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Leokadiya Kashperova (1872–1940), hitherto consigned to a footnote in musical history as Stravinsky’s piano teacher, is undergoing rediscovery. A double graduate of the St Petersburg Conservatoire, she emerged as a virtuoso pianist and composer in the romantic tradition. She was associated with some of the great musicians of her day, including Balakirev and Auer. She performed in both Germany and the UK in the 1900s, but her career petered out after 1920.

Songs of Love was first published in 1904. No evidence survives of any public performance in Kashperova’s lifetime although it is very likely that they were performed at her regular ‘musical evenings at home on Tuesdays’ mentioned in her Memoirs. The transparency of the piano writing strongly suggests that she would accompany herself singing. Kashperova, by all accounts, possessed a fine voice, and in the summer of 1906 she decided ‘to learn from the artistry’, as she put it, of the tenor Raimond von Zur-Mühlen who was widely celebrated for having developed (with Clara Schumann) the Lieder-Abend tradition. His summer-schools on the Baltic coast were frequented by aspiring singers from all over Europe, even Japan and India. Kashperova herself was responsible for the poetic lyrics of Songs of Love (in both Russian and German), which may well have emerged from her own bittersweet experience of life and love; she was not to marry until 1916 at the age of forty-four. That Kashperova is the author of both the music and the lyrics of Songs of Love would suggest that they express very personal sentiments.

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