Yale University Press London

Women and the Piano

A History in 50 Lives

by Susan Tomes

12 March 2024

Women are an essential part of the history of the piano—but how many women pianists can you name?

Throughout most of the piano’s history, women pianists lacked access to formal training and were excluded from male-dominated performance spaces. Even the modern piano’s keys were designed without consideration of women’s typically smaller hands. Yet despite their music being largely confined to the domestic sphere, women continued to play, perform, and compose on their own terms.

From Maria Szymanowska to Nina Simone, celebrated pianist and author Susan Tomes traces fifty such women across the piano’s history.

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About Susan Tomes

Susan Tomes is a concert pianist and writer. Renowned both as a soloist and as the pianist of Domus and the Florestan Trio, she is the author of seven books, including Speaking the Piano, Beyond the Notes, and The Piano: A History in 100 Pieces.

Also by Susan Tomes

Image of a book: The Piano, A History in 100 Pieces by Susan Tomes


A Financial Times Best Book of 2021: Classical Music

A fascinating history of the piano explored through 100 pieces.

Charting the development of the piano from the late eighteenth century to the present day, pianist and writer Susan Tomes takes the reader with her on a personal journey through 100 pieces including solo works, chamber music, concertos, and jazz.