Roman Catholic Pauline Trevelyan. The mass in D is one of her most important works; she herself considered it her best work. However , she owed the first performance of the mass at the Royal Albert Hall in London to her social relationships. The family's friends also included the exiled French Empress Eugénie de Montijo , who was well acquainted with the mass, as part of the work was created when Smyth was a guest in her holiday home. She arranged for Smyth to play parts of the mass to Queen Victoria and her court at Balmoral Castle - an experience to which Smyth also noted, given the ubiquitous tartan pattern there, that "it takes painful aesthetic concessions to be Queen of Scotland". This prelude and the promise of Eugénie and several members of the British royal family to attend the premiere ensured that the concert management of the Royal Albert Hall was ready to perform the mass of the largely unknown composer in March 1893. This performance was a success, with George Bernard Shaw writing an extensive positive review of her mass on January 25, 1893, while another reviewer was amused at "seeing a composer trying to rise in the soaring realm of musical art."

The first opera performances

Despite this success, it was difficult for Ethel Smyth to find an opera house ready to perform her first operas. Since there was only one professional opera stage in Great Britain, she tried to have her piece performed at one of the many German opera houses. The exhausting tour to the German stages absorbed a large part of her artistic energy: When she found conductors on site who wanted to perform their works, the directors did not approve. However, after she succeeded in getting Grand Duke Carl Alexander interested in her work in Weimar , her opera Fantasio was premiered in 1889 at the Weimar Court Theater. As Eva Weissweiler wrote, the audience success was considerable, but the critics who traveled from all parts of Germany indulged in the usual clichés. Only the orchestration was praised. Despite an excellent performance three years later, she began to have such doubts about her work that she burned her composition in the garden of her English country house.

The first performance of the opera Der Wald took place in 1902 at the Berlin State Opera , but did not find an enthusiastic audience there. The forest was performed in the same year at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London and released a year later at the Metropolitan Opera in New York . The premiere in New York was a complete success - one critic wrote of the evening:

“The singers were repeatedly called in front of the curtain, and Miss Smyth had an ovation of almost ten minutes […] She almost drowned in flowers […] Miss Smyth's music definitely belongs to the German school. It shows the influence of Wagner, but does not imitate him in any way. "

For more than 100 years (until the performance of Kaija Saariaho's opera L'amour de loin in 2016), the forest was the only opera at the Met by a female composer.

The difficult task of finding stages to perform their operas continued despite the successful performances. One of the people she wanted to personally convince was the famous conductor Bruno Walter , who wrote about her first encounter with her:

“A gaunt, about forty-eight-year-old English woman appeared in front of me in a colorless bag-like garment and explained to me that she had previously studied in Leipzig, Brahms was interested in her chamber music, her opera Der Wald had its performance in Dresden and now she is here to introduce us to Les Naufrageurs in Vienna with her last opera after Brousters [Walter means Brewster here] . I looked forward to our meeting with embarrassing anticipation, but she had not yet played ten minutes and sang to it in an ugly voice when I interrupted her to rush over to Mahler and implore him to come with me - the Englishwoman is playing her work for me and she was a real composer [...] when we parted, I was completely under the spell of what I heard and of her person. "

A lifelong friendship developed from this encounter. Although Bruno Walter did not perform her opera The Wreckers in Vienna, he conducted the prelude to the second act of this opera frequently in concerts and conducted the opera in London in 1910.

Ethel Smyth and the English women's movement

In her autobiographical book What Happened Next , Ethel Smyth wrote:

“I want women to focus on big and difficult tasks. You shouldn't hang around the coast all the time for fear of going to sea. I am neither afraid nor in need of help; in my own way, I am an explorer who firmly believes in the benefits of this pioneering work. "

However, Smyth long eluded the support of the women's movement. She thought political engagement was incompatible with her artistic creativity and left England in 1908 in order not to be drawn into the increasingly radical arguments about women's suffrage .

