"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."


Meeting Odette
Jessica Duchen

Odette, Swan Lake’s enchanted swan princess, is still trying to break her spell in 2016 by Jessica Duchen.

Help fund this book on Unbound at:

Swan Lake

GHOST VARIATIONS has been such a success that I’m rashly trying to do it again. This means, once again, crowdfunding. When Unbound accepts a manuscript, they give the author 90 days to crowdfund the costs, building a community around the book and offering a range of rewards according to pledge level. MEETING ODETTE is no exception and you’ll find all the details of how it works at the link above.

Many years ago, I had a recurring dream. I was in a library, hunting for a special book based on the ballet Swan Lake. Eventually I decided to write it myself. That was 25 years ago. Since then I have rewritten, revised, updated and rewritten again. MEETING ODETTE is the result. As it was considered quirky and whimsical by other publishers, I thought I’d take it to Unbound because they like quirky and whimsical. It turned out they also appreciated the book’s message about transformation, humanity and hope, and they’ve agreed to take it on - of course, subject to crowdfunding success.

MEETING ODETTE is a 21st-century fairy-tale. It might hold special appeal for those of you who love ballet. But hopefully its message is wider. From my friends who read early drafts years ago, I’ve periodically heard: ‘What happened to the one about the swan? That was my favourite…’ So here it is.

Odette, Swan Lake’s enchanted swan princess, is blown off course in a storm, crosses the North Sea to eastern England and crashes through the window of a troubled young woman named Mary Fairweather... The town’s 2016 welcome to the mysterious visitor arriving from the east with nothing except a secret and a set of incongruous fairy-tale values, is not always warm - but Mary takes her in and tries to help her. Odette, though, is still looking for a way to break her spell. And soon the process of transformation is not only hers.

On the MEETING ODETTE page you’ll find a video introduction to the book, a longer synopsis and an excerpt to enjoy. Also the different pledge levels to which you can subscribe for various rewards, starting at £10. The good news is that this time you can either pledge for the physical book from the beginning, or just the e-book if you prefer. There’s currently a special Early Swan deal on the paperback level. All patrons are listed and thanked in every edition.

As you can imagine, MEETING ODETTE is incredibly close to my heart, having been part of my life for so long. If you would help to make it happen, it would mean the absolute world to me. Effectively, it’s simply buying the book before it’s published and being thanked for it in print.

Read an excerpt from "Meeting Odette" here:

THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart!
Love and best wishes,


"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

Hugely atmospheric
This is much more than 'just' a musical mystery. Duchen has immersed herself, not just in the music, but in the entire musical world of the 1930s. Jelly is a marvellous character, but it isn't only about her passions and travails. The level of research employed in bringing to life some fabled characters is inspiring— Myra Hess positively romps through her scenes, Sir Adrian Boult conveys dry conviction, Donald Tovey comforts, Goebbels terrifies.

The period itself is exquisitely evoked, from the Chinese silks to the teas spread out on the lawn, from the rather privileged expat London musical elite to the late 1930s forebodings of history yet to come.This is a hugely atmospheric and thought-provoking book featuring fascinating characters, written by someone as fully in command of her research as of her imagination. It evokes a period pregnant with both promise and menace — and a musical world itself lost forever.

-- Alice McVeigh, Music & Vision Daily


A new Ghost Variations concert-of-the-novel begins performances on 7 September – details in Forthcoming Events


Ghost Variations
Unbound, 2016
£9.99 p/b, £3.99 e-bo


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

Musical quest from ouija board to rostrum
SCHUMANN’S LOST concerto and a virtuoso femme fatale keep you gripped and guessing in Ghost Variations. Set in 1930s London, this musical mystery by Jessica Duchen strikes a hot-blooded tune with grace notes from beyond the grave. The story centres on Jelly d’Aranyi, Hungarian, part-Jewish violinist and siren muse of Bartok, Ravel and Elgar.

