Maria Hester Reynolds Park



     I. Biography

     II. Surviving Works, New Editions, and Recordings

     III. Sources

I. Biography

Maria Hester Reynolds Park, or M.H. Reynolds, later M.H. Park, was an English pianist, composer and teacher. Born on September 29, 1760, she is first mentioned making her way in the professional music world in Oxford, where from 1772 to 1779, during her teens, she was the keyboard player in the permanent orchestra at the Music Room. Sophie Fuller, in her book The Pandora Guide to Women Composers, reports that according to the earliest surviving Oxford Music Room program, Miss Reynolds sang a song by A. M. G. Sacchini in November 1773. Towards the end of this period, in February 1779, she held a benefit concert, an event from which leading performers could expect considerable profits that the public saw as a reward for good service. By 1785, she was living in London. In 1790 she married the engraver Thomas Park (1759–1834).

As a composer, she published a large amount of music for a woman at this time—at least thirteen sets of music with opus numbers, including sonatas (both solo and accompanied), a set of six glees for three and four voices, and a concerto for piano with strings.  Much of her music was published “for the author”; that is, she made a financial investment and received the sales income. 

As Maria Hester Reynolds, she published her debut volume in 1785, a set of six Sonatas for the Harpsichord or Piano Forte and Violin, op. 1, and, in about 1790, Three Sonatas for the Harpsichord or Piano Forte, op. 2. After her marriage  she used the name Maria Hester Park, or M. H. Park. The music is attractive, inventive, and well crafted. Park’s Two Sonatas for the Piano Forte or Harpsichord, op. 4, are fairly demanding technically, as are the piano concerto, op. 6, the piano sonata, op. 7, and the piano sonatas with violin accompaniment, op. 13. She was a skilled professional composer writing for highly accomplished amateur players. Many of her surviving works have recently been republished in modern editions and some are available on commercial recordings. 

    Some of Park’s published music is possibly lost, including “A New Waltz,” advertised on the title page of the her last published work, A Divertimento for the Piano Forte [with violin accompaniment] [ca.1811], and some works advertised in her op. 13 sonatas: six divertimentos for harp and pianoforte, op. 8; six duets for harp and pianoforte, op. 9; “Sonata with the Berlin Favourite”; and “Sonata with Prince Adolphus Fancy.” The titles of her op. 5 and opp. 10 through 12 are unknown. 

    In London, both before and after her marriage, she taught music to members of the nobility and gentry, including the Duchess of Devonshire and her daughters. The composer’s published works are dedicated variously to Her Grace the Duchess of Devonshire (solo sonatas, op. 4), to the Countess of Uxbridge (solo sonatas, op. 1), to Lady Charlotte Greville and Lady Louisa Gray (piano concerto, op. 6), and to Lady Harriet Montagu (A Divertimento).The op. 7 sonata is dedicated to Mr. William Dance (1755–1840), “Musician in Ordinary to his Majesty, ecc.”;  a pianist, he composed keyboard lessons, preludes, and the like for the amateur market, and was also a violinist at the Drury Lane Theatre and the King’s Theatre. This dedication indicates that she maintained her professional affiliations after her marriage, though it appears that she herself no longer performed in public.

    Thomas Park and Haydn (who made extended visits to London) were on close terms; Haydn owned prints of several of Park’s engravings. The historian Thomas Tolley, of the University of Edinburgh, has demonstrated that Mrs. Park is the “lady in England” for whom Haydn composed his third “English” sonata, in D major (H.XVI:51), in 1794. (Other pianists had been suggested, including Therese Jansen-Bartolozzi and Maria Frances Parke.) Haydn wrote to Park at 32 Piccadilly, on 22 October 1794, “I am obliged to you for the two so charming prints. I tack me the liberty to send for the Mistris [Mrs] Parck a little Sonat, and to come to Her next Friday or Saturday between 1 and 2 o’clock. I am / your most obedient Sr [Servant] / Haydn.”  She kept the original manuscript and made a copy for Haydn. 

(See “Further on Tolley’s explanations” at the end of this page.)

    The Parks had one son, John James Park (1795–1833), who became a noted jurist and legal historian during his rather short life, and four daughters who survived their father. In 1797, according to the Dictionary of National Biography, Thomas Park “abandoned engraving for literature and the study of antiquities”; he collected old English poetry and portraits of poets, and he edited many important literary works. As he was a man of limited means, Maria Hester Park’s piano teaching and music publishing probably helped support the family. She suffered from ill-health during her last years, and died on June 7, 1813, at the age of 52, at the family home in Hampstead, Middlesex. The obituary notice in the Gentleman’s Magazine refers to her “virtuous life” and concludes with this tribute, most likely from her husband’s pen:

Exemplary in all the duties of the female character, she has left so 

tender a memorial in the bosoms of her sorrowing family, as cannot 

but be cherished and revered, so long as memory and gratitude remain.

