Among 19th century female musicians whose successes were limited by social constraints of the era, pianist, composer and educator Louise Farrenc managed to rise above. Somewhat. Born in Paris in 1804 into a family of artists, her interest in music was encouraged.She enrolled at the Paris Conservatory at age 15 in 1819 where she studied piano; women were not allowed to study composition at the Conservatory until 1870, so she studied this privately.
In 1821 she married artist Aristide Farrenc who encouraged her to compose. Together they later established what would become one of the leading music publishing houses in France and it’s thanks to he printing her music that today we have many of her compositions.
From the mid 1820s she embarked on a concert career and her reputation as a pianist grew to such a degree that in 1842 Louise was appointed professor of piano at the Paris Conservatory, a position she held for 30 years. Though she was permitted only to teach women, she would be the only female tenured professor in the 19th century at the Paris Conservatory and grew to be known as one of the greatest piano teachers in Europe.
In the 1820s and ‘30s she composed only for piano; in the 1840s she turned to chamber music, and 1849 saw the very successful premiere of her third symphony. Despite her considerable reputation as a composer, she was only ever allowed to teach piano.
For nearly ten years at the Conservatory she was paid significantly less than her male counterparts. That is, until the smashing success of her Nonet in 1850 after which she demanded, and won, equal pay.
After the death of her daughter at age 33 in 1859, Farrenc stopped composing but continued to teach at the Conservatory until a few years before her death in 1875. Following this, her music fell into obscurity until the late 20th century when music of female composers began to enjoy a rediscovery.