- Catherine Parsons Smith
(b Hamburg, June 27, 1924; d Scarsdale, NY, July 11, 2006). American composer and pianist of German origin. She studied at the Sternsches Konservatorium, Berlin, from the age of five until her expulsion in 1935. On her family’s emigration to Sweden in 1938, she was admitted to the Swedish Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm, despite restrictions on Jewish refugees, studying composition (with Ingemar Liljefors) and piano there until early 1941. The family then travelled to Mexico City, via the USSR, where Schonthal studied composition with Rodolfo Halffter and Manuel Ponce, and piano with Pablo Castellanos. She gave an acclaimed performance of her own piano concerto in Mexico City, and in 1946, after Hindemith heard her playing her own works, she entered Yale University on his recommendation (AB, composition, 1948).
Virtually all of Schonthal’s study and much of her subsequent compositional career took place in situations of exile and in relative isolation from other composers and creative artists. To support herself and her family she played the piano in bars and wrote popular songs and music for TV commercials, and from ...