Both the English suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst and Rhoda Garrett had previously tried to win Smyth over to their cause. It was not until the death of Henry Brewster in 1908, which triggered a lengthy personal crisis for her, and discussions with friends such as the Viennese playwright Hermann Bahr and his wife Anna von Mildenburg , a famous Wagner interpreter , that Smyth resolutely opposed the militants in 1910 English women's rights activists and became a member of the Women's Social and Political Union . During this time she did not completely neglect her compositional work. In 1910 she wrote her three sunrise songs , the third of which, The March of Women , became the hymn and battle song of this movement. The first performance of this song took place on January 21, 1911 at a ceremony at Pall Mall in London.

As a protest against the denial of women's suffrage, Smyth deliberately provoked her arrest and a subsequent two-month prison sentence by breaking the windows of the British Colonial Secretariat on March 12, 1912. She was part of a community action by a total of 150 to 200 women who, as a sign of their will to fight for women's suffrage, destroyed almost all the windows around Oxford Street in London. The conductor Thomas Beecham visited her in Holloway Prison , where Smyth was imprisoned with numerous other English women's rights activists. About this visit he wrote:

“I arrived in the prison yard and found the noble group of martyrs marching up and down there and singing their war song 'March of the Women' with their heart's content, while the composer looked benevolently from one of the upper windows and with bacchanalian energy beat the beat with a toothbrush. "

Smyth dedicated two years of her life intensely to the goals of the British women's rights movement and supported them until the outbreak of the First World War . In support of the war effort, the women's rights activists suspended their activities during the war; after the First World War they were granted the right to vote .

Smyth's contribution to the emancipation of women certainly lies not only in her active fight for women's suffrage. As early as December 1911, Richard Specht wrote about Smyth in Der Merker :

“The disdain for women composers in general has been overturned by a carefree, resolute, unobstructed English woman who walks her way with joyful energy - I almost said: boxed. A very lively, lean, agile lady, despite her slightly graying hair, of victoriously earned, inner cheerfulness and tremendous, tenacious willpower, which has shown that femininity is no obstacle to original compositional production. "

Even Virginia Woolf saw Smyth in that role. Speaking to the National Society for Womens's Service in 1931, she said of her friend Smyth:

“She is from the tribe of pioneers, the pioneer. She went ahead and cut trees and blasted rocks and built bridges, paving the way for those who come after her. So we honor her not only as a musician and writer [...] but also as a rock sprinkler and bridge builder. "


After two years of intense fighting in the English suffragette movement, Ethel Smyth turned back to composing. As the first signs appeared that her hearing was impaired, she went to Egypt on the advice of her doctors in 1913 and began there to work on her new opera The Boatswain's Mate .

Smyth spent most of the First World War in France. From 1915 to 1918 she worked as an X-ray assistant near Vichy . The war had profound effects on her artistic work: her opera The Boatswain's Mate was to be performed at the Frankfurt Opera House in the 1914/1915 season , and Bruno Walter wanted to perform The Wreckers in Munich. Due to the outbreak of war in August 1914, the planned performances did not take place.

Portrait Virginia Woolf (1927)

In Vichy she began to write the first of her autobiographical works, which was a great success immediately after publication and had the side effect that due to the popularity thus achieved after 1920, many of her compositions were performed, radio productions were made with her works and Thomas Beecham The Prison produced for the BBC.

The Prison was her late work and was created despite advanced deafness. With this symphony for soloists, choir and orchestra, Smyth wanted to publicize the philosophy of life of her longtime friend Henry Brewster. In 1930 she conducted the London Metropolitan Police Band to dedicate a memorial to her long-dead friend Emmeline Pankhurst in Victoria Tower Gardens.

In the last years of her life she turned almost exclusively to writing. She felt very strongly drawn to Virginia Woolf , 24 years her junior , to whom she wrote almost every day for years. Woolf often scoffed at them. For example, in a letter to Vita Sackville-West , Woolf wrote of her friend: "Ethel's new dog is dead. The truth is, no dog can take the strain of living with Ethel." At the same time, however, the relationship was enriching for both of them.

Ethel Smyth died in 1944 at the age of 86 years in full possession of her faculties at a pneumonia .

