"Songs of Triumphant Love is an enthralling novel: I couldn't stop reading. I got deeper and deeper into the very real world Jessica Duchen has created and just had to find out how it would unravel. Jessica writes with an unpredictable and original voice and a dazzling perceptiveness, and I was hooked from the first page. A sensational achievement."
“A special resonance”: THE SELFISH GIANT. Plus more opera plans

The Selfish Giant, the new youth opera by John Barber for which I’ve written the libretto, has triumphed at Garsington this summer. The performance took place against all the odds, directed by Karen Gillingham and starring Matthew Stiff as The Giant, Barbara Cole Watson as The Linnet and Barnaby Scholes (11) as The Child, with a chorus of 75 youngsters from Garsington Youth Opera, an ensemble from the Philharmonia Orchestra and conductor Jack Ridley.

The review in The Stage said that the work has “a special resonance” for our circumstances, and The Times wrote that it is “an opera to last”. We can’t wait for its next incarnation, due in summer 2022 in Leeds with its co-commissioner, Opera North.


Roxanna Panufnik

Now I’m hard at work with Roxanna Panufnik for a new opera on the scale of Silver Birch, commissioned again by Garsington and scheduled for summer 2022.

Dalia is the story of a young refugee girl finding her feet in a little English town where the local obsession is cricket…

Books on the Boil
The London Chamber Orchestra has commissioned me to write its 101-year history for a special book to be published in 2022. It’s 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 quite remarkable conductors, Anthony Bernard and Christopher Warren-Green. I’m writing an occasional progress blog at the orchestra’s website:

Dame Myra Hess

For many years I’ve been fascinated by the playing of Dame Myra Hess, who to my ears is the greatest pianist ever to be born in Britain. I now have the chance to write her biography. The book has been signed by the specialist music press Kahn & Averill and I am starting work on it in earnest in autumn 2021. Thrilled and honoured by this opportunity!

Jessica’s new novel Immortal brings to life a mystery that has intrigued music lovers for nearly 200 years.
After Ludwig van Beethoven’s death, his secretary discovered in his apartment a love letter – returned or unsent – to an individual addressed only as ‘Immortal Beloved’. The mysterious woman’s identity has never been definitively established.

The ageing Countess Therese Brunsvik von Korompa, a pioneer of Kindergarten education, tells a young writer that she herself was Beethoven’s lost love. But Therese is protecting somebody, concealing a tragic secret. She begins to write a letter to the one person who deserves to know the whole truth, at least as Therese remembers it.

Becoming Beethoven’s pupils in 1799, Therese and her sister Josephine grew close to the composer, following his struggles in the ensuing years against the onset of deafness, Viennese society’s flamboyance, privilege and hypocrisy, and the upheavals of the Napoleonic wars. Yet while Therese sought liberation, Josephine found the odds stacked against even the most unquenchable of passions.

Immortal unfurls in Vienna and Hungary in a turbulent era when the world order of 1000 years was overturned and ideals of equality and liberty were rising against entrenched aristocratic privilege. It casts perspective on the destructive class divisions placed on relationships and the invidious position of women seeking to break free from these strictures - whether in personal or professional and intellectual life. It also offers, in the most readable way, fresh light on some of Beethoven’s music.

The novel is inspired by the latest detailed research and coincides with the Beethoven 250th Anniversary Year in 2020.

Immortal will be published by Unbound on 29 October 2020.

IMMORTAL is a revelation, offering the ideal blend of historic exactitude and a book you simply won’t want to put down." -- Daniel Hope, violinist and president of the Beethoven-Haus, Bonn

“The perfect companion for this landmark Beethoven anniversary year. Jessica’s writing is, as always, deeply knowledgable, emanating from a profound understanding of her material. This new book brings the human, vulnerable side of Beethoven into focus for our 21st Century audience.” -- Marin Alsop, conductor

From its first, dazzlingly-rendered pages IMMORTAL pulls you into a vanished world and an utterly compelling love story – at its centre, one of music’s greatest and most enduring mysteries. Few authors understand better than Jessica Duchen the way music can change the course of a life; and few writers make that music leap more vividly off the page. If you’ve ever wondered what Ludwig van Beethoven was like as a man, here he is, painted as if from life: inspiring, infuriating, and intensely, unapologetically real. Because for all her understanding of art and character, and her brilliantly-described evocations of early 19th century Vienna in all its splendour and squalor, Duchen never forgets that at the core of all great music – and all great stories – beats a human heart.
-- Richard Bratby, music critic

