I have known French pianist Marguerite Long’s name for a long time. Her recordings on Debussy and Ravel, which are produced mainly from 1920s to 1950s, offer not only historical and authentic interpretation of French piano music in the first half of 20th century, but also pure pianistic skills and values which are comparable to any performances of piano masters nowadays. I remember my first time getting to know Marguerite Long: I was listening to her recording on Ravel Piano Concerto in G while following the score at the same time. Her performance gave me a great help on understanding Ravel and how to approach the concerto.
As I dug in to understand Marguerite Long fully, I realized that she excelled not only on stage as a piano master but also as a dedicated promoter of music of her contemporary French composers and female pedagogue who marked the history of women teaching music for her exceptional achievement. I found out these insights by reading my first book when researching for my first paper, Marguerite Long: A Life in French Music 1874 – 1966 by Cecilia Dunoyer.
While the book is written chronologically (vertical) from Long’s youth to her last years, to also provide a horizontal image of Long, Dunoyer focuses substantially on Long’s interaction and collaboration with her contemporary musicians by quoting historical letters and newspapers. In the book, the author marks Long’s 1910s by her collaboration with Gabriel Faure and Claude Debussy and her 1920s and 30s with Maurice Ravel. Long promotes music of these composers, among other, by giving premiers, performing in new music concerts, adding modern French music to her repertoire when she toured abroad, giving lectures, producing recordings, and etc.
The book also explains challenges and hardship Marguerite Long faced and contribution she made as a female musician. For example, before Long was promoted to teach Classe Superieure, an appointment that makes her the first woman to have men in her class at the Paris Conservatoire, she had been waiting for her promotion for more than a decade. During the years from 1910s to 1920s, there were several openings of teaching Classe Superieure and Long was even given promises by Gabriel Faure that she will be promoted when the next opening comes, yet Long remained at her position teaching the lower-level piano class in the conservatory. Is it purely Long’s bad luck or is it discrimination against women’s ability of teaching music in a higher and more professional level? Dunoyer does not provide a clear answer in her book.
Based on my reading and some previous understanding of Marguerite Long as a pianist by listening to her recordings, I would like to research on her life more by looking at primary sources such as letters and diaries. I am interested in knowing Long’s own opinions and feelings living around 1920s as an exceptional female musician and possibly focus my paper on feminism and women in music.