The composer Ethel Smyth

Wife and composer

Similar to Fanny Hensel geb. Mendelssohn or Clara Schumann , whose compositions Hans von Bülow took as an opportunity to deny women the ability to compose in general, Ethel Smyth experienced the disdain for female composers. She saw how Brahms, who had just seriously dealt with one of her fugues, became insulting when he learned that he had dealt with the composition of a woman. He evaded any serious discussion with her about her work. Years later, in her memoirs A Stormy Winter , she wrote angrily about this episode:

“Suddenly he had remembered that I was a woman who was to be taken seriously below the dignity of a man, and he simply forgot the quality of the work that, had I been a man, he would have defended against everything and everyone . "

Ethel Smyth later found amusement at the consensus among music critics that their work lacked any feminine charm. And to the Wagner conductor Hermann Levi , who after hearing one of her great choral works said, “I would never have believed that a woman would have written something like this,” she replied: “No, and more than that: you will be in a week don't believe yet ”.

George Bernard Shaw was one of the patrons of Smyth's music

On the other hand, Smyth found a benevolent critic who accompanied her for decades in George Bernard Shaw . He was the one who refused from the start to attach any importance to the gender of the composer in evaluating the work. He compared her work with Handel and ironically wondered how much more "masculine" her work was compared to Handel and how "feminine" the work of Mendelssohn and Arthur Sullivan was.

In addition to Shaw, well-known musicians such as Bruno Walter , Arthur Nikisch and Thomas Beecham also valued her work and were instrumental in ensuring that their works were performed. Singers such as Blanche Marchesi waived their fee to perform works by Smyth.

Like other, comparably gifted composers, Smyth had to fight for recognition as a music maker. Whether her public recognition was impaired by the fact that she was a woman, or the exoticism as a composing woman helped her to become better known is still an undecided dispute between musicologists. Smyth herself found her gender to be a hindrance in her artistic development, and the musicologist Eva Rieger points out a not insignificant limitation that Smyth had to accept as a woman:

“All her life willing to work full-time as a composer, she never found the opportunity to anchor her professionally. Her male colleagues, on the other hand, were all placed in lucrative positions that offered them economic security and plenty of time for their work. "

Smyth herself wrote about her music:

“The exact value of my music will probably only be recognized when nothing is left of me but sexless dots and lines on lined paper […] When the meager trickle of personal fate is carried away with the stream of human experience; if even a bit of all of this goes into an artist's work, it was worth it to have written this work. And if others should only detect a faint echo of such a spirit in my music now or after my death, then everything is good and more than good. "

The compositional work of Ethel Smyth

Ethel Smyth left behind a work that ranges from chamber music to madrigals and choral works and operas to symphonies. Overall, however, her oeuvre is relatively small. Some of the manuscripts are considered lost: for example the "Prelude and Fuge for Thin People", which was written around 1883.

Until 1887 she wrote exclusively chamber music such as her string quintet in E major, op. 1, which was composed in 1884. These works in particular show that her musical training had mainly taken place in Leipzig and that she was strongly influenced by German late romanticism. After the success of the “Mass in D”, which - as Eva Rieger wrote in her essay on Smyth - is characterized by “masterful contrapuntal parts and colorful instrumentation”, she turned to opera in particular, which as a genre was both her ability Drama as well as the powerful and lively orchestration.

The Wreckers (German: Strandrecht) is still considered Smyth's most important stage work. Under the impression of this opera, the music critic Richard Specht dedicated a long article in the magazine Der Merker to Smyth and her work in December 1911 , in which he wrote, among other things:

“But this 'beach right', against which some people initially resist, whose bitter desolation initially disturbs and worries, soon won't let go. In this great dramatic ballad there is a tone of a defiantly desperate passion and a ruthless force that is irresistible even in the repulsive. A dark legend of Cornwall tradition that Ethel Smyth heard from the fishermen of this coast and which she had shaped into a poem of eerie and threatening effect. "

The conductor Thomas Beecham considered parts of her opera The Wreckers as well as the choral work Hey Nonny No and some of her songs to be unique in contemporary music. Her music was contemporary in any case, but it always remained stuck in late Romanticism, so that critics also accused it of "German melancholy, Brahmsian style".