More information can be found at:

Copies can be pre-ordered from Unbound at the link above, or from online bookshops including:

Blackwells | Foyles | Amazon | Amazon e-book |
Book Launch is on YouTube now


Evening Standard




Release date TBC, ON-LINE Event only
Dryburgh Hall, Putney Leisure Centre, Dryburgh Road, Putney, London SW15 1BL
Putney Music

Putney Music

On Stage and on the Page.
Husband and wife Thomas Eisner and Jessica Duchen, respectively a first violinist with the London Philharmonic Orchestra since 1986, and the author of studies of Fauré and Korngold as well as five novels with musical themes, talk to Putney Music’s vice-president Andrew Neill.

PutneyMusic website



21 March 2021, 17:00,
on ZOOM (Virtual Event)
Insiders/Outsiders Festival

‘Mendelssohn, the Nazis and Me’ -
Sheila Hayman, four-times-great-granddaughter of Fanny Mendelssohn, is a filmmaker whose documentary about the effect of the Nazis on her family’s musical history will be shown as part of the Insiders/Outsiders Festival, celebrating the contribution to British culture of immigrant refugees from Europe at the time of the Second World War. Following the film, Jessica will chair a Q&A with Sheila and  Professor Erik Levi from Royal Holloway College, author of several books on music in the Nazi era.

Please book via Eventbrite (£5):



24 May 2021, 19:00,
Music at 22 Mansfield Street,
Bob Boas Foundation

Bob Boas

narrated concert based on the novel, with Viv McLean (piano) and Jessica reading.

This event will admit a socially-distanced audience, max 60, from the Barnes Music Society. Music by Beethoven.

Further info here:
Bob Boas (contact the foundation via email link and reserve/buy tickets)



26 May 2021, 18:00 and 20:00,
St Mary's Church, Church Road, Barnes, London SW13
Barnes Music Society,

Barnes Music Society

narrated concert based on the novel, with Viv McLean (piano) and Jessica reading.

This event will admit a socially-distanced audience, max 60, from the Barnes Music Society. Music by Beethoven.

Further info here:

Barnes Music Society website



27 June 2021, 19:00
St Mary's, Perivale Lane, Perivale, Middlesex, UB6 8SS
Music at ST MARY'S,

Music at St. Mary's

narrated concert, Jessica with Viv McLean (piano). Music by Beethoven

Further info:
Watch Live when it happens:



11 July 2021, 19:00
Venue to be advised
Deal Music Festival,

Deal Music Festival

Being Mrs Bach
Jessica Duchen Author/Narrator
Steven Devine Harpsichord

Married to J.S. Bach at the age of 20, Anna Magdalena Wilcke was a gifted singer, soon becoming stepmother, mother, copyist,
manager and more. We learn about the ecstasies and tragedies of her hectic life with her husband, alongside his music.

Further info:
Deal Music Festival (to be updated)



29 July 2021, 17:00
Australian Chamber Music Festival, Townsville Civic Theatre

Immortal Beloved
Jessica Duchen Author
with Cheryl Barker (Concert host), David Greco (Baritone), Timothy Young (Piano), Flinders Quartet

After the triumph of Being Mrs Bach 3 years ago, Jessica Duchen has recently turned her attention to Beethoven. This chamber version has been specially created for AFCM and promises to be equally special. We can look forward to music and words illuminating the very essence of this romantic story.

Further info:
AFCM website



29 July 2021, Two performances in the afternoon, TBC
Wormsley Estate, Stokenchurch, Buckinghamshire HP14 3YG
Garsington Opera Company

Garsington Opera

The Selfish Giant

No trespassing! The tale of one giant, his garden and an equal share of paradise.
In 2021 our Youth Company takes to the stage once more, with a world premiere of The Selfish Giant, a new co-commission with Opera North by John Barber & Jessica Duchen based on Oscar Wilde’s short story.

Directed by Karen Gillingham, this new production will feature young professional singers performing alongside 90 members of our Youth Company aged 9-25.

