Born in 1885 in Porto, Portugal, to a middle-class musical family, Guilhermina Suggia began playing cello at the age of five. A child prodigy, she was already a seasoned performer when she won a scholarship to study with Julius Klengel in Leipzig at the age of sixteen. Suggia lived in Paris with fellow cellist Pablo Casals for several years before World War I, in a professional and personal partnership that was as stormy as it was unconventional. When they separated Suggia moved to London, where she built a spectacularly successful solo career. Suggia's virtuosity and musicianship, along with the magnificent style and stage presence famously captured in Augustus John's portrait, made her one of the most sought-after concert artists of her day. In 1927 she married Dr José Casimiro Carteado Mena and settled down to a comfortable life divided between Portugal and England. Throughout the 1930s, Suggia remained one of the most respected musicians in Europe. She partnered on stage with many famous instrumentalists and conductors and completed numerous BBC broadcasts. The war years kept her at home in Portugal, where she focused on teaching, but she returned to England directly after the war and resumed performing. When Suggia died in 1950, her will provided for the establishment of several scholarship funds for young cellists, including England's prestigious Suggia Gift. Mercier's study of Suggia's letters and other writings reveal an intelligent, warm and generous character; an artist who was enormously dedicated, knowledgeable and self-disciplined. Suggia was one of the first women to make a career of playing the cello at a time when prejudice against women playing this traditionally 'masculine' instrument was still strong. A role model for many other musicians, she was herself a fearless pioneer.
Table of Contents
Contents: Preface; Teachers and mentors; Casals-Suggia; A new beginning; The lady of the castle; Portrait of the artist; Turning point; Queen of the cello; The final decade; Appendices; Select list of sources; Discography.
Anita Mercier is a member of the Liberal Arts Faculty at The Julliard School, New York, USA.
'Anita Mercier has written a fascinating and highly informative biography of the great and, until now, quite mysterious Madame Suggia. The international musical scene of the first part of the twentieth century is brought vividly to life through the many anecdotes, facts and vivid descriptions throughout. The talent and strength of character of the cellist Suggia are always apparent, and for any musician and especially those with a strong interest in all things cellistic, this is a book one simply must read!' Raphael Wallfisch, Konservatorium fur Musik Zurich Winterthur, and Royal College of Music London ’... very handsomely designed, laid out and printed.’ The Strad