|0||Williams||Theme from Sabrina||John Williams||Sabrina: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack||A&M Records||Amazon|
|5.22||Rachel Portman||Theme from Emma||Royal Scottish National Orchestra||Hollywood 96||Varese Sarabande||Amazon|
|8.46||Rachel Portman||Chocolat Main Titles||Rachel Portman||Chocolat (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)||Sony Classical||Amazon|
|12.29||Rachel Portman||Belle Main Titles, This is Portrait Revealed||City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra||Belle (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)||Varese Sarabande||Amazon|
|16.49||Verdina Shlonsky||Pages From The Diary||Fidan Aghayeva Edler||Verbotene Klänge: Sechs Suiten||Kreuzberg Records||Amazon|
|29.57||Hailstork||Symphony 3 1st Mvt||Grand Rapids Symphony, David Lockington||Hailstork Symphonies 2 & 3||Naxos||Presto|
|43.05||Edie Hill||From The Wingbone of a Swan II Source||The Crossing, Donald Nally||Clay Jug||PARMA Recordings||Presto|
|49.41||Mendelssohn||Piano Trio in D Minor 1st Mvt||Gian Luca Petrucci (flute), János Devich (cello), Jenő Jandó (piano)||Farrenc & Mendelssohn: Flute Trios||Tudor||Presto|
|1.00.08||Louise Farrenc||Piano Trio in E Minor 1st Mvt||Gian Luca Petrucci (flute), János Devich (cello), Jenő Jandó (piano)||Farrenc & Mendelssohn: Flute Trios||Tudor||Presto|
|1.10.58||Alakotila||Concerto Grosse Oeverture||Paul Taylor OrCHestra||Alphorn & Nordic Winds||Solo Musica||Presto|
|1.19.58||Sanna Kurki Suoni||Tass On Neinen||Paul Taylor OrCHestra||Alphorn & Nordic Winds||Solo Musica||Presto|
|1.27.16||Jarre||Dr Zhivago Lara’s Theme||Cinema Stage Orchestra||Doctor Zhivago||RKO Music||Amazon|
International Women’s Day is upon us again and like every year there are tons of events, concerts and festivals going on all over the world to celebrate it.
The IWD website says this for 2019:
The International Women’s Day 2019 campaign theme of #BalanceforBetter is a call-to-action for driving gender balance across the world.
But what does IWD really mean?
Does it drive towards a more gender balanced world?
Or has the work been corrupted to create more inequality and more imbalance?
The IWD website states:
International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
IWD is full of events promoting equality. One example is Women of the World festival at the Southbank. WOW brings together thousands of people for talks, workshops, concerts and many other events about women. WOW also showcases dozens of amazing organisations working to promote equality all year round. Last year they had demonstrations from a women’s wrestling group, networking events for women and a camp for girls to study rock music.
So, IWD is not just about celebrating the achievements of women, it’s encouraging people to work on equality all year round.
Now let’s examine IWD in the classical music industry. In 2018:
BBC Radio 3 scheduled an entire day of music by women composers.
ABC Classic FM in Australia played an entire 24 hours of women composers.
Cadogan Hall scheduled a concert entirely of female composers.
BBC Radio 3 and ABC are again playing an entire day of music by women composers.
BBC National Orchestra of Wales is playing a concert of female composers.
International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
So says the IWD website. It’s no doubt that BBC, ABC, Cadogan Hall and others do a great job doing the first part, celebrating the cultural achievements of women.
But what about the second part? Accelerating gender parity?
Let’s have a look at the rest of the year.
On ABC Classic FM music by women composers makes up 6% of all music played. (up from 2% in 2015.)
The official BBC stats are not published but the world average for radio programming and concert programming is 2%. That’s 2% of concerts a year featuring a woman composer. The BBC Proms stats for 2018 compiled by Women in Music show women composers made up 15% (21/133) of the number of composers. This is not number of works composed by women or total amount of performance time, which would both be undoubtedly much smaller percentages.
