How The F*ck Did I Not Know This Woman?: Edith Lorand

Presenting…

How The F*ck Did I Not Know This Woman?

~(A new Song of the Lark series)~

(Part 1 / ???,???)

Edith Lorand: violinist, conductor, queen

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If you’re like me, you’ve never pondered what André Rieu would be like if he:

  • was a flapper
  • with better hair
  • who could actually play the violin.

Also if you’re like me, the instant the idea of Flapper André Rieu occurs, you feel an intense longing to know her.

It’s easy to imagine her biography.

She would have a first-rate musical education, preferably at the same hallowed institution that trained Stefi Geyer and Béla Bartók.

She has to have a killer bow arm. That’s non-negotiable.

She has to take the nascent recording industry by storm. Ideally she’d be labeled the “female Johann Strauss” by the press.

She should also make an escape from fascism, for maximum biopic potential.

She needs a Mercedes.

She has to be the first female conductor to wear bright colors while conducting.

And OBVIOUSly she needs a backup band of ALL MEN. It is also very important that they be advertised as “EDITH LORAND AND HER ORCHESTRA OF SEVENTEEN MEN.” Again, this is very important to me.

But of course, she would also have to be fictional, because surely such a woman, had she existed, would be remembered today.

Well, a rare round of applause for sexism, because without it, you’d never have the delightful surprise of being introduced to the underappreciated Edith Lorand.

Check out this Youtube video.

Let’s take a moment to analyze this video, second by glorious second:

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“Celebrated Continental Star”

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That smile, tho

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Speaking as someone who loves fashion history, I applaud her choice of dress. This shape was comically out of fashion in the 1920s, but is synonymous with the era of Strauss waltzes. Costume kudos, Edith Lorand.

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The patented “gazing at heaven” performing routine

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This pianist is forced to keep his eyes glued on his demanding mistress

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Meanwhile, this cellist appears to have lost the will to live

Edith Lorand doesn’t have a Wikipedia page in English, because…reasons. But we do have this page that Google has helpfully translated from German.

She was born on December 17, 1898 in Budapest and died in November 1960 in New York. She studied with Hubay and Flesch, proving she possessed some serious musical chops. In 1920 she made her Viennese debut and also “relocated her food point,” according to the aforementioned Google translation. In 1921 she began to make recordings. Before she turned thirty, she had made a thousand of them, and had her picture taken in this hat in her Mercedes, causing all subsequent generations to develop massive crushes:

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All worship at the dancing feet of our waltz queen, Edith Lorand

That website also includes the following quote from a London newspaper, dated April 1930:

Should Johann Strauss, the Waltz King, come back to life, he would find a female rival in Edith Lorand, the Hungarian violinist. It is unusual for Germany to see a beautiful, slender young woman in a richly embroidered, white Hungarian dress climb the conductor’s desk and to face an orchestra of men in a covered, black evening dress. There have already been occasionally female conductors here – Ethel Leginska from London five years ago; Antonia Brico from Berkeley, Cal., This winter. But they insisted on wearing black suits. Edith Lorand relies on bright colors. No female conductor has so far tried to be a conductor and a soloist.

ME: *wrinkles brow* *Googles Antonia Brico* *sighs* *slaps Antonia Brico’s name on a Post-It for part 2 / ???,???*

Thank God that Edith Lorand was given the chance to emigrate to America before World War II engulfed Europe. Her life was spared, but unfortunately her career never took off here like it had abroad. Further wild-eyed multi-tabbed Googling hasn’t revealed much else, but to be fair, I’ve also only known about her for, like, the last hour.

So head over to Youtube and type in Edith Lorand. There are dozens of really great old recordings to enjoy, full of the best kind of vintage schmaltz. And if you want a taste of her silky solo sound, thrill to this second movement of the Mendelssohn violin concerto. It’s pure antique bliss.

Plus, here’s an image from the Duke University website…

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An orchestra of seventeen men, led by a flapper violinist conductor, playing San Francisco’s gayest music? I am so there.

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After reading about Edith Lorand – hearing her play – reading about her contributions to the art of recording – realizing that she might be an important figure in the history of female violinists and conductors – and seeing she doesn’t even have an English Wikipedia page devoted to her…I find myself asking yet again:

How the f*ck do I not know this woman?

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Edith Lorand

6 Comments

Filed under Women In Music

6 responses to “How The F*ck Did I Not Know This Woman?: Edith Lorand

  1. Steve Ledbetter

    If Antonia Brico is new to you, you should find a copy of the film about her made by her former music student Judy Collins (who studied piano with her when she was a child, in Denver, if I remember right). in 1974. It dealt with her struggles in trying to establish a women’s orchestra and also her own career as a conductor. (The full title is “Antonia Brico: A Portrait of the Woman”)

    • I read about that film this afternoon and it is definitely on my list to find. (Although I’m not sure how to go about that. More research required.) Thanks for the recommendation!!

  2. SbE

    Hi Emily – thanks for writing that. Why don’t you make a Wikipedia page for Edith? Edit her into the Wikipedia page on Women in Music to make her easy to find; make her easy to see in the female conductor section and link to your own page from there. You’ve got all the information you need to make a start and others will take up the baton to add to it and to edit it. Edith fulfils the Wikipedia ‘notability’ criteria. Now you’ve found her, make it easy for her to be found. Imagine how many school and college projects she’ll pop up in.

  3. Watching that first video, I was struck by Edith Lorand’s facial expressions, too. It’s a pleasure to see someone who knows and instrument, has the confidence to play with zest and reflect it all with the body language to make you believe it!

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