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Beatrice Harrison (1892 - 1965)

Beatrice Harrison—one of four sisters who, thanks to their parents’ commitment and society connections, all became professional musicians—will forever be associated with the Delius Cello Sonata and the Elgar Cello Concerto, not to mention a quirky ‘musical rapport’ with the nightingales that sang in her garden! Her association with important British musicians in an era of considerable vigour and productivity in the early twentieth century places her at the heart of British music making at this time and ensures that she is remembered as one of the period’s most prominent cellists. Her gender, of course, added to the glamour and appeal of her musicianship—May Mukle had preceded her and Guilhermina Suggia was an equally powerful presence, but professional women cellists were distinctly in the minority at this time.

Harrison, whose teachers included Hugo Becker in Berlin, was one of few non-Germanic students of the rather enclosed Dresden pedagogic line that was crucial in the emancipation of the cello as a Romantic solo instrument. Certainly, her playing on record suggests the retention of some nineteenth-century traits: a tight, rather sparing vibrato in all of her recordings, and quite liberal use of the portamento which was rather more prevalent amongst cellists than violinists. Whereas some of May Harrison’s violin recordings appear a little weak and unfocussed, Beatrice’s cello playing is rich and vibrant, making her arguably the stronger player of the two sisters.




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