Pressed to participate in a Ouija board sitting, Jelly receives a message purportedly from Robert Schumann’s spirit, entreating her to find his unknown violin concerto in D minor.

Jelly is shaken by and sceptical of her own eerie experience. But pressure mounts from her sister, the spirit-sensitive Adila and a titled family friend.
Jelly (pronounced Yeli) is no longer dazzling audiences as she once did, bowing the Tzigane rhapsody dedicated to her by Ravel. Two of her lovers are dead, a third, and a possible fourth only waiting in the wings. She is troubled by Europe’s tension. So the lure of playing detective and of reviving her glory days by performing the piece as a world first, sets Jelly off like a conductor’s nod.
There ensues an impassioned quest that will engage the ears of Chamberlain, Hitler and a scornfully disbelieving British press.

Ghost Variations reads like a bohemian thriller freshly imagined by Duchen, herself a pianist and musical scholar. It is, however a whole lot stranger than fiction: Duchen’s novel is inspired by the real-life events surrounding the exotic Jelly d’Aranyi, to whom Vaughan Williams and Holst also dedicated works. Jelly did indeed spark the search for Schumann’s concerto, which has its own heady history. The D Minor piece was not exactly lost, but lay unpublished and unplayed for 80 years in the Prussian State library: Clara Schumann, the composer’s widow suppressed it on the grounds that it betrayed the composer’s incipient instability — he later died, delusional in an asylum.

Jelly raises Schumann’s profile at the key moment when Goebbels, having banned the concerto by the baptised Jew Felix Mendelssohn, can resurrect echt German music as propaganda. Duchen has all this remarkably obscure material at her fingertips, fleshing it out with a strong sense of social history and the
Robert Schumann fashionable refinements of this prewar age. Pianist Myra Hess makes a cameo appearance in a cloud of cigarette smoke, evoking an arty feminism that ranks music above marriage. Norman Hartnell gowns, tango shoes, naturist beaches and the ménage a trois help to conjure this period of “psychical” enthusiasm for darkened rooms and the question: “Is anybody there?”

The response from Jelly’s own world, never mind the next, was that she was far from alone — just one of a temperamental trio claiming first rights to the Schumann. While she insisted the privilege was exclusively hers, Germany pushed forward their own Georg Kulenkampff to take first bow. The young Menuhin jockeyed to win the concerto for his Carnegie Hall comeback after a year off. And music publisher, Schotts, stirred the situation with multiple agendas. Duchen’s orchestration of such intrigue merits great applause.

-- Madeleine Kingsley, The Jewish Chronicle


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 

Stage works, words & music and pre-concert talks 2017

Wednesday, 5 July 2017, 20:00
The Harpenden Arms,
188 High St, Harpenden AL5 2TR
Bibliophilia Book Blog
Jessica Duchen and fellow authors Jennie Ensor and Kerensa Jennings join forces for a lively discussion with Bibliophilia organiser Katherine Sunderland about using real life events in fiction. Book signings, raffle prizes, mingling, chat and and a goody-bag. Booking available on Eventbrite soon!


Friday, Saturday, Sunday, 28, 29, 30 July 2017, Time: TBC
Garsington Opera: SILVER BIRCH

World premiere performances of Roxanna Panufnik’s new opera with libretto by Jessica Duchen. Booking link coming soon.

Garsington Opera website announcement



Friday, 3 November 2017, Time: 19:30

Artix Arts Centre, Bromsgrove
GHOST VARIATIONS, The Concert of the Novel
David Le Page (violin), Viv McLean (piano), Jessica Duchen (author/narrator). AtrixArts Centre Booking Link

Barnes Music Society - scroll to November 3rd

Barnes Music Society
Thursday, 16 Novembe 2017, 19:30
Barnes Music Society,
Venue: TBC
ALICIA'S GIFT, The Concert of the Novel
Viv McLean (piano), Jessica Duchen (author/narrator). Booking soon.



Sunday, 19 November 2017, 19:30
Burgh House, Hampstead
GHOST VARIATIONS, The Concert of the Novel
David Le Page (violin), Viv McLean (piano), Jessica Duchen (author/narrator). Booking soon.

