Jessica Duchen writes words for and about music. Her journalism has appeared in The Sunday Times and The Guardian, among others. She was a critic for The Independent for 12 years and is the author of two biographies, seven novels and a number of librettos for operatic and choral works.
Her most recent novel, Immortal, explores the story behind Beethoven’s famous Letter to the ‘Immortal Beloved’ (“Captivating… beautifully crafted and painstakingly researched” – BBC Music Magazine). Ghost Variations (2016) is based on the true story of the Schumann Violin Concerto’s discovery in the 1930s and was chosen by John Suchet as his Best Read of 2016. Her biographies of the composers Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Gabriel Fauré are published by Phaidon.
Librettos include the People’s Opera Silver Birch for composer Roxanna Panufnik, commissioned by Garsington and shortlisted for an International Opera Award in 2018. Other works with Panufnik include Across the Line of Dreams, for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Valentina Peleggi and Marin Alsop (2019); and a new People’s Opera, Dalia, scheduled for summer 2022 at Garsington. Two librettos for Garsington’s youth companies are based on Oscar Wilde: The Happy Princess, with composer Paul Fincham (2019) and The Selfish Giant with John Barber, for summer 2021, postponed from 2020.
Jessica often narrates concert versions of her novels, appearing at music societies and festivals, the Wigmore Hall, The Sage Gateshead and Kings Place. Additionally, Being Mrs Bach is a music & words drama about Anna Magdalena for the Australian Festival of Chamber Music 2018 and given at Kings Place in 2019; and A Walk Through the End of Time, introducing Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, which has been performed in France, Australia and many UK festivals.
Jessica was born within the sound of Bow Bells, studied music at Cambridge and lives in London with her violinist husband and two cats.