The London Chamber Orchestra 
commissioned me to write its
101-year history - a roller-coaster story
that encompasses the roaring twenties,
World War II, the struggles of mid-century symphonists, a boom-time genre-bending revival, right royal celebrations galore (they played for William and Kate’s wedding, among other things), two pandemics and two remarkable conductors, Anthony Bernard and Christopher Warren-Green.
The foreword is by HM Queen Camilla, the LCO’s royal patron.

Buy the book


‘IMMORTAL is a revelation, offering the ideal blend of historic exactitude and a book you simply won’t want to put down.’

Daniel Hope,
president of the
Beethoven-Haus, Bonn

Unbound, 2020
£10.99 p/b, £5.99 e-book, £19.40 audiobook

Who was Beethoven’s ‘Immortal Beloved’?

After Ludwig van Beethoven’s death, a love letter in his handwriting was found – addressed only to his ‘Immortal Beloved’. Decades later, Countess Therese Brunsvik claimed to have been the composer’s lost love. But was she concealing a tragic secret?

Therese and her sister Josephine became Beethoven’s pupils in 1799: they followed his struggles against worsening deafness and Viennese society’s flamboyance, privilege and hypocrisy amid the upheavals of the Napoleonic wars. Yet while Therese sought liberation, Josephine found the odds stacked against even the most unquenchable of passions…

‘Dazzlingly rendered … an utterly compelling love story – at its centre, one of music’s greatest and most enduring mysteries’
Richard Bratby

‘The perfect companion for this landmark Beethoven anniversary year … bringing the human, vulnerable side of Beethoven into focus’
Marin Alsop




Unbound, 2018
£9.99 p/b, £0.99 e-book

A contemporary twist on Swan Lake, Odette asks – in the best tradition of fairy tales – whether against all the odds, hope, empathy and humanity can win the day.

When a swan crashes through her window at the height of a winter storm, journalist Mitzi Fairweather decides to nurse the injured bird back to health. But at sunset the swan becomes a woman.

This unexpected visitor is Odette, the swan princess – alone, in danger and adrift in 21st-century Britain, entirely dependent on the kindness of strangers. Bird by day, human by night, and with no way to go home, she remains convinced that only a man’s vow of eternal love can break her spell.

Mitzi is determined to help Odette, but as the two try to hide the improbable truth, their web of deception grows increasingly tangled. Can they find a way to save Odette before it’s too late?

‘Odette enchanted and captivated me from the first page to the last. This novel is a brilliant blend of fantasy and reality… It combines a coming-of-age tale with a love story and is also a truly zeitgeisty fable for our dark and uncertain times. I can’t think of a book quite like it.’ Jennie Ensor, author Blind Side and The Girl in His Eyes.



"Schumann's wonderful violin concerto has a tragic history unlike any other piece of music. In this splendid new novel Jessica Duchen manages to find the fine balance between facts and fiction. Her book reads like a thriller, yet it's also a tribute to great music and musicians"
Sir András Schiff
Ghost Variations
Unbound, 2016
£9.99 p/b, £2.99 e-book


Ghost Variations
Jessica Duchen, Unbound £3.99 (ebook)
A thrilling read set in Thirties London and Germany. It’s the true story of Robert Schumann’s lost violin concerto, and the race between a Hungarian violinist and the Third Reich to find and perform the work.

The Daily Mail, Best Books of the Year 2016

Haunted by the past
A ouija board, a long-lost manuscript, a free-spirited heroine and a continent in the grip of political upheaval: Jessica Duchen’s gripping new novel, Ghost Variations, explores a truly intriguing episode in musicological history…
Neatly subtitled ‘The Strangest Detective Story in Music’, the novel spins a gripping yarn, but also draws haunting and all-too-potent parallels between contemporary society and 1930s Britain. Duchen skilfully charts the poisonous rise of the far right and a deepening mistrust of “foreigners”, while also unpicking the thorny gender politics of the performing arts with fierce aplomb… the warmth that Duchen brings to her characterisation of d’Arányi as a brave yet guileless female musician boldly taking on the male establishment makes for a stirring read and propels the narrative to its moving and uplifting close.