Burgh House

Roxanna Panufnik's website

Garsington Opera commissions SILVER BIRCH, a new ‘People’s Opera’, music by Roxanna Panufnik, words by Jessica Duchen

Garsington Opera has commissioned a ‘people’s opera’, Silver Birch, designed to be performed by professional singers together with community and children’s choruses aged 8 upwards. A dynamic creative team has been engaged to create the 70-minute opera including Roxanna Panufnik (composer), Jessica Duchen (librettist), Karen Gillingham (director) and Douglas Boyd (conductor). The work aims to appeal to the broadest audience of all ages and levels of opera experience.

During the 2017 season the ‘people’s opera’, which is part of Garsington Opera’s Learning & Participation programme, will be performed on the main stage.

Recruitment of the 150 participants has already begun in local schools and community centres. Devising workshops took place in which schoolchildren and members of the local population joined the creative team to explore the theme of war and its universal impact on families, as well as the significance to them of World War 1.

Both the character and poetry of Siegfried Sassoon will play an important role within the piece, connecting the 2017 World War 1 commemorations with modern-day warfare. Performers include 5 professional singers, 2 child soloists, 50 primary school, 40 secondary school, 30 teenage dancers, 40 adults, 17 professional and 20 youth instrumentalists.
more to come ....
Recent Events
Wednesday, 4 May 2017, 18:30,
Sheen Bookshop ,
375 Upper Richmond Road, London SW14
Authors Jessica Duchen and Jennie Ensor discuss their Unbound novels, both thrillers concerning the "outsider" in London and based around real events. Jennie's BLIND SIDE is set in 2005 and my GHOST VARIATIONS in 1933. We'll interview each other, do readings and take some questions. A small admission charge can be deducted from the price when you buy one of our books.


Thursday, 9 March 2017, 18:00
Royal Festival Hall, London:
Pre-concert interview with conductor Rafael Payare

who then takes the helm for the Philharmonia Orchestra.

Southbank Centre website with more information

Biography at Askonas Holt
Philharmonia Orchestra website
CBSO website
Wednesday, 8 March 2017, 18:15,
Pre-concert talk, Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Pre-concert talk for the CBSO, exploring the fascinating and little-known story behind Wolf-Ferrari’s Violin Concerto

Further information from the CBSO website (incl Booking Lin)


Tuesday, 31 January 2017, 19:30
Brundibar Arts Festival, Caedmon Hall, Gateshead: A WALK THROUGH THE END OF TIME,
with Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time.

Brundibar Arts Festival website (Link to come)

Brundibar Festival
The Sage in Gateshead
Tuesday, 22 November 2016, 19:30
The Sage, Gateshead: HUNGARIAN DANCES, the Concert of the Novel

with Bradley Creswick (violin), Margaret Fingerhut (piano) and Jessica Duchen.

Further information from the Gatehead website


Saturday, 12 November 2016, 19:30
Helmsley Arts Centre, HUNGARIAN DANCES, the Concert of the Novel,

with Bradley Creswick (violin), Margaret Fingerhut (piano) and Jessica Duchen (narrator).

Jessica Duchen reads from her novel Hungarian Dances, about a gypsyviolinist during the onset of Nazism in Europe. Bradley Creswick, outstanding violinist and leader of the Royal Northern Sinfonia, finds that playing with friends is a vibrant part of his life and he relishes the chance to play again with superb pianist Margaret Fingerhut. The readings are interspersed with music by Brahms, Bartok, Kreisler, Monti and other gypsy inspired composers in a unique performance. -

Helmsleyarts website and Booking Link

Helmsley Arts Centre
Barnes Music Society - scroll to November 3rd
Thursday, 03 November 2016, 19:30
Barnes Music Society, The Old Sorting Office, London SW13: GHOST VARIATIONS

The Concert of the Novel, with David Le Page (violin), Viv McLean (piano)
and Jessica Duchen (narrator).

