Is 2020 really just the year of Beethoven? 10 other important birthdays we should celebrate this year!

Last year the classical music world was going nuts over Beethoven’s 250th birthday and this year is no different, still Beethoven 250.

In 2019 there were a lot of other important birthdays to celebrate, these I highlighted in my blog from July. This year there are also a lot of composers with big milestones we should be celebrating. Check these out!

  1. Isabella Leonarda’s 400th birthday

Isabella Leonarda (1620-1704) was an extraordinary Baroque composer, spending most of her life in an Italian convent she wrote 20 books of music, composing more than 200 pieces. The first woman to write violin and basso continuo concertos plus she was a music teacher and singer. Her music is just gorgeous.

 

2. William Grant Still’s 125th birthday

W.G. Still (1895-1978) – the Dean of Afro-American composers, a trailblazing black man in the world of composition. His 1st symphony – Afro-American was the 1st symphony written by an African-American and performed by a major orchestra. When Still conducted the LA Philharmonic in 1936 he became the 1st African-American composer to conduct a major American orchestra in a concert of his own work plus Still was the 1st African-American to have an opera performed on national television. He wrote over 200 works including symphonies and 9 operas. His music combines Western symphonic structure with blues progressions and Afro-American spirituals.

 

3. Henriette Bosmans’ 125th birthday

Henriette Bosmans (1895-1952) was probably the most important Dutch composer of the 1st half of the 20th century. She wrote a ton of awesome music, particularly for the cello. Her Cello Sonata is easily one of the most powerhouse pieces of classical music I’ve ever heard. She also wrote concertos for piano, flute and cello as well as a string quartet.

4. Jacqueline Fontyn’s 90th birthday

This contemporary Belgian composer, pianist, educator and Prix de Rome winner celebrates her 90th birthday this year.

5. Dorothy Rudd Moore’s 80th birthday

The amazing American composer is 80 this year. She is a co-founder of the Society of Black composers, influential educator at Harlem School of the Arts and New York University. Her work includes an opera, chamber music, piano music and song cycles. Like most black female composers way too few recordings of her music exist.

6. Libby Larsen’s 70th birthday

Another amazing American composer, Libby Larsen turns 70 this year.

 

7. Elena Firsova’s 70th birthday

Incredible Russian composer, written tons of music of various genres, including several cantatas.

 

8. 150th anniversary of Alice Mary Smith’s Clarinet Sonata

This wonderfully lyrical Romantic piece was written in 1870 by English composer Alice Mary Smith.

 

9. Germaine Tailleferre’s Ballade for Piano and Orchestra turns 100!

This total masterpiece is one of Germaine Tailleferre’s earliest popular works. Germaine Taileferre was a French composer and member of Les Six. Tailleferre had one of the longest compositional careers ever, starting in 1909 and writing until her death in 1983.

 

10. 200th anniversary of Maria Szymanowska’s Fantaisie in F Major

Maria Szymanowska (1789-1831) was a Polish composer and one the 1st virtuoso pianists in the 19th century. She toured all over Europe and was the first to perform from memory. Her compositions are almost all for solo piano and influenced her compatriot Chopin. Fantaisie in F Major is a beautiful piece for piano and a necessary addition to the repertoire and canon.

News – official commitment to playing more BAME composers on the show

Super excited to officially announce my new commitment to include more music by black and minority ethnic composers in the show every single week. This includes both men and women, composers that are not white are incredibly marginalised in the classical music industry.

People of all skin colours have been composing throughout history, there is vast amounts of incredible repertoire written by people of colour/BAME composers yet none of it is performed enough. So I’m redressing the balance, actually over the last 5 weeks I’ve programmed at least one piece by a black male composer on every show including music by Ulysses Kay, William Grant Still, George Walker, and Adolphus Hailstork but now it’s officially official.

Still a work in progress regarding specifics but from today every show will contain at least one piece by a male BAME composer/person of colour, guaranteed. And that’s in addition to my gender equality commitment and any awesome music by women of colour as well which will continue to be on the show.

In terms of women composers of African descent, apart from Florence Price who I program at least once a month, including my Fun With Florence segment, I’ve only programmed Margaret Bonds, Regina Baiocchi and Eleanor Alberga so far. I’ve programmed Chinese composer Chen Yi and Japanese composer Keiko Abe once so there’s a lot of room for development and improvement, as I say still working out the kinks, I’m looking forward to making the show better and more interesting, more diverse and inclusive.

I’ve already discovered and programmed a ton of new repertoire so I’m excited to keep it going, continue to showcase awesome marginalised music and keep programming for justice.