All-female string quartets of the 19th and 20th centuries

T28449_Olive Mead Quartet, 1909 - l to r Olive Mead, Lillian Littlehales, Gladys North, Vera Fonaroff

In spite of historic discrimination against women having careers as professional musicians during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many first-class all-female string quartets flourished at the time. In the first of two articles, Tully Potter provides a survey of some of these pioneering groups

A low point in my love affair with the string quartet and its players came when I walked into the first day of the inaugural London International String Quartet Competition in 1988 to see a solid phalanx of twelve males at the jury table. ‘Where are the women quartet experts?’ I asked the organiser Yfrah Neaman. ‘There aren’t any,’ he stated, with such airy arrogance and self-assurance that I was thrown off guard…

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