Booking details will be announced later this year.

Garsington Opera website information here:



15 August 2021, Time: TBC
Fidelio Orchestra Cafe, 91-95 Clerkenwell Rd, Holborn, London EC1R 5BX
'Up Close and Musical' Festival
A reading from IMMORTAL plus Q&A with Jessica Duchen.
Info & booking here:

Fidelio Cafe

Meet Jessica, author of Odette and former music correspondent for the Independent. Jessica will read from her new novel Immortal released in October 2020 and share her personal experiences as one of the most prolific music writers of her generation in a candid Q&A led by Artistic Director Shiry Rashkovsky.


Recent Events


Hosted by broadcaster and writer Jessica Duchen, the discussion will investigate
how music is used to help heal communities whose lives are lived out in some of the most
traumatic scenarios throughout the world.

IVORS Academy

Recent Events


6 February 2020, 18:45, Glasgow City Halls

BBC Scottish SO

Pre-concert talk: Jessica introduces Robert Schumann’s fascinating and poetic Symphony No.2. Concert at 7.30pm with Karl-Heinz Steffens conducting the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in Sibelius’s The Swan of Tuonela, Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with Zlata Chochieva (piano), and the Schumann Symphony No. 2 to close.

Link to Glasgow Concert Hall to book tickets



Immortal by Jessica Duchen


3 April 2019, 18:30, Great Malvern Priory, Church Street, Malvern, WR14 2AY
Schumann Violin Concerto -
pre concert talk about Jelly d'Arányi's rediscovery of the work in the 1930s


with Kenneth Woods and the English Symphony Orchestra.
Violin soloist: Zoe Beyers.

Mozart – Overture to the Marriage of Figaro
Schumann – Violin Concerto, Zoë Beyers – Violin
David Matthews – Romanza for Violin and Strings
Mendelssohn – Symphony No. 4 “Italian”

Sponsored by Gerald Green

Booking Link and further information


13 April 2019, 17:00, Kings Place, London: BEING MRS BACH - UK premiere

Jessica's concert play about Anna Magdalena Bach, first heard in August 2018 in the Australian Festival of Chamber Music, receives its UK premiere with baritone Benjamin Bevan, harpsichordist Steven Devine and cellist Jonathan Manson. Jessica is Anna Magdalena. Part of the Kings Place Bach Weekend with the Feinstein Ensemble, and also part of the series Venus Unwrapped.

Further information and Booking Link
Being Mrs. Bach


17 April 2019, 19:30, Music at Mansfield Street:

with Fenella Humphreys (violin), Viv McLean (piano), Jessica Duchen (author/narrator).

Repertoire includes music by Chopin, Liszt, Saint-Saëns, Gershwin and Tchaikovsky.

For more information and booking please contact


27 April 2019, 19:30 St Mary's, Perivale:
with Fenella Humphreys (violin), Viv McLean (piano), Jessica Duchen (author/narrator).

Repertoire includes music by Chopin, Liszt, Saint-Saëns, Gershwin and Tchaikovsky.

Further information on St. Mary's, Perivale website


28 April 2019, 15:00, The Harborough Collective:
The Methodist Church, Northampton Road, Market Harborough, LE16 9HE

‘Revelation’ - Messiaen: Quartet for The End of Time

Pre-concert talk about Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time.

Further information on this site (scroll to 28 April)



Saturday 1 June 2019, Oxford Town Hall, 7.30pm
The Ghosts of War

With the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra, violinist Alena Baeva and conductor Marios Papadopoulos.
I’m overjoyed to be presenting the story of the Schumann Violin Concerto live in concert with the Oxford Philharmonic, exploring the saga of the work’s rediscovery by Jelly d’Arányi. The full, ingenious programme features the concerto as centrepiece, preceded by the exquisite Elegy In Memoriam Rupert Brooke by Jelly d’Arányi’s close friend FS Kelly, who was killed in World War I, and followed in the second half by the stunning Concerto for Orchestra by Bartók, d’Arányi’s old friend from Hungary who wrote this piece after going into exile in the US during World War II. Poised between two devastating wars, the concerto symbolises both a premonition of tragedy and a beacon of hope.
Info and booking here:


Friday, 2 August 2019, Start time: TBC Garsington Opera:
THE HAPPY PRINCESS (youth opera world premiere)

Music: Paul Fincham, libretto: Jessica Duchen (after Oscar Wilde)

Information on Garsington Opera website
Garsington Opera

more to come ....