    That she enjoyed a happy family life is confirmed in her husband’s Nugae modernae. Morning Thoughts and Midnight Musings (1818), a volume of prose and poems published five years after he suffered the death of “the joy of half my life.”In the poem “Contentment Vindicated and Spleen Repelled” he describes the beloved Hampstead cottage, or the “little comely cot,” as “an over-stock’d Hive” inhabited by “my Queen and her circlet of bees.” In “Retrospection, Written on Michaelmas-Day, 1813,” a few months after her death, he commemorates her birth-date, Michaelmas-Day, September 29. In “Alludium sepulchrale” he writes of visiting her grave in the parish of Acton. In “Remembrance. Written on Christmas-Eve 1817” he celebrates her musicianship and character, summarized in the third and last stanza:

By skill and science highly was she grac’d

In music’s melting art, and with such taste

And touch of feeling did she sounds convey,

Her heart appear’d more than her hands to play;

Yet what did most the hearts of others win,

All was sweet harmony, sweet peace within;

Whence I may say, who best have claim to know,

She never lost a friend, she never made a foe.

Take this remembrance, dear departed Worth!

Till Heav’n do more make known what once thou wert, on Earth.

II. Surviving Works, New Editions and Recordings

Works are listed in the order of publication.  Library locations are from Barbara Garvey Jackson, “Say Can You Deny Me”: A Guide to Surviving Music by Women from the 16th through the 18th Centuries (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1994): 304–6 (Park) and 328–29 (Reynolds).  The first listing (Park/Parke) includes several titles by the singer and composer Miss Maria F. Parke.

Op. 1 (as M.H. Reynolds):  Sonatas [6] for the harpsichord or piano forte and violin.  Dedicated to the Countess of Uxbridge. [Brighton: Henry Davey], 1785.  Score.  49 pp.  GB: BA, Ckc, Lbl.  US: NYp, Wc.

    -New edition, ed. Barbara Govatos.  Bryn Mawr: Hildegard Publishing. Score and part.

Op. 2 (as M.H. Reynolds):  Three Sonatas for the harpsichord or piano forte.  London: Longman & Broderip, for the author [ca. 1790].  GB: Lbl.

Op. 3:  A Set of [6] Glees with the Dirge in Cymbeline … op. 3.  London:  Birchall & Andrews, for the author [ca. 1790].  Score.  18 pp.  GB: GM, Lbl.  US: Cn, Wc.

Op. 4:  Two Sonatas for the Piano Forte or Harpsichord . . . op. IV.  London: Longman & Broderip, for the author [ca. 1795; sometimes dated 1790].  Dedicated to Her Grace the Duchess of Devonshire. GB: Bu, Lbl.

-  Facsimile reprint of sonata no. 1 in E-flat, first movement, in D. Hayes, “Some Neglected Women Composers of the Eighteenth Century and Their Music,” Current Musicology 29 (1985): 42–65.  (Here, as in the Vivace Press editions, the biography is erroneously that of the singer Miss Maria F. Parke.)

-  New edition of sonata no. 1 in F major, in Eighteenth Century Women Composers for the Harpsichord or Piano, ed. Barbara Harbach, vol. I. Pullman, WA: Vivace Press, 1992.

-  New edition of sonata no. 2 in E-flat, in Four Early Keyboard Sonatas by English Women Composers, ed. Sally Fortino. Bryn Mawr:  Hildegard.

-  Recording of sonata no. 1 on Ars Musica Poloniae, 1993 (tape, CD), “Riches and Rags,” distrib. by Carondelet Productions; Nancy Fierro, piano.  Reissued on Dorchester Classic CD 1004 (1993).  (Composer biography is that of Miss Parke.)

Op. 6:  A Concerto, for the Piano-Forte or Harpsichord …  op. VI. Dedicated to Lady Charlotte Greville and Lady Louisa Grey.   London: Robert Birchal[l], for the author [ca. 1795].  Parts. GB: Lbl (2 ex., one incomplete).

-  New edition, ed. Barbara Harbach.  Pullman, WA: Vivace Press, 1993.  Full score and string parts.

-  Recording (without strings) on Gasparo CD 281 (1990), “18th Century Solo Harpsichord Music by Women Composers, vol. II”; Barbara Harbach, harpsichord.

Op. 7:  A Sonata for the Piano Forte … op. VII.  London: Lewis Lavenu, for the author  [ca. 1796]  Dedicated to Mr. W. Dance, Musician in Ordinary to His Majesty, eccd. 11 pp.  GB: Lbl.

-  New edition in Eighteenth Century Women Composers for the Harpsichord or Piano, ed. Barbara Harbach, vol. II.  Pullman, WA: Vivace Press, 1992.

-  Recording on Gasparo CD 281 (1990), “18th Century Solo Harpsichord Music by Women Composers, vol. II”; Barbara Harbach, harpsichord.

Op. 8: Six easy divertimentos for the harp and piano-forte in which are introduced a celebrated German minuet & waltz : Op. VIII. inscribed by permission to the Right Hon.ble Lady Georgina and Lady Harriet Cavendish by Maria Hester Park. 1 part-arp and pf. London [1797?] 6 p. D: HVfmg.

Op. 12: A sonata for the piano-forte in which is introduced Prince Adolphus's fancy op. XII / composed and respectfully dedicated to Lady Sophia Poulett by M. H. Park. London [ca. 1800]. 7p. D: HVfmg.

Op. 13:  Two Sonatas for the Piano Forte [with violin accompaniment], op. 13.  London: Birchall [ca. 1801].  15 pp.  GB: Lbl.

- New edition of Sonata no. 2, ed. Susan Pickett (Bryn Mawr: Hildegard), in preparation.

A Divertimento for the Piano Forte [with violin accompaniment].  Composed & Dedicated to Lady Harriet Montagu by M. H. Park.  Enter’d at Stationers Hall.  London, Printed by Lavenu & Mitchell, Music Sellers to his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales at their New Musical Circulating Library 26 New Bond Street, [?1811]. “Where may be had by the same Author”: Concerto, op. 6; two sons, op. 4, Son. op. 7, and “A New Waltz.”  GB: Lbl. US: AA.

-  New edition, with introduction by D. Hayes, in Women Composers: Music Through the Ages, edited by Sylvia Glickman and Martha Schleifer (12 vols; New York: G. K. Hall/Macmillan, 1995– ), vol.  5, pp. 108–21.

III. Sources

Baldwin, Olive, and Thelma Wilson. “Maria Hester Park [née Reynolds].” In New Grove Dictionary of Women Composers. London: Macmillan, 1994.  Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers. New York: Norton, 1995.

Caldwell, John. English Keyboard Music Before the Nineteenth Century. New York: Praeger, 1973.

Fuller, Sophie.  “Maria Hester Reynolds (Maria Hester Park).” In The Pandora Guide to Women Composers, Britain and the United States 1629–Present.  London: HarperCollins/Pandora, 1994: 267–68.

Hayes, Deborah.  “Some Neglected Women Composers of the Eighteenth Century and Their Music.” Current Musicology 29 (1985): 42–65.

Jackson, Barbara Garvey. “Say Can You Deny Me”: A Guide to Surviving Music by Women from the 16th through the 18th Centuries. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1994.

[Obituary notice of Maria-Hester Park.] Gentleman’s Magazine 1813, pt. 1, p. 596.

Park, M.H. Correspondence with Charles Burney. In Joyce Henslow, with Jeanne M. Burgess and Althea Douglas, A Catalogue of the Burney Family Correspondence 1765–1878. New York, 1971, p.29 (letter of 8 May 1795) and p.60 (letter of 6 April 1813).

Shedlock, John South.  The Piano-Forte Sonata: Its Origins and Development (1895).  Rept.; New York: Da Capo Press, 1965.

“Thomas Park.” In The Dictionary of National Biography, ed. Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1917: XV, 223–25.

Tolley, Thomas. “Haydn, The Engraver Thomas Park, and Maria Hester Park’s ‘Little Sonat’.” Music and Letters 82 (2001), 421–31.

———. Painting the Cannon’s Roar: Music, the Visual Arts and the Rise of an Attentive Public in the Age of Haydn, c.1750 to c.1810. Aldershot; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2001.


Further on Tolley’s explanations:

The two prints “von Park” in 1794 are listed in the inventory of Haydn’s estate in Vienna after his death as of paintings titled Rosalie & Lubin and its pendant Lubin & Rosalie, by Sir William Beechey and Richard Torton Paye. Tolley suggests that the intimate, narrative quality of the Sonata in D (H:XVI:51) suggests that Haydn intended a reference to the story of Rosalie and Lubin, depicted in the prints. In one, the two young shepherds in love with each other are shown with a lamb on a riverbank; perhaps, Tolley writes, the sonata’s Andante movement refers to the happy scene with intimations of tragedy. The other print shows Lubin drowning in an attempt to rescue the lamb—the presto Finale is turbulent like the river—and a grief-stricken Rosalie on the bank. Haydn wrote to his Leipzig publishers, Breitkopf & Hártel, that the sonata, “an Andante and Finale,” had been “composed in England for a lady, who kept the original manuscript” and gave him a copy. The sonata was finally published in 1804. (—from “Haydn, The Engraver Thomas Park, and Maria Hester Park’s ‘Little Sonat’,” loc cit.