The rediscovered composer

Today, Ethel Smyth's works are not part of the standard repertoire of concert halls and opera stages, neither in Great Britain nor in Germany. This is also a fate that she shares with other, similarly talented (male) composers such as Ralph Vaughan Williams and Arnold Bax .

In the meantime, however, her works are increasingly being performed again: In September 2004, the Norddeutsche Rundfunk recorded one of her chamber music works. The German premiere of their fair in D took place in 1995 as part of the Saar Music Festival in St. Ingbert, further performances followed in 1997 in Stuttgart and 2002 in Mannheim. In addition, a number of new recordings have been made with her work in recent years.

In addition to the fact that she was without question a very capable composer, whose work rivals that of her male contemporaries, it also helps the women's movement of the 1970s and 1980s to draw attention to women who create art, so that today both musicians as well as the audience are willing and curious to deal with the compositional work of a woman.

In recent years, musicological research into Smyth's life and works has taken a significant boost, parallel to its rediscovery in concert life. While there is still some basic work to be done (e.g. catalog raisonné, catalog of your letters, indexing of the sketches and manuscripts, editions), most of the essays and studies, unless they follow conventional biographical approaches, are “New Musicology” or “Queer” Musicology ”. On the occasion of Smyth's 150th birthday, a multi-day Ethel Smyth Festival was held in Detmold in November 2008 and a one-day symposium was held at Oxford University. On July 17, 2009, the International Ethel Smyth Society was founded as a support association, which generally promotes the research and revival of Smyth's works and especially the work of the Ethel Smyth Research Center at the Detmold-Paderborn Musicological Seminar should support.

In 2019, the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna presented music by Ethel Smyth in a concert as part of the Europride in the context of pieces by homosexual contemporaries, including Elisabeth von Herzogenberg and Mathilde Kralik .

Ethel Smyth as a writer

Bruno Walter wrote in his autobiography Subject and Variations on Ethel Smyth:

“Ethel Smyth […] had a flaming soul. She burned incessantly, whether she composed, whether she wrote [...] whether she agitated as a suffragette, whether she conducted an orchestra in a kind of kimono or whether she was talking. "

In the absence of any film documentary about Smyth, reading her autobiographical works is the best way to get an idea of ​​whether Walter's judgment of Smyth's personality is correct. There are (male) critics who argue that Smyth should have pursued a career as a writer rather than a composer. Virginia Woolf, for whom writing was the elixir of life but also torture, commented a little enviously in her speech to the National Society for Women's Service that Smyth could "throw a masterpiece without any practice in my art."

Regardless of whether Woolf's judgment of the literary value of Smyth's books is correct, her works are important documents of the time. In the course of her life she met important personalities from the cultural scene as well as people from the ruling houses of that time. She was the table partner of Kaiser Wilhelm II , guest of Queen Victoria of Great Britain, friend of the French ex-Empress Eugénie and was supported by Winnaretta Singer , Princess Edmond de Polignac. Regardless of whether she describes the appropriate way of dealing with a French ex-empress and a ruling British queen when walking through a door or whether she describes how she practices throwing window panes with Emmeline Pankhurst, this is always done with observation and irony.


In 1881 she received a scholarship from the Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy Foundation for composition. In 1910 Ethel Smyth received an honorary doctorate from the University of Durham , followed by a second from Oxford University in 1926 and a third from the University of St Andrews in 1928 . In 1922 King George V made her Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire .

On the occasion of her 75th birthday, she was celebrated on a grand scale in the UK. The celebrations began with a concert in the Queen's Hall and a dinner for three hundred guests. The conclusion was on March 3, the performance of their Mass in D conducted by Thomas Beecham in the Royal Albert Hall . She herself was almost completely deaf at this point , but watched the performance together with Queen Mary from the royal box.

It found its way into the visual arts of the 20th century. The feminist artist Judy Chicago dedicated one of the 39 place settings at the table to her in her work The Dinner Party .


