Thursday, October 28, 2010

Camilla Urso

Camilla Urso was an Italian violinist born in France on June 13, 1842 (some sources say 1840) (Brahms was 9 years old.)  She began violin studies at the age of five with Felix Simon, a violinist in the Nantes (France) opera orchestra.  She made her first public appearance at a small concert at age 7.  She is known for having been the youngest child, at the age of eight, ever enrolled at the Paris Conservatory and the first female ever to be admitted to study the violin.  A fellow pupil, though ahead of her in his classes, was Henri Wieniawski with whom she became friends.  After graduating from the Conservatory in 1852, she came to the U.S. after being encouraged by a promoter and gave a very successful debut concert in New York City.  Overcoming considerable difficulties and economic uncertainty for several years, she established a highly lucrative, interesting, and productive worldwide concertizing career.  Inexplicably, she retired from playing in 1855 and did not reappear until 1862.  Those years were spent somewhere in the Southern U.S.  Details of those missing years are probably found in Jennifer Schiller’s 127-page dissertation (2006) on the life of Urso but I didn’t bother with it.  Her concert in Boston on February 14, 1863 marked her return, at age 20, to active concert life.  She returned for concerts in France in the summer of 1865 then came back to the U.S. in September of 1866.  She later repeatedly toured Canada, Europe, Australia, South America, and South Africa as well as the U.S., playing in places where classical music was not well-known.  It has been said that later in life, she even participated in vaudeville shows.  One of the highlights of her career was a seven-month tour of California in the years 1869-1870.  She also organized, during that same tour, a memorable music festival comprised of several concerts given in San Francisco in February of 1870.  Incredibly, she did not perform in England until 1871, at age 29, playing the Mendelssohn concerto in London.  Later on, her main residence was in New York City, where she died on January 20, 1902, after an unsuccessful surgery, at age 59. 


  1. Urso paved the way for many female violinists - both concert soloists and orchestral players - who followed her. Today, she is completely unknown.

  2. Thanks for sharing this post with us. It is very useful and informative.
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    1. You are welcome and thank you for your comment.