For example Sarah Walker’s Sunday Morning show on BBC Radio 3 plays 1 woman composer a week, out of at least 10 composers in a 3 hour show. Being optimistic means that’s 10% of music every week composed by a woman. (The number is probably lower and doesn’t account for actual airtime.)
Cadogan Hall are putting on about 100 concerts this year, at my count 3 of these concerts feature a woman composer.
Clearly these organisations fall short on the second part and do almost nothing the rest of the year to accelerate gender parity.
IWD should be a jumping off point to encourage more work on gender parity throughout the year. It shouldn’t be an excuse to shove all the women composers in one day and then continue marginalising them the rest of the year. That’s not gender equality.
Forbes magazine said last year:
BBC Radio 3 will spend International Women’s Day righting wrongs.
Radio 3 is slated to celebrate female composers excluded from the narrative of musical history.
Bearing in mind that the BBC are one of the organisations doing the excluding.
For example, BBC Proms has performed Dame Elizabeth Maconchy’s music 13 times while her contemporary Benjamin Britten’s music has been performed 94 times at the Proms.
Righting wrongs would be performing Dame Elizabeth Maconchy at least as much as Benjamin Britten all year round. Not playing her music once a year. Dame Maconchy and all the other hundreds of female composers have been and are being marginalised every day for decades, centuries in some cases. One day of programming is not righting this wrong. It is a step, and a very small one in the right direction but these organisations need to programme more women composers consistently throughout the year.
Also at what point on IWD do the BBC programme Louise Farrenc’s Symphony No 3 or Amanda Maier’s Violin Sonata and not think ‘Wow, this is amazing, we should play this more often’?
It’s the same with Black History Month. In classical music composers such as W.G. Still, Florence Price and Adolphus Hailstork should be played all year round. These composers are marginalised due to to deep institutional prejudice that can only be changed through constant and consistent programming, not a token performance once a year.
(Plus just pointing out black people invented blues, jazz, rock and roll, soul, disco, gospel, RnB and hip hop. Yet somehow the inventor of rock and roll, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, is only ever mentioned during BHM. Funny that.)
IWD started with a noble and worthy purpose of highlighting the achievements of women and encouraging increased dialogue on equality all year round. IWD itself promotes equality every day of the year and does amazing work.
However, too many other organisations seem to use IWD as an opportunity to put these groups in their boxes, only programme them on this one day and call it progress whilst contributing further to the inequality in the classical music industry.
Then the next year rolls around again and we’re celebrating the same ‘underrated and excluded’ composers again, brushing over the fact that they’re still excluded because the powers that be didn’t play them in the whole year in between. They wouldn’t be marginalised if they were performed more often all year round. And so the vicious cycle continues.
This IWD let’s remember this and work on creating gender parity every day of the year
The Daffodil Perspective radio show is pleased to play equal numbers of women and men composers, with equal airtime, every single week.
What can you do?
Everyone’s got this image of all the ‘great’ composers. They’re all dead white men. British journalist Fiona Maddocks said in 2011:
“For all the many good, even excellent women composers, why has there not yet been a great one? Where is the possessed, wild eyed, crackpot female answer to Beethoven, who battled on through deafness, loneliness, financial worry and disease to create timeless masterpieces?”
What do we mean by greatness? And how do you define greatness?
Let’s have a look at one example: Dame Elizabeth Maconchy was denied the Mendelssohn scholarship by RCM director Sir Hugh Allen because she’d “only get married and never write another note.”
Maconchy tried to get her music published by musical powerhouse company Boosey & Hawkes but Boosey rejected it because:
‘they would not consider publishing orchestral music by a young lady, perhaps a few songs’
So, women are only allowed to write nice little songs and leave the symphonies to men? Maconchy went on to write several huge orchestral works including her symphony for double string orchestra.
Maconchy also wrote 13 of the most extraordinary string quartets in history. In total she wrote over 200 works over a 60 year career, became a CBE then a Dame. She also battled and triumphed against TB, a disease which had already claimed half her family.