-- BBC Music Magazine, Books Choice of the Month, January 2016



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Read a first review of
Songs of Triumphant Love

(Hodder&Stoughton 2009, £19.99 hardback - £7.99 paperback)
both, Hardback and Paperback are published on 9 July 2009

While the celebrated opera singer Teresa Ivory is in hospital, facing what could be the end of her career, her daughter Julie stumbles upon a long-buried secret that forces her to question her past and her place in her mother's affection.

In their cracked and empty house that no longer seems like a home, mother and daughter try to keep their closeness to each other and to the men they love: damaged Teo, the writer, adopted Parisian and survivor from Bosnia, whose passion for Terri borders on the self-destructive; and Julie's first love, Alistair, who fails to predict the consequences of his decision to join the army.

When calamity strikes, all four must make vital choices to find their way forward. Can love and music heal when medicine cannot? And are there some secrets that should never be shared?

SONGS is Jessica Duchen's fourth novel, a story of love, lies and family ties set in a world ranging from fractured and divisive contemporary London to damaged and recovering Mostar. As Terri faces the prospect of losing her voice, Julie tries to discover one of her own; while Teo battles with the effects of his experiences in Bosnia, Alistair plunges into army life in Afghanistan. This strange quartet - a family that isn't a family - moves in counterpoint across one transformative year. But can songs and love triumph against all the odds?


Hodder & Stoughton, 2008,
£19.99 hardback - £7.99 paperback

When disaster befalls her best friend, Karina feels compelled to question the very foundations of her existence. Born in Britain to Hungarian parents, wife to a very English husband and mother of a young son descended on one side from the lord of the manor and on the other from a dynasty of wandering minstrels, Karina feels she belongs in neither one world nor the other. But Rohan, a fellow violinist and fan of her own grandmother, encourages her to delve into her Hungarian family background and her Gypsy ancestry. Her discoveries will change her life forever.

Past and present collide in the intertwining stories of Karina and her grandmother, the celebrated violinist Mimi Rácz. Love and loss, displacement and continuity mingle in a moving panorama that spans eighty years and is permeated by the family’s one constant: the sound of the violin.

Hungarian Dances is a love story, a mystery and a tale of extraordinary personal transformation.

Read the first three pages of "Hungarian Dances " here
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Jessica's website for Hungarian Dances
Link to Jessica's
Hungarian Dances website

"A great love story and mystery set in – among other things – the world of Hungarian gypsies and passionate musicians. Duchen has a rare talent which is increasingly being recognised."- Gavin Esler, The Glasgow Herald
After having read Rites of Spring, I am now equally thrilled by Hungarian Dances. Jessica Duchen is a very gifted storyteller; her characters are sensitively portrayed. She has observed "Hungarianness" very well indeed. And her understanding of the tragedy and sufferings of the Gypsy people - that is not just history, but very much a problem of our time - gives this book an even more profound meaning. - András Schiff
"The pages of Hungarian Dances just kept turning! Like all the best novels, it asks unexpected and compelling questions. It's a book for anyone with an interest in how history leaves its mark on people and how they in turn come to live with its scars."- Martin Davies, author, The Conjuror's Bird

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(Hodder & Stoughton, 2007, £19.99 hardback)

When does a dream become an obsession? And whose dream is it anyway?
Alicia Bradley, aged three, sits down at the family piano and plays with both hands, by ear, in the right key, a piece she’s just heard at nursery school. Her family, seeking a quiet life in Derbyshire, doesn’t know what’s hit them. Alicia’s dad, Guy, plays the piano himself, but only for fun. Alicia’s mum, Kate, had wanted to become a musician, but her parents forbade it. As it becomes clear that they’ve got a prodigy on their hands, Kate’s determined to give Alicia every chance to succeed, but Guy laments his daughter’s lost childhood; and Alicia’s brother, Adrian, sidelined amid the fracas, becomes a tearaway who can see matters more clearly than all the others put together. It’s only Alicia, an affectionate, straightforward girl who loves to go running with her dog, who doesn’t seem to get a say in things…

As Alicia grows up, everyone wants a piece of the Peak District Prodigy. Alicia has several lifelines: her dog, Cassie; her friend Anjali, a young Indian pianist; her sympathetic agent; and, possibly, a boy from Bloomington. But amid a warring family, unscrupulous teachers and the constant pressures of practising, concerts and competitions, will she ever be allowed a real life of her own?

