Scope and Contents
This collection consists of three letters, in French, from the Scottish music teacher, Sophie Weisse (1852-1945) to the French flautist Louis Fleury (1878-1926). Composed in June-July 1910 in Northlands, Englefield Green, Surrey. The letters discuss concert plans, including a performance by Weisse’s close friend and protegé, Donald Tovey. One letter mentions Tovey’s great admiration of Fleury’s playing.
Biographical / Historical
Sophie Weisse was born in Edinburgh in 1852 to a German father and Lithuanian mother. Little is known of her early life and education. In 1892, she founded the all-girls school of Northlands in Surrey, which she ran for twenty-five years. Although Northlands was a school of general education, music was given a particularly prominent place in the curriculum, and musical celebrities were often invited to visit and perform. Weisse employed the young Donald Tovey as a pianist at the school’s concerts, which provided a launch for his career as a musician and composer. Weisse had discovered Tovey’s talent at the age of four and had managed all aspects of his education. She further supported his career by funding the publication of his works between 1903 and 1913. Weisse and Tovey maintained a lifelong relationship. When Tovey was appointed to Edinburgh University’s Reid Chair of Music in 1914, Weisse followed him to Edinburgh. As Reid Professor, Tovey bestowed on Weisse an honorary degree of Doctor of Music in 1936. Weisse died in Guildford in 1945.
Louis Fleury was a French flautist who studied under Paul Taffanel at the Conservatoire de Paris. An acclaimed musician, he inspired works by significant composers. Claude Debussy dedicated ‘Syrinx’, a piece for solo flute, to him in 1913, and Fleury performed the première. In 1921, Cyril Rootham dedicated a "Suite in Three Movements" for flute and piano to Fleury. Fleury rediscovered many forgotten Baroque flute compositions and commissioned new pieces for the flute by contemporary composers. He was a founder member of the Société Moderne des Instruments à Vent. Fleury was a friend of the Scottish music teacher Sophie Weisse, for whom he performed at Northlands, the all-girl school that Weisse established in Surrey in 1892.