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Rivé-King, Julie (1854–1937)

Rivé-King, Julie (1854–1937)

American musician and composer who became the first great American woman pianist. Name variations: Julie Rive-King. Born on October 30, 1854, in Cincinnati, Ohio; died on July 24, 1937, in Indianapolis, Indiana; daughter of Leon Rivé (a painter) and Caroline (Staub) Rivé; studied piano in the United States with Henry Andres, William Mason, and Sebastian Bach Mills, and abroad with Carl Reinecke, Adolf J.M. Blassmann, Wilhelm Albert Rischpieter, and Franz Liszt; married Frank H. King (a businessman who became her manager), in 1878 (died 1900); no children.

American pianist and composer Julie Rivé-King was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the daughter of Leon Rivé, a painter, and Caroline Staub Rivé , French immigrants who moved to Cincinnati in 1854, the year of her birth. Her musical talent emerged at age five, at which time she began studying with her mother, a musician and alumna of the Paris Conservatory. Julie made her first public appearance at the age of eight at one of her mother's concerts, and around that time began formal instruction under Henry Andres. She later studied in New York with William Mason and Sebastian Bach Mills and in Leipzig with Carl Reinecke (1872), and briefly took lessons from Franz Liszt. In 1874, she made her European debut at the Euterpe Musical Association of Leipzig, performing Beethoven's Third Concerto and Liszt's Second Hungarian Rhapsody. For her American debut on April 24, 1875, with the New York Philharmonic Society, she played Liszt's Concerto in E flat and Schumann's "Faschingsschwank aus Wien." A year later, she married Frank H. King, an executive of the Decker Company, the manufacturer of the pianos on which she frequently performed. King had previously managed her concerts, and he would continue to do so until his death in 1900.

By 1936, when she gave up performing, Rivé-King had become the first great American

woman pianist. She had given over 4,000 concerts and recitals in the United States and Canada, 500 of which were with orchestras, and had appeared with Theodore Thomas' Chicago orchestra more than 200 times. At the height of her career, she was praised by W.S.B. Mathews, a Chicago pianist and editor of Music, as having established "a new standard of concert playing" in the United States. Her extensive repertoire of 500 compositions included both classical and Romantic works, which she performed with equal skill, and her inclusion of American composers made her one of the most influential musicians in the country. She also frequently played her own compositions, including Polonaise héroïque, On Blooming Meadow, Bubbling Spring, and Impromptu in A Flat.

Little is known of Rivé-King's private life, although she was said to have possessed an unassuming personality and to have made lasting friendships both within music circles and beyond. Following her retirement, she gave class lessons at the Bush Conservatory of Music and its successor, the Chicago Conservatory, continuing to teach until shortly before her death in 1937, at age 82.


Coolidge, Arlan R. "Rivé-King, Julie," in New Grove Dictionary of American Music. Vol. 4, p. 50.

Dubal, David. The Art of the Piano. NY: Summit Books, 1989.

James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women, 1607–1950. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971.

McHenry, Robert, ed. Famous American Women. NY: Dover, 1980.

Schonberg, Harold C. The Great Pianists. Rev. ed. NY: Simon & Schuster, 1987.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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