Compositions (selection)

Instrumental music

  • Piano Sonata No. 2 in F sharp minor "Geistinger Sonate" (1877)
  • String Quartet in C minor (1881) premiere. April 23, 2011 Konzerthaus Berlin
  • String quintet in E major op. 1 for 2 violins, viola and 2 violoncellos (1883), premiere. Gewandhaus Leipzig , January 26, 1884
  • Sonata in A minor, Op. 7 for violin and piano (1887), premiere. Gewandhaus Leipzig, November 20, 1887 (with Adolph Brodsky and Fanny Davies )
  • Symphony for small orchestra (1878–1884)
  • String Quintet in B minor (1884)
  • Five Choral Preludes for Organ (1887)
  • Sonata in A minor op.5 for violoncello and piano (1887), premiere. December 8, 1926
  • Serenade in D (1889–1890)
  • String Quartet in E minor (1914)
  • Two trios for violin, oboe and piano (1927)
  • Variations on "Bonny Sweet Robin" for flute, oboe and piano (1928)
  • Concerto for violin, horn and orchestra (1928)
  • String trio in D major (world premiere in Berlin 2008 Pythagoras Strings)

Vocal music

  • "Eight Songs" for voice and piano based on German texts (1879)
  • Songs and Ballads op.3 for voice and piano (1886)
  • " Mass in D " ( English Mass in D ), premiere. Royal Albert Hall London , 1893
  • "Hey Nonny No" for choir and orchestra (1911)
  • "Songs of Sunrise" for female choir a cappella (1911)
  • “Sleepless Dreams” for choir and orchestra, 1912
  • "The Prison" for solos, choir and orchestra (1930)


  • “Fantasio”, libretto based on Alfred de Musset by Henry Brewster, world premiere: Hoftheater Weimar, May 24, 1898
  • The forest , musical drama with prologue and epilogue in one act, world premiere: Hofoper Berlin, April 9, 1902
  • "The Wreckers" (Eng. "Strandrecht", also "Strandräuber"), lyrical drama in three acts, world premiere: Neues Theater Leipzig, November 11, 1906
  • “The Boatswain's Mate”, comic opera in one act based on a short story by WW Jacobs, premiered at Shaftesbury Theater, London, January 28, 1916
  • "Fête Galante", opera in one act based on a short story by Maurice Baring, world premiere: Birmingham Repertory Opera, June 4, 1923
  • “Entente Cordiale”, comic opera in one act, world premiere in student production: Royal College of Music, July 22, 1925, public premiere: Theater Royal, Bristol, October 20, 1926

Fonts (selection)

  • Impressions That Remained . London / New York 1919/1946.
  • Streaks of Life . London / New York 1921.
  • A Three-Legged Tour in Greece . London 1927.
  • A Final Burning of Boats . London / New York 1928.
  • Female piping in Eden . London / New York 1933.
  • Beecham and Pharaoh . London 1935.
  • As Time Went On . London / New York 1936.
  • Inordinate (?) Affection , London 1936.
  • What Happened Next. London / New York 1940.
  • A Fresh Start unpublished manuscript 1941, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, Special Collections Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library

German selection edition:

  • A stormy winter. Memories of a contentious English composer. Excerpts from the autobiographical books of Ethel Smyth. Edited by Eva Rieger. Bärenreiter, Kassel 1988. ISBN 3-7618-0923-9



  • Mass in D , Mrs. Waters' Aria from The Boatswain's Mate , The Marcho of the Women . Eiddwen Harrhy, Janis Hardy, Dan Dressen, James Bohn, The Plymouth Music Series Chorus and Orchestra, conducted by Philip Brunelle. Virgin Classics 1991.
  • Chamber Music and Songs Vol. 1–4 : Violin Sonata in A minor, Op. 7, Cello Sonatas in A minor, Op. 5 and C minor, String quintet in E major, Op. 1, String quartet in E minor, songs, ballads, Three Moods of the Sea, double concerto for violin, horn and piano, Céline Dutilly, Renate Eggebrecht, Franz Draxinger, Friedemann Kupsa, Melinda Paulsen, Maarten Koningsberger, Kelvin Grout. Troubadisc 1992-1997.
  • The Wreckers. Anne-Marie Owens, Justin Lavender, Peter Sidhom, David Wilson-Johnson, Judith Howarth, Anthony Roden and others, Huddersfield Choral Society, BBC Philharmonic, conducted by Odaline de la Martinez. Conifer Records 1994.
  • Complete Piano Works. Liana Serbescu. cpo 1995.
  • Concerto for violin, horn and orchestra. Saschko Gawriloff, Marie-Luise Neunecker , Radio Philharmonic Hanover of the NDR, conductor: Uri Mayer. Koch Classics 1995 (on horn concertos / horn concerts ).
  • Concerto for violin, horn and orchestra , serenade in D. Sophie Langdon, Richard Watkins, BBC Philharmonic, conductor: Odaline de la Martinez. Chandos Records 1996.


