Korchinska, Maria (1895–1979)

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Korchinska, Maria (1895–1979)

Russian-born British harpist who concertized widely. Born in Moscow, Russia, on February 16, 1895; died in London, England, on April 17, 1979; married Count Konstantin Benkendorff; children: a son and a daughter.

Maria Korchinska was the first harp of the Bolshoi Theater as well as a professor of harps at the Moscow Conservatory from 1918 to 1924. While at the conservatory, she won the first gold medal awarded to a harpist. In the musical world, instruments were often found acceptable or unacceptable depending on the gender of the person playing it. Most instruments such as the violin, drums, organ, and horns were considered male while the harp and piano were always considered female instruments. Until the 20th century, often the only female player in a symphony orchestra was the harpist. This scheme of gender classification gradually faded, although traces of it continue to exist.

Korchinska left Russia in 1926 when the upheavals of musical life in a revolutionary atmosphere proved to be too daunting. She quickly established herself in Great Britain and on the Continent as first harp in many orchestras. She also played contemporary chamber music with the Harp Ensemble and the Wigmore Ensemble. Korchinska gave the first performance of Arnold Bax's Fantasy Sonata for viola and harp which was dedicated to her. She also took part in the first performance of Benjamin Britten's Ceremony of Carols in which the harp is prominently featured. An advocate of the instrument, she founded the Harp Society of the United Kingdom. She and Phia Berghout , the Dutch harpist, organized annual international harp weeks in the Netherlands in 1960. Prominent as a musician, soloist, and teacher, Korchinska did a great deal to promote the instrument she played.


"Maria Korchinska," in The Daily Telegraph [London]. April 18, 1979, p. 16.

Sadie, Stanley, ed. New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. 20 vols. NY: Macmillan, 1980.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia