#36 Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #3 Robert

(Continuing from Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #2)


Robert Sidney Pratten was a talented flautist and a perfect match for Mademe Pratten. Unfortenately, he died quite young – at the age of 44, after 14 years of marriage with Mademe Sidney Pratten.

Would they have played (or even performed) as a flute/guitar duo? If they did, it would have been quite special – at least by today’s standards, since I can’t think of a contemporary guitar/flute duo that has a female guitarist and a male flautist. Why are flutes and guitars assigned to specific genders?

My teacher once said that he would organize a tango dance lesson between the guitar and the flute studios. I could not tell if he was serious or joking but I am always serious. I am still waiting for that dance session to happen.

One can find a few compositions and method book by Madame Sidney Pratten on IMSLP. These compositions bear sentimental titles: Forgotten, Sadness, A Lost Love, A Lament, Sehnsucht – are these all composed for Robert? A few letters mentioned about these compositions:


This website showed a list of Madame Pratten’s compositions. I wonder where can one find all her other compositions, and the Instruction for the Guitar tuned in E-major? It also doesn’t look like there are any compositions for flute and guitar.

Of the few scores that are available on IMSLP, the set Sadness, Lost Love, A Lament bears a dedication: “To her friend and pupil Dr. John Lindsay Leckie. This reminded me of a recent purchase I made: Dr Walter Leckie & Don Francisco Tárrega: The unlikely tale of an English Gentleman and a Spanish Guitarist, a fascinating book that details the relationship between Tárrega and Dr. Walter Leckie, an English physician and amateur guitarist. Leckie was a memeber of high society, and he took lessons from Madame Pratten before meeting Tárrega, and therefore this book also included a biography of her. It is from this book that I found out John Lindsay Leckie was Walter Leckie’s older brother. Another thing I found out from this book answered a question I had from my previous post: how did Madame Pratten notate her compositions in open E tuning? Did she notate the music at pitch? Or did she notate the music as if the guitar is tuned in standard tuning?

Hungarian March, a piece dedicated to Walter Leckie, in the open-E tuning, provides the answer:

From Dr Walter Leckie & Don Francisco Tárrega: The unlikely tale of an English Gentleman and a Spanish Guitarist, p.28

So Madame Sidney Pratten’s students who learn both open E and standard tunings would have to learn the notes of the freboard on two different tunings!

A female music virtuoso whose husband was Robert – it’s hard for me to not think about Clara and Robert Schumann. Not much was said in Reminiscenes of Madame Sidney Pratten regarding the love story before the Prattens, but Robert and Clara Schumann’s engagement was strongly opposed by Clara’s father, Friedrich Wieck, who was their piano teacher. Allowed by the court, Robert and Clara got married the night before she turned 21.

Robert and Clara.

Madame Pratten remained devoted to her husband throughout his life.


The story between the Schumanns seemed to be more complicated, but the truth would never be known. Relationhips… always complicated. Let’s just watch something simple here? This clip of Widmung, taken from the movie, A Poet’s Love, is a clip I always show in my music theory class. Clara heard Robert’s song for the first time, and she immediately joined him in playing the melody on the piano. That’s the level of aural skills we should all strive for.

(Continue to Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #4)

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