BBC Radio 3: Leopoldine Wittgenstein

Classical Music’s Unsung Heroines

by Bethany Bell

Leopoldine Wittgenstein is someone it’s easy to overlook. Neurotic and shy, she stands in the shadow not just of her extraordinarily talented children, who include that giant of twentieth century philosophy, Ludwig Wittgenstein, but also of her overwhelming and dominant husband, Karl, who built himself up to become one of the wealthiest and most successful industrialists of the late Austro-Hungarian Empire. But Leopoldine, or Poldy, as she was known in the family, was an exceptionally gifted pianist. And she presided over one of the most important and glittering musical salons in fin de siècle Vienna, attended not just by Hanslick, but by Brahms, Mahler and Richard Strauss.

Bethany Bell, the BBC’s Vienna Correspondent, takes to the streets of the modern city on the trail of this most misunderstood woman.

Produced by Simon Richardson

Bethany Bell has worked as a BBC Foreign Correspondent since 2001. Based in Vienna, she has reported for the BBC in over 25 countries, in Europe, the United States and the Middle East. She was, together with Ray Monk, speaker at the Wittgenstein Initiative event on 11 November 2014 at the Academy of Sciences on “Ludwig Wittgenstein, the Great War and the Unsayable”.

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