These comments by Boosey are not unique, similar comments were made, and are still being made, to many female composers throughout history. Given so much rampant sexism and prejudice it’s a wonder any music by women exists at all.
Does greatness mean the courage to carry on and write music that you believe in despite what other people think? If so, surely Elizabeth Maconchy has to be one of the great composers?
Louise Farrenc (1804-1875) was the first woman ever to be appointed as Professor of Piano at the Paris Conservatoire. She shared equal responsibility for the women’s piano divison with Henri Hertz. They did exactly the same job but because he was a man he got paid more, that is until Farrenc demanded equal pay.
Along with teaching Farrenc wrote 3 incredible symphonies and a bucketload of other incredible music including lots of piano music and chamber music.
Does greatness mean the courage to stand up and fight for your right to be treated the same as others for the same work? If so, surely Farrenc must also be a ‘great’ composer right?
Florence Price (1887-1953), in her own words, had ‘two handicaps, those of sex and race.’
Price was born in 1887 and grew up in suburban Arkansas during the harsh era of Jim Crow racist legislation, she saw incredible violence and racism, eventually moving to Chicago to escape. Despite being a prodigious talent and going to university at 14 it would be another 30 years before she was able to write her Symphony in E Minor and that was because she ‘had the good fortune to break her foot”. This was after becoming a single mother and sharing a tiny flat with her student Margaret Bonds. Her Symphony in E Minor was premiered in 1933 by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Florence Price became the 1st African American woman to have a symphony performed by a major orchestra. She went on to write 3 more symphonies, a piano concerto, a violin concerto, a piano sonata and lots more music during a 20 year career that took off in middle age.
Does greatness mean knowing all the unfair obstacles that you face, holding your ground and not giving up, even after decades? If so, then surely Florence Price must be a great composer?
Why do we only associate greatness with this overly Romantic notion of deaf, half insane composers struggling away in leaky attics?
Let’s look now at Dame Ethel Smyth. Her uptight military Dad wouldn’t let her her study music so she locked herself in her room and refused to eat or come out until he allowed her to study music at Leipzig Conservatory. 14 years old Smyth was already a legend.
Smyth did go on to study music and she became a phenomenal composer but then she was constantly the victim of impossible double standards.
“On the one hand, when she composed powerful, rhythmically vital music, it was said that her work lacked feminine charm; on the other, when she produced delicate, melodious compositions, she was accused of not measuring up to the artistic standards of her male colleagues.”
This is a constant rhetoric for women who compose music. Only write delicate, pretty little music even though you’ll be judged for not writing huge power music that men write.
Ethel Smyth carried on regardless, she wrote several operas and numerous orchestral music plus a brilliant Mass in D.
Dame Ethel Smyth was the first woman composer to be knighted as a Dame and up until 2016 she was the first and only woman composer to have an opera performed by the Met Opera in New York.
In addition to being a phenomenal composer Smyth was a strong advocate for women’s right. She joined the Women’s Suffrage movement and worked with them for two years. Smyth also had numerous affairs with women, was apparently obsessed with the married Emmeline Pankhurst and fell into unrequited love with Virginia Woolf. Smyth was a badass alright.
Marianna Martines (1744-1812) wasn’t allowed to be paid as a professional composer because of her gender but she became the first woman to be admitted to the Accademia Philharmica, the same prestigious institution Mozart to which the ‘great’ composer Mozart was also admitted.
The Czech composer Vitezslava Kapralova (1915-1940) was exiled in Paris for the last 2 years of her life because of the war.
Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979) was a brilliant composer and pedagogue who taught practically every major composer of the 20th century. She also became the 1st woman to conduct the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
All these women, and hundreds more, wrote lots of brilliant music. They were respected, even adored by their male peers, they won recognition in the form of commissions and prizes, Smyth and Maconchy were knighted. Despite all the veneration these women received during their life every one of these composers was obliterated from the canon after their death.