  • Cornelia Bartsch , Rebecca Grotjahn , Melanie Unseld [eds.]: Felsensprengerin, bridge builder, trailblazer. The composer Ethel Smyth; Rock Blaster, Bridge Builder, Road Paver: The Composer Ethel Smyth , Allitera, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-86906-068-2
  • Michaela Brohm : The composer Ethel Smyth (1858–1944): Causes of recognition and failure. An investigation into the tension between biographical-psychosocial, work-immanent and historical factors. Rhombos, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-938807-46-0
  • Eva Hochrathner: Ethel Smyth (1858–1944). The composer's relationship with Vienna as reflected in her correspondence with Anna Bahr-Mildenburg and Hermann Bahr. Vienna: University of Music and Performing Arts 2001. (Diploma thesis)
  • Eva Rieger : Lasting impressions . Epilogue to: A stormy winter. Bärenreiter , Kassel 1988. ISBN 3-7618-0923-9 (essay on Ethel Smyth)
  • Eva Rieger: woman, music and male rule . Ullstein, Berlin 1981; Furore Verlag again , Kassel 1988. ISBN 3-9801326-8-4
  • Meinhard Saremba: Ethel Smyth in: Elgar, Britten & Co. - A History of British Music in 12 Portraits, Zurich / St. Gallen 1994 ISBN 3-7265-6029-7 , pp. 123-150
  • Bernard Shaw: Music in London . German translation and footnotes by Ernst Schoen, selection and introduction by HH Stuckenschmidt. Suhrkamp Verlag Berlin u. Frankfurt a. M. 1949.
  • Sulamit Sparre: “They say I am an egoist. I am a fighter ”. Dame Ethel Mary Smyth (1858-1944). Composer, conductor, writer, suffragette , Edition AV , Lich 2010 ISBN 978-3-86841-038-9
  • Christopher St. John: Ethel Smyth. A biography . Longmans, Green & Co., London 1959
  • Bruno Walter: Theme and Variations - Memories and Thoughts . Bermann-Fischer , Stockholm 1947, again Fischer, Frankfurt 1988. ISBN 3-10-390502-5
  • Eva Weissweiler: women composers from 500 years. A history of culture and impact in biographies and work examples . Fischer, Frankfurt 1981. ISBN 3-596-23714-9
  • Hermione Lee : Virginia Woolf . Fischer, Frankfurt a. M. 1999. As paperback 2006: ISBN 3-596-17374-4 . Contains descriptions of friendship with Virginia Woolf.


  1. ^ George Bernard Shaw: Musik in London , Suhrkamp Verlag 1949, p. 88.
  2. ^ Anna Bahr-Mildenburg: Ethel Smyth . In: New Free Press . No. 17222 . Vienna August 4, 1912, p. 11 ( [accessed April 2, 2018]).
  3. Ethel Smyth: The Memoirs of Ethel Smyth. Abridged and Introduced by Ronald Crichton. Viking Penguin, Harmondsworth / New York 1987, ISBN 0-670-80655-2 , pp. 293-294; first in Ethel Smyth: Beecham and Pharaoh , Chapman & Hall, London 1935, pp. 4–5. Smyth had met the Bahr couple on March 8, 1910 (see Hochrathner in the literature list).
  4. (accessed on April 15, 2020).
  5. Quoted from the Ethel Smyth Research Center web link
  7. Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: The Dinner Party. Place Setting: Ethel Smyth. Brooklyn Museum, April 13, 2007, accessed April 23, 2014 .

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This article was added to the list of excellent articles on November 18, 2004 in this version .