Barnes Music Society information for this concert (scroll down to 3 November)


Saturday, 29 October 2016, 14:30
Artrix, Bromsgrove Beethoven Quartetfest

Pre-concert talk re the women in Beethoven's life. Late morning event

More information about the Beethoven Quartetfest

  Saturday, 08 October 2016, 19:30 at St. Andrew's Church, Aysgarth
Alicia’s Gift: the concert of the novel

The Concert of the Novel, with Alicja Fiderkiewicz (piano) and Jessica Duchen (narrator). For this occasion, it's really Alicja's Gif

Wensleydale Concert Series website Link incl. Ticket information
Alicja Fiderkiewicz (piano) | Jessica Duchen

Tuesday, 04 October 2016, 19:30, Music at 22 Mansfield Street
Ghost Variations – The concert of the novel

Jessica Duchen – narrator, David Le Page – violin Viv Maclean – piano

To celebrate the launch of Jessica’s book about the life of the great Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Aranyi, her discovery of Schumann’s violin concerto and including works written for her

Booking information:

Book by email –
If you do not have email then phone 020 7436 0344 or write to 22 Mansfield Street, London W1G 9NR.
We do not issue tickets but you should get confirmation of your booking



Sunday, 25 September 2016, 18:00,
Wigmore Hall: Pre-Concert Talk with Angela Hewitt

Jessica interviews Angela Hewitt before the first concert in her new series The Bach Odyssey

Book Tickets for the Pre-Concert Talk here

Wednesday, 7 September 2016, 19:30
St Mary's, Perivale: GHOST VARIATIONS

The Concert of the Novel, with David Le Page (violin), Viv McLean (piano) and Jessica Duchen (narrator).

LINK to Music at St Mary's Website with more information.

CBSO website

Saturday, 23 April 2016, Symphony Hall Birmingham, 5.45pm
Pre-concert talk: It’s Shakespeare’s birthday!

I’ll be looking at the different ways composers have responded to the same Shakespeare story, none other than Romeo and Juliet. In the concert, Lahav Shani conducts the CBSO in Romeo and Juliets by Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev plus the Symphonic Dances from Bernstein’s West Side Story.

More information from the CBSO website

Saturday, 20 February 2016, 2pm, Wigmore Hall
Alicia’s Gift: the concert of the novel

Viv McLean (piano) and I join forces at the mighty Wigmore Hall to explore the world of the child prodigy pianist attempting to grow up, through the narrative of my novel and fabulous piano music from Viv, with repertoire including music by Chopin, Debussy, Ravel, Granados and Gershwin. The performance will be followed at 3.30pm by a panel discussion, which I’ll chair, on the subject of child prodigies. Speakers include Guy Johnston (cellist), Murray McLachan (head of piano at Chetham’s School of Music) and Michelle Castelletti (artistic director of the Royal Northern College of Music).
Tickets for the concert are £10 for adults and £8 for children (the performance is suitable for children over the age of about 9).

Booking Link for the concert at Wigmore Hall

Tickets for the panel discussion at 3.30pm are £4 each:
Link Here


Tuesday, 9 February 2016, 7.30pm, Hampton Court House
Alicia’s Gift: the concert of the novel

Viv McLean and I are delighted to present Alicia’s Gift in the historical surroundings of this exciting venue across the road from Hampton Court Palace. The performance will be followed by a discussion on the topic of gifted children, in which speakers include Guy Holloway, headmaster of the independent school at Hampton Court House.

More information from Hampton Court House

Sunday, 7 February 2016, 3pm, St Mary’s Perivale
Alicia’s Gift: the concert of the novel

The one-hour version of our narrated concert exploring the challenges facing a child prodigy trying to grow up is to feature as part of a performance by Viv McLean (piano) and friends. We’re looking forward to revisiting this gorgeous and atmospheric 12th-century church. Admission free, with retiring collection.

