In the 1840s The Musical World called Kate Loder (1825-1904) one of the finest pianists of the day “without reference to her age or sex or country.” Loder was young, female, and British at a time when audiences preferred their musicians older, male, and foreign (preferably German).
Loder came from a musical family and exhibited an early talent at the piano. Her musical life is too rich to detail in a review.
Among other things, she performed Mendelssohn’s G minor Piano Concerto in the presence of the composer. She was close friends with Joseph Joachim and Clara Schumann. Like Clara, she enjoyed a successful career as a concert pianist and composer.
Then she married.
In the Victorian Age, the wife of a prominent surgeon did not perform in public. Kate Loder Thompson’s concert career was over. She did, however, continue to perform, teach, and compose privately throughout the rest of her life.
So what was her music like? This release features her two published collections of studies, plus a few short piano works.
The Twelve Studies Books 1 and 2 document her impressive technical ability, and also her musicality. Though some are quite didactic, Lodor, like Clementi, manages to make them more than just finger exercises.
The Study No. 9, Book 2, for example, has a hint of Mendelssohn about it. On the other hand, the Study No. 5, Book 2 seems to be inspired by Chopin. That influence sounds even stronger in her later piano works, such as the Voyage Joyeux in A major (1868).
Ian Hodson performs with a calm assurance and tasteful musicality. He’s able to bring out the musical contours in the studies, giving them music form instead of letting them just be a jumble of notes.
If you’re interested in women composers, this release is a must-have. But that shouldn’t be the only reason to explore Kate Lober’s music. It doesn’t sound especially youthful, nor feminine, or especially British. It simply sounds like what it is: well-constructed music of the middle Romantic period.
And that should be reason enough.
Kate Loder: Piano Music
Twelve Studies, Books 1 & 2; Romance in A flat, Pensée Fugitive; Two Mazurkas, Voyage Joyeux
Ian Hobson, piano
World Premiere Recordings