Author Jessica Duchen talks about her novel 'Ghost Variations' and the real incident that inspired it: the rediscovery in the 1930s, by the great violinist Jelly d'Arányi, of Schumann's long-suppressed Violin Concerto. Film by Zen Grisdale 


Recent Events 2018


14, 15, 16 March 2019, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, University of Maryland Concert Choir, Strathmore (14 March) and Meyerhoff Symphony Hall Baltimore, Valentina Peleggi (conductor)
'Across the Line of Dreams' by Roxanna Panufnik, world premiere

'Across the Line of Dreams' by Roxanna Panufnik, with words by Jessica, world premiere. Baltimore Symphony Orchestra & University of Maryland Concert Choir conducted by Marin Alsop and Valentina Peleggi.

Booking Link Here



Thursday 29 November, Weybridge Library, Surrey, 11am
Bodies in the Library, Festival of Crime Writing
Coffee with Jessica Duchen

Looking forward to joining Surrey Libraries’ new literary bonanza to talk about turning a real-life musical detective story into a historical literary thriller, Ghost Variations, in which the victim of the crime – effectively a double kidnap! – is music itself… There’ll also be a chance to preview my new novel, Odette, which comes out the following week.
Booking here:



Wednesday 7 November, Great Malvern Priory, 6.30pm
Ghost Variations and the Schumann Violin Concerto - pre-concert conversation for English Symphony Orchestra

I’m delighted to be joining conductor Kenneth Woods to reveal the true story of Ghost Variations, the 1930s rediscovery of the long-suppressed Schumann Violin Concerto. In the concert the soloist for the concerto is Zoe Beyers, and the programme also includes symphonies by Haydn and Mendelssohn. Details and booking here:



Tuesday 25 September 2018, 7pm, All Saints' Church, Kirby Hill, North Yorkshire

Jessica Duchen (author/narrator), Thomas Eisner (violin). A first words&music outing for our husband-and-wife team. Original poetry and prose by Jessica with solo violin music by Bach, Beethoven and more played by Tom, telling the story of the time we found ourselves trapped by volcanic ash in…the West Bank. Booking: 01423 326284 or 01423 323774.



A new youth opera with composer Paul Fincham for Garsington 2019.

I’m excited to be working on the libretto for a new youth opera, commissioned by Garsington, with composer Paul Fincham. We’re adapting Oscar Wilde’s fairytale The Happy Prince for a new century: the Prince is a Princess, the impoverished townsfolk are very much of today, but the little Swallow is as devoted and loving as ever. It’s the first new commission for both of Garsington’s two new youth companies, for ages 9-12 and 13-21, and a professional mezzo-soprano will sing the Princess. We hope that the results will be touching, relevant and full of Paul’s wonderful new music! The performance is on 2 August 2019.



, my sixth novel, is published by Unbound
on 29 November 2018.

A 21st-century fairy-tale, Odette is a contemporary, magical-realist take on the famous story of Swan Lake and a successor to the seasonal story tradition of A Christmas Carol. When Odette, the swan, is blown off course in a storm, crashes through Mitzi Fairweather’s window and turns back into a human being at nightfall, the two young women must adjust to one another’s very different worlds. How far can Mitzi help her unexpected guest? Is Odette a helpless refugee, a gifted musician, both, or more? Can her spell really be broken only if a man swears to love her forever? What does it take to become fully human?

I’m enormously grateful to everyone who has pledged a contribution to the book via Unbound’s subscription system – a publication model that Dickens and Beethoven would have recognised, updated for contemporary digital capabilities. You can still pledge or pre-order the book in time for Christmas, and there’s a range of rewards on offer:

Hello, Townsville! from Jessica Duchen on Vimeo.
I'm off to the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in Townsville, Far North Queensland, in late July, where I'll be presenting my new narrated concert Being Mrs Bach, specially commissioned for the event by artistic director Kathryn Stott. My colleagues on stage will include Siobhan Stagg, Roderick Williams, Guy Johnston, the Goldner String Quartet and many more, and it's kind of thrilling. I'll also be giving a talk about women composers for the Winterschool and writing copious quantities of words about the experience of attending the festival.

