Troubador An Unforgettable Woman

Released: 01/07/2011

ISBN: 9781848766709

Format: Paperback

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An Unforgettable Woman

The Life and Times of Rosa Newmarch


Rosa Newmarch (1857-1940) was an extraordinary woman. Nowadays, she is best known as the programme writer for the Promenade Concerts from 1908 to 1926. But, equally important, she was instrumental in introducing to the English concert-going public, music by many Russian composers, Sibelius and Czech composers, particularly Janácek. Janácek’s music was hardly known in Britain until Rosa Newmarch organised his visit to Britain in 1926. 

A?talented and intelligent individual, she was brought up bilingual, and by 1911 she had mastered so many languages that she became a member of the Polyglot Club. From the time she was about twenty until her death at the age of 82, she published 23 books and numerous articles.  

Rosa had a very wide circle of acquaintances and friends in the musical world, including  Balakirev, Cui, Rimsky-Korsakov, Sibelius, Greig, Elgar, Bantock, Busoni, Lamond, Shalyapin, and Sir Henry Wood. She married Henry Newmarch  in 1883. In 1934, when she was 76, she began writing her autobiography, but failed to complete it before she died in 1940.  Her daughter made strenuous attempts to complete it after her death but found it difficult, partly because of painful aspects of family life when Rosa’s marriage nearly broke up. Her daughter’s work was never published. This account is based on Rosa’s autobiography together with her daughter’s additions and further research by the author who is particularly indebted to much encouragement and help from Rosa’s sole surviving grand-daughter. 

The Year, 2012

Elgar Society Journal, December 2011

The Bookseller Buyer's Guide, Autumn 2011

The Dvořák Society for Czech and Slovak Music Newsletter No. 97, October 2011

Leamington Observer,, August 2011

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 Lewis Stevens

As newsletter editor of the Dvořák Society for Czech and Slovak Music, the author first came to know of Rosa Newmarch (1857-1940) through her book Music of Czechoslovakia (1942). Although the book is now a little dated it remains a very comprehensive study of the music of Czechoslovakia from its Bohemian origins up until the early 1930s.

However this was only one facet of Rosa Newmarch’s prolific writings on music and today she is best known as the programme writer for the Promenade concerts from 1908 to 1926. She wrote several books on Russian music including the first biography of Tchaikovsky in English, and played an important role in introducing Russian music to British audiences in the early 20th century through her long friendship with Sir Henry Wood. She also did much to promote the music of Sibelius whom she knew over many years. In addition she published two volumes of her poetry.

Rosa organised Janáček’s only visit to London in 1926, and recently Radio 4 ran a programme on her friendship with Janáček entitled Leoš and Rosa . She travelled extensively in Russia, Czechoslovakia, France and Italy. She had many acquaintances, not only the world of music but also in the arts and politics. When she retired she was presented with a Blüthner grand piano to which over 130 eminent people from the world of music, the arts and public life contributed.

The author, a retired academic scientist who has published a textbook and two monographs on his scientific specialism, has had a long interest in music. He was fortunate to meet Rosa’s sole surviving grand-daughter. When Rosa died she left an incomplete unpublished autobiography. With support and help from Rosa’s grand-daughter, who made available to him many of her writings and unpublished letters, the author has been able to edit and complete the story of the life of the woman whom Sibelius described as une femme inoubliable.

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