As we come to the end of Women’s History Month 2017, for me it has been a month of discovering women composers of the Romantic and Impressionist era. I made it my goal to go to YouTube each day and find an unknown, to me, woman composer.
I started by putting in the name of French composer, Louise Farrenc (1804-1875) in the search area. I had known her name from my music history classes. Several times I listened to her Symphony #3 then went on to her Symphony #1 and chamber music. Over and over I kept asking myself why her symphonies are not performed by all orchestras whether conservatory or professional. These works are lyrical, full of emotion and major pieces of music that should be performed.
YouTube then brought up composer Dora Pejačević (1885-1923), an Hungarian/Croatian composer. I listened to her Symphony #4 in F# Minor and her Piano Concerto in G Minor. Again, the question……….why are her works not performed? Her output of 106 compositions includes songs, piano pieces, chamber music and orchestral works. Beautiful romantic works draw the listener into her creative musical journey.
Next up, came the Piano Concerto of German Romantic composer, Emilie Mayer (1812-1883). What a surprise. She composed eight symphonies, chamber music, lieder and concert overtures. Such talent and again beautiful music. WHY? …..you may finish the question.
A piano sonata written by Valborg Aulin (1860-1928), a Swedish pianist and composer was on YouTube’s list. The strength and intensity of this sonata was compelling. Along with her piano compositions are lieder, organ works and string quartets.
As a friend of mine said about YouTube and listening to all the wonderful performances available, you feel guilty that you have not paid to either buy the CD, download the music or attend a concert where these works are being performed. Yet, YouTube has, for me, become a learning tool and one which I appreciate greatly. My mission is to continue finding these unknown, to me, women composers and listen, listen, listen.
Most important, I intend to read more about these four women composers and champion their music as much as I am able. Then, I must add a big thank you to the musicologists and performers who found the scores to these women composer’s works and recorded them. The time and effort to do all that work is an act of love and dedication. THANK YOU!
There may be a day when the gender neutral English word “composer” is just what it says. In the meantime - research women composers, listen to their music, buy their music, perform their music, attend concerts of their music and become an active advocate for women in music.