SILVER BIRCH shortlisted for International Opera Award

Great news that Garsington Opera’s Learning and Participation department, which commissioned the ‘People’s Opera’ Silver Birch from composer Roxanna Panufnik and me as librettist, has been shortlisted for an International Opera Award as a result. The awards will be presented on 9 April at the London Coliseum and we are all on tenterhooks with excitement!

The Times’s Richard Morrison termed the libretto ‘Powerful and poetic’, adding: “Whether it’s epic crowd scenes or anguished soliloquies, however, all are folded into a nonstop hour-long drama that is cinematic in its scope and fluidity.”

Classical Source’s Amanda Doran: “Panufnik and Duchen’s achievement is to synthesise personal and poetic experiences, often harrowing and disturbing, into a work of beauty and hope.”

Garsington Opera


Being Mrs Bach:
a new concert drama for the Australian Festival of Chamber Music, 2018

The Australian Festival of Chamber Music’s new artistic director, Kathryn Stott, has commissioned me to write and narrate a new music-and-words event telling the story of Anna Magdalena Bach in conjunction with extracts from her husband JS Bach’s music. I will be “in character” as Mrs Bach throughout and am excited to share the stage with a crowd of amazing festival musicians including baritone Roderick Williams, soprano Siobhan Stagg, cellist Guy Johnston, the Goldner String Quartet and more. The performance is on 1 August at 5pm. On 2 August I give a talk for the festival’s Winter School students about the history of composers who happen to be women.
More details at the festival website, here:




Thursday, 26 April 2018, 19:30
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Pre-concert - Chopin and his Second Piano Concerto. at 6.45pm
Concert is conducted by Matthias Pintscher, with David Kadouch as soloist, and the programme also includes extracts from Smetana's Ma Vlast and Dvorák's Symphony No.4.
More info here:

Scottish Symphony Orchestra

Author Jessica Duchen talks about her novel 'Ghost Variations' and the real incident that inspired it: the rediscovery in the 1930s, by the great violinist Jelly d'Arányi, of Schumann's long-suppressed Violin Concerto. Film by Zen Grisdale 



Thursday, 22 February 2018, 13:00
Leicester Lunchtime Classical Concerts, Leicester Art Gallery
GHOST VARIATIONS, The Concert of the Novel
A compact, one-hour adaptation of Ghost Variations for this splendid lunchtime series run by the amazing oboist Nicholas Daniel in the magnificent surroundings of Leicester’s Victorian art gallery.
More info here:



Saturday, 10 February 2018, Time:19:00 - 21:00

MAP Studio Caf
é, 48 Grafton Road, London NW5 CDU


Jessica Duchen
Miranda Gold
Lev Parikian
Tot Taylor
will be reading from their work and discussing the formative potential
of Literature that approaches - and often captures - the visceral power
of musical forms.
facebook booking link here | Eventbrite booking link here

... to enlarge, please click image



Thursday, 22 February 2018, 13:00
Leicester Lunchtime Classical Concerts, Leicester Art Gallery
GHOST VARIATIONS, The Concert of the Novel
A compact, one-hour adaptation of Ghost Variations for this splendid lunchtime series run by the amazing oboist Nicholas Daniel in the magnificent surroundings of Leicester’s Victorian art gallery.
More info here:



Thursday, 25 January 2018, Time:11:00

Cobham Library, The Cedar Centre, Cedar Road, Cobham, Surrey KT11 2AE
Coffee with Jessica Duchen.
A talk and Q&A about my novel 'Ghost Variations' over morning refreshments.
Tickets available from Cobham, Weybridge and Walton libraries.
Venue information here.



Tuesday, 2 JANUARY 2018, 7.30pm - Lampeter House, Pembrokeshire

Usher in 2018 with a trip to the beautiful South Wales countryside and the private salon of Julian and Mami’s extraordinary home. Not too far from Carmarthen. Booking: please write to Julian at:


We have added a Site Seach Engine for you.
PHILIPPE GRAFFIN biography CLAIRE DESERT information in French The Voice of Russia, English edition Download David le Page Viv McLean Evening Standard