More information from St. Mary's

July 2015
Tuesday 28 July 2015,
(afternoon Performance)

Fishguard Festival, Wales

I’m teaming up with the distinguished British pianist Peter Donohoe, artistic director of the Fishguard Festival, for a special performance of Alicia’s Gift, the concert of the novel.
Link to Festival Website

Fishguard Music Festival 2015
photo Sussie Ahlburg
June 2015
Ulverston International Music Festival

Friday, 12 June 2015, 6.15pm

Ulverston International Music Festival

Pre-concert talk with violinist Tasmin Little and pianist Martin Roscoe before their recital on the opening night of one of the Lake District’s most beautiful festivals.

More information here.


Monday, 22 - Friday, 26 June 2015
Istanbul Music Festival

It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it: I am giving a series of four pre-concert talks for the Istanbul International Festival, to be held in the garden of the Hagia Eirene Museum in the historic centre of this great and vibrant city…

Event information:

22 June
The Young Chopin. Focusing on the Piano Concerto No.1, a look at the formative influences that shaped the youthful composer's style, and the qualities that made his work a landmark in the history of the piano. This evening Daniil Trifonov performs the concerto.

23 June
The Fantastical World of the French Baroque. An introduction to the way that the great French composers of this era reflected the imaginative glories of Louis XIV's court. Preceding a concert of glories featuring Magdalena Kožena (mezzo) and Emmanuelle Haïm (conductor)

24 June
Brahms, Schumann, Clara Schumann and Joseph Joachim: The Indivisibles. A look at the close connections between Brahms's music and these three vital figures in his life: his short-lived mentor, his lifelong muse and his most cantankerous friend, the violinist for whom he wrote his violin concerto. In the concert Christian Tetzlaff performs the concerto with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen with conductor Paavo Järvi, and the Symphony No.1 completes the programme.

26 June
Mozart and the Violin. An exploration of Mozart's relationship with the figures who to him most represented the violin: his father, the violinist and teacher Leopold Mozart; and his later mentor, Joseph Haydn. Arabella Steinbacher and Maxim Rysanov feature with the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra in two of Mozart’s violin concertos and the Sinfonia Concertante.
May 2015
Thursday, 21 May 2015, 3.30pm
Classical:NEXT, De Doelen, Rotterdam

At the vibrant annual classical music trade fair Classical:NEXT
I’m chairing a networking meeting entitled ‘Music to Our Ears –
Creative Networking towards Gender Equality in the Music World’.

Our distinguished panel of speakers includes Gillian Moore, head of music at the Southbank Centre, Vanessa Reed, executive director of the PRS for Music Foundation, and Susanna Eastburn, chief executive of Sound and Music.

More information here
March 2015


Sunday, 29 March 2015
The Amati Exhibition at The Langham, London - 19:00

The great Hungarian virtuoso Roby Lakatos and his Gypsy fusion ensemble are giving a special cabaret-style performance as part of the Amati Exhibition at the Langham. As editor of The Amati Magazine, I’m introducing them.

Tickets are £24 and can be booked here:

Roby Lakatos and his Ensemble
January 2015
Wednesday, 28 January 2015 at 6.15pm
Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Pre-Concert Talk at the CBSO: I revisit the life of Erich Wolfgang Korngold and explore his last great orchestral work, his Symphony in F sharp, which will enjoy a rare hearing in this concert by the CBSO and conductor Michael Seal.



Saturday, 24 January 2015
Richmondshire Subscription Concerts, North Yorkshire at Time: TBC

HUNGARIAN DANCES, the Concert of the Novel
Bradley Creswick (violin), Margaret Fingerhut (piano), Jessica Duchen (narrator).

Margaret Fingerhut-Jessica Duchen-Bradley Creswick

Melanie Spanswick met up with classical music journalist and author Jessica Duchen at Steinway Hall recently and they chatted about her career and forthcoming work. The third movement of Ravel's Sonatine which is featured at the beginning and end of this interview is an extract from a live concert given by pianist Viv McLean, who performs in Alicia's Gift with Jessica.
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