Anna Tedesco, A Neapolitan Pupil: Luisa Cognetti (1857–1952)

Luisa Cognetti was born in Naples on 20 July 1857, the daughter of upper middle-class parents, and grew up in a stimulating cultural environment. Her father, Salvatore, was a lawyer and journalist, and her brother, Goffredo, a playwright. She began attending Liszt’s piano classes in Rome in November 1876 and gave her first concert on 23 January 1877, an event marking the start of a career that would take her all over Europe but which ended in 1891 when she married Carlo Michon. Only after her husband’s death in 1921 did she take up teaching for a number of years. She died in Livorno on 7 July 1952. She left accounts of her time with Liszt and of her career as a pianist in her unpublished memoirs, which were compiled by one of her nieces. These memoirs make interesting reading for what they tell us about Liszt and for their lively description of the musical world that Luisa Cognetti inhabited. But their greatest merit lies in their account of the daily round of a nineteenth-century concert pianist and of the early history of concert life in Italy, which was still associated with an aristocratic, ‘private’ milieu. Thanks to these memoirs and other documents, we are able to reconstruct Luisa Cognetti’s career and repertory within the context of the concert life of the period and the role of women at that time.