Kathleen Parlow: “World’s greatest woman violinist”

(This story is one of a series entitled “One Person’s Journey” telling how people from all walks of life, including a few rogues and rebels, have left their marks upon the world. To see a list of others featured in the series, click here.)


Kathleen Parlow
1890 – 1963

No Canadian artist of the early 20th century enjoyed a more distinguished career than violinist Kathleen Parlow. During a 20-year career as a touring concert soloist, she performed to great acclaim on the stages of North America, Europe and Asia, recorded for Columbia Records, and was hailed by audiences, critics and fellow musicians as being without peer among the violinists of her time.

The newspapers dubbed her “the lady of the golden bow.” Born in Calgary, Alberta, where her father worked as a retail store clerk and her mother taught elementary school, she started playing the violin at age four, and right from the very beginning seemed destined for greatness. She gave her first public recital at age six (she characterized herself as “one of those things – a child prodigy”) and by age 15 was performing in Europe. She turned professional at 17 and spent the next two decades touring the world as a concert violinist.

Though she left Canada as a child and didn’t return permanently until she was 50, Parlow was often billed as “the Canadian violinist.” This caused some consternation in San Francisco ….

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