Cecilia Maria Barthélemon

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Cecilia Maria Barthélemon (1 September 1767 - 5 December 1859)[1] was an English singer, composer, pianist, and organist. She was the daughter of Maria Barthélemon, née Mary (Polly) Young, and François-Hippolyte Barthélemon. She published sonatas and other compositions.[2]

Early life[edit]

Cecilia Maria Barthélemon was born in 1767 to an English family of accomplished singers. Her mother, Maria Barthélemon, was a singer and composer, and her father, François-Hippolyte Barthélemon, was a violinist and a singer. Her parents’ musical abilities allowed her to have many opportunities to grow as a musician: she went with them on tour, and often performed with them. While she was just a baby, her parents brought her on their tour to Dublin in 1771-1772. In 1776, they went on a tour of Germany, France, and Italy, where she sang for the King of Naples and the Queen of France. After 1778, it has been noted that she occasionally would perform her songs and keyboard works on stage with her parents. Another opportunity for her to grow as a musician came about when Joseph Haydn came to England in the 1790s; her family became friends with him and he often visited them, performing his music at their house. He gave Cecilia copies of his music, and some of her compositions were dedicated to and inspired by him.[3]

Later Life/Death[edit]

It seems that Cecilia was married twice. She inscribed her name into her copies of Haydn’s music with two different names - on one, she noted that her new name was Cecilia Maria Hinchcliffe, and on another she wrote the name Cecilia Maria Henslow. She married Captain E.P. Henslow some time around December 1796, and not much has been documented about her after this.


Because she was born into a musical family, Cecilia’s first teachers were her parents. From a young age, she learned to sing and play the harpsichord, piano, organ, and harp. From 1752-1788, she studied harpsichord, piano, and organ with Johann Samuel Schröter. It is also assumed that she learned a great deal from Joseph Haydn, a family friend who frequently visited the Barthélemon household. Cecilia’s career as a performer started with great promise. She publicly debuted as a singer on 3 March 1779 at the Haymarket Theatre, where she sang an Italian duet with her mother. Her next large-scale performance was in April 1782, when she played the part of First Fairy in the musical "The Arcadian Pastoral." Her parents were involved heavily in the production, with her father leading the orchestra and her mother directing the off-stage chorus. At a benefit concert for her father in April 1784, Cecilia played a piano concerto after Act I of Thomas Arne’s opera Eliza. Her father accompanied her on the viola d’amore. After Act II, Cecilia and her mother sang an Italian duetto. Cecilia’s music was published from 1786 to 1795. Her debut as a composer was a volume of Three Sonatas for the Piano-Forte, or Harpsichord, the Second with an Accompaniment for Violin. Four more sonatas followed. She left the professional world shortly after to her marriage to Captain Henslow.


Op. 1: Three Sonatas for the Piano-Forte, or Harpsichord, the Second with an Accompaniment for the Violin, 1786. This volume was dedicated to Her Royal Highness Princess Sophia Matilda. A new edition of Sonata no. 2 appears in Cecilia Maria Barthelemon: Accompanied Keyboard Sonatas, ed. Calvert Johnson (Fayetteville: ClarNan Editions, 1994). A recording of Sonata no. 3 appeared on “Music for solo harpsichord by 18th century women composers”, Kingdom (UK) 2010.

Op. 2: Two Sonatas for the Piano-Forte, 1792. This set of pieces was dedicated to Her Royal Highness the Duchess of York. A new edition of these pieces appeared in Accompanied Keyboard Sonatas, ed. Johnson.

Op. 3: Sonata for the Piano-Forte or Harpsichord, 1794. This piece was dedicated to J. Haydn M.D. A new edition was edited by Sally Fortino, 1995. It was recorded for the 1990 CD, “18th Century Solo Harpsichord Music by Women Composers, vol. II”.

Op. 4: Sonata for the Piano-Forte or Harpsichord, with an Accompaniment for a Violin, 1795. This piece was dedicated to Her Majesty The Queen of Naples. Modern edition is in Accompanied Keyboard Sonatas, ed. Johnson.

The Capture of the Cape of Good Hope, for the piano-forte or harpsichord. This piece was dedicated to Sir George Keith Elphinstone, KB. The piece is included in Women Composers: Music Through the Ages (G.K. Hall, 1995– ), vol. 5.


[1] [4]

  1. ^ a b Grove Music Online
  2. ^ List in Barbara Garvey Jackson, “Say Can You Deny Me”: A Guide to Surviving Music by Women from the 16th through the 18th Centuries (Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Press, 1994), 44-5.
  3. ^ 'Cecilia Maria Barthélemon'.
  4. ^ Baldwin, Olive. "Barthélemon, Cecilia Maria (1767 - 1859), Composer, Singer". Oxford Music Online. Retrieved 2017-04-24.