Read the first three pages of "Alicia's Gift " here

(Hodder & Stoughton, 2006, £18.99 hardback)
When does a free spirit become a lost soul? Adam and Sasha have a teenage daughter, small twin boys, a pleasant home in south-west London and apparently fulfilling careers. But when Adam cracks under grief after his mother's death, resigns from his job and breaks a longstanding promise to Sasha, family communication begins to crumble and collapse. Sasha desperately tries to juggle her high-flying career with managing the energetic twins; her sister, Lisa, a musicologist specialising in Stravinsky, adores the children but suffers in an unsatisfactory long-distance relationship with a concert pianist; and Adam is battling many lost dreams of his own.
Liffy, aged 13, is caught between the household tensions and her dreams of becoming a ballet dancer. Her imaginary guide, whom she names 'the Earth Prince', seems to encourage her to stay clear, stay light, stay in control; and her aunt Lisa takes her to see the ballet The Rite of Spring in which a young girl dances herself to death, sacrificed to save her tribe. As Liffy's world implodes, the whole family must make sacrifices before it's too late…

Read the first three pages of "Rites of Spring" here

RITES OF SPRING - Order from Amazon
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FAURÉ - Order from Amazon
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(Phaidon Press, 2000, £14.99)
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) is, for me, the most elusive and enchanting voice in the music of fin-de-siècle France. Composer, pianist, professor to such figures as Ravel, Enescu and Nadia Boulanger and director of the Paris Conservatoire, Fauré struggled to find enough time to compose. Quietly independent, he went his own artistic way, preferring intimate genres, avoiding the influence of Wagner and seeking inspiration instead in music as diverse as Gregorian chant, Schumann, Chopin and his lifelong mentor, Saint-Saëns. He knew many of the great artistic figures of his day, including the writers Ivan Turgenev and Marcel Proust, the singer Pauline Viardot, the poet Paul Verlaine and composers as diverse as Tchaikovsky, Debussy and Elgar; and after his marriage turned sour, his love affairs were legion. Ever youthful in spirit, despite the deafness that blighted his old age, he never ceased exploring new musical worlds.

Fauré remains one of my greatest musical passions. I am eternally seduced by his subtlety, his ineffable sense of beauty and poetry, his double meanings, the way he veils his deeply passionate and sensual nature with a veneer of French 'pudeur'. This book offers a straightforward account for general music lovers of his life and work.

(Lund Humphries, 2000, £32.50)
Dorothy Bohm, a fabulous photographer and a family friend for decades, invited me to write the text for her highly individual portrait of contemporary London. She wanted not a conventional essay, but an exploration involving creativity, imagination, a response to her artistic vision and the direct experience of living in this melting pot of a metropolis. I feel honoured to be involved in this beautiful book.

INSIDE LONDON - Order from Amazon

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(Phaidon Press, 1996, £14.99)
The extraordinary life of Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957) moves from his childhood as a Viennese wunderkind composer, through the traumatic years leading up to the Second World War and into exile in Hollywood where he composed film music for Warner Brothers. Cursed with a powerful music critic for a father - a relationship second in difficulty only to that of Leopold and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Korngold struggled all his life for emotional and artistic independence, not always successfully. This biography offers an accessible and readable introduction to his life and amazing work.

I fell in love with Korngold's music when I heard his opera Die tote Stadt for the first time. Everything he composed, however, is filled with a warm, overflowing, generous spirit. I still love him most for his imperfections: he has the guts to risk absolutely everything and occasionally lose.