A frequent sexist argument against women composers being more well known is that their music just isn’t good enough. Nothing is further from the truth. In so many cases it’s not merely good enough, it’s better by far.
But I don’t want to make this a battle of the sexes over who composes better, more meaningful music. It’s not a fight to show women write music as well as men. They just do.
The only reason Louise Farrenc, Ethel Smyth, Florence Price, Elizabeth Maconchy, Marianna Martines, Barbara Strozzi, Amy Beach, Vitezslava Kapralova and all the hundreds of other women composers are not as equally regarded as Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Britten and Tchaikovsky etc is because of their gender.
The fact that Dame Elizabeth Maconchy is a woman is the only reason her music is performed about 1/100th the amount of her contemporary Britten.
Centuries of deep institutional level prejudice and sexism is what is keeping the music of these women from concert programmes. Women have been systematically, consistently and constantly marginalised.
Again I ask, what is greatness?
Is it accolades? Maconchy and Smyth are Dames, Elisabeth Lutyens a CBE.
Number of symphonies written? Louise Farrenc wrote 3, Emilie Mayer wrote 7, Gloria Coates wrote 16.
Is greatness obstacles hurdled? Firsts achieved?
Is greatness staring bankruptcy in the face while battling syphillis in an attic in Vienna?
Or is greatness the ability to create and keep creating stunning music in spite of many people telling you that you can’t?
All women who compose music are great.
Florence Price once asked Sergei Koussevitzky, conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra to judge her music not on the basis of her race or sex, but on musical merit alone. He never went on to programme any of her music, read into that what you will.
Let’s do what he seemingly couldn’t and judge women on the basis of musical merit alone.
Let us redefine what greatness means, rewrite history and create a more gender balanced future for the benefit of everyone.
As usual at this time of year there’s a lot of reflection going on about the year we’ve just had. In music terms this means a round up of the year’s best new releases. The Guardian’s Top 10 list featured all male composers, mostly dead white ones including ‘neglected composer’ Hindemith, plus Bach, Stravinsky, yada yada yada. See the list here which comes at the end of an article which only mentions releases with male composers.
And this is from a generally left wing newspaper, who have published at least 4 articles this year about the lack of female composers being performed, why they have been unfairly marginalised, looking at what is being done and should be done to change that. Way to support this stance, am I right?
Go round the internet and look at all the major sites about classical music and you see the same story pretty much everywhere. Major independent retailer Presto Classical picked their Top 10 recordings of the year. Also all male, including yet more recordings of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, yawn.
There have actually been some amazing new releases of women composers this year, both historical and living so here is my own list for you. A list of 10 great releases from 2018 to check out, all featuring exclusively women composers.
- Global Sirens – Christina Petrowska Quilico. Released 16th November 2018.
Various composers of piano music from the 19-21st century. A brilliant selection of everything from romantic to ragtime to post modern. Some more well known composers including Lili Boulanger and Meredith Monk with other maybe slightly less well known composers such as Ilse Fromm Michaels and Susanne Erding-Swiridoff. Listen here.
2. Chaminade Piano Music – Mark Viner. Released 9th November 2018.
Selection of piano music by Cecile Chaminade, French Romantic composer. Great selection from the masses of piano music she wrote, some lighter music, some serious. Listen here
3. Elena Ruehr – 6 String Quartets. Released 16th February 2018.
String quartets by contemporary composer Elena Ruehr. I love these quartets, simply amazing. I can’t do them justice in words so here is ArkivMusic’s notes on the recording:
“Elena’s Six String Quartets are a magnum opus, three of them commissioned by the Cypress String Quartet, two by the Rockport Chamber Music Festival, and one an ASCAP Award winner. “…sumptuously scored and full of soaring melodies and piquant harmonies.” (The New York Times) “Music with heart and a forceful sense of character and expression.” (The Washington Post)”
Listen to the album here.
4. Louise Farrenc – Symphonies 2 and 3 by Naxos Records. Released 27th April 2018
Orchestral works by French Romantic composer. Symphony Number 3 was performed on 23rd November as part of Trinity Laban’s Venus Blazing series, definitely deserves to be performed by major orchestras on a regular basis. Listen here.
5. Linda Lister – Pleas to Famous Fairies. Released 18th June 2018.
Song Cycles by soprano and composer Linda Lister, the title cycle features pleas to such fairies as Ariel, Titania and Tinkerbell. Listen here.
6. Emilie Mayer – Symphony No. 4 and other major works by Chandos Records. Released 12th October 2018.
Major works from German Romantic composer Emilie Mayer. Absolutely gorgeous, forget Brahms, forget Mendelssohn. Just listen to Emile Mayer, this is Romantic music at its finest. Listen here.
7. Jessica Krash – Past Made Present. Released 26th March 2018.
Fantastic collection of chamber music by contemporary composer Jessica Krash. Several pieces for various chamber combos including flute and piano, solo cello, and soprano and piano. Strangely haunting music exploring the emotional connections between old and new. Listen here.
8. Ruth Gipps – Orchestral Works by BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Released 7th September 2018.
Prolific 20th Century composer. Symphonies 2 and 4 that feature on this disc along with the tone poems should be on every major orchestral programme at least once per year. Glorious music that’s just at that point between modern and contemporary. Music that’s melodic, intriguing and edgy but not too dissonant, wonderfully listenable. Listen here.
9. Stories For Our Time: Music for Trumpet by Women Composers – by Thomas Pfotenhauer and Vincent Fuh.
6 contemporary composers, 6 pieces, 1 amazing album. Listen here
10. Arlene Sierra – Butterflies Remember A Mountain.
Volume 3 of chamber music by Sierra composed between 1997 and 2013. The title piece was written for and played by the acclaimed Benedetti Elschenbroich Grynyuk Trio. Listen here.
There we are, that’s 10 of the best new releases.
Disclaimer: These are not specific rankings, not a Top 10, just 10 OF THE best releases of 2018. There are so many more awesome recordings out there. Recordings that are not on the list were not deliberately excluded, it’s not a judgement on other work merely an exploration of some of the brilliant and still unjustly neglected work that is out there.
I didn’t include above any of the fantastic albums I’ve played on the radio show on my album of the week section. 5/6 albums I featured since I started the show were new releases this year and are all phenomenal. Check these out below too.
- Nasty Women: Piano Music in the Age of Women’s Suffrage by Joanna Goldstein and Centaur Records.
Just the title alone demands a closer look. Love this album, it’s broad look at piano pieces by 14 American women composers in the first half of the 20th century. Something for everyone including late Romanticism, impressionism, American spirituals to ragtime, including works by Florence Price, Amy Beach and May Aufderheide. Available to listen and buy at Presto Classical here.
2. In The Theatre of Air from NMC Recordings and champions of women composers Marsyas Trio. Featuring 5 contemporary British composers and one historical American composer including legends Thea Musgrave and Judith Weir with rising stars Georgia Rodgers and Laura Bowler. Available to listen and buy on Presto Classical here.
3. Four Women by pianist Samantha Ege, featuring music from 4 spectacular women composers including the American Florence Price and Margaret Bonds, Vitezslava Kapralova and a world premiere recording of Ethel Bilsland’s The Birthday Party, written 100 years ago. Available to listen and buy from CDBaby here.
4. Homage by Drama Musica, featuring soprano Susie Georgiadis and pianist Angiolina Sensale. This amazing new release brings to life songs by women composers from Italy and Brazil including Chiquinha Gonzaga and Geni Sadero. Some of the pieces are over 100 years old and are only just receiving their world premier recordings on this album. The album also features a protest song from contemporary Brazil composer Catarina Domenici. Overseen by founder Gabriella Di Laccio this is a spectacular record. Listen and buy here.
5. Magic Lantern Tales by contemporary English composer Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Magic Lantern Tales is a beautiful collection of choral music. Listen here
Happy listening everyone and here’s to a more gender balanced 2019!