After my last posting “Clara Schumann – the only woman?!” (the next one down the page) my brother sent me an email with a link showing hundreds of female Classical composers. I took this as a sign! I needed to research and listen. How many of these female composers were considered to be very accomplished? On a par with the men? Why weren’t any of them included in that ‘Boy’s Club’ list of “Great Composers”? It was a fantastic journey into territory I knew nothing about.
The two big questions for you dear listener (and for me too; since I haven’t listened really carefully yet after acquiring the pieces – but I will!) 1) Can you hear the same ‘greatness’ in some of the pieces? 2) Can you detect a subtle (or maybe not so subtle) colour/tone/vibe of the Feminine Principle?
Under each composer is a link to Biographical information.
Since a reviewer I used in my research declared: “Madame Farrenc is certainly the greatest woman-composer in the history of classical music.” I’ll save her until last; along with some germain notes on the issue.
Marianne von Martines (Martinez) (May 4, 1744 – December 13, 1812) A student of Haydn. You can certainly hear it!
Sonata number 3 in A maj. all 3 movements (approx. 14 minutes)
Fanny Mendelssohn (14 November 1805 – 14 May 1847)
Lied no. 3 op. 4 Andante Cantabile
Lied no. 4 op. 5 Lento Apassionatto
Teresa Carreno (December 22, 1853 – June 12, 1917)
String Quartet in B minor – II. Andante
Clara Schumann (13 September 1819 – 20 May 1896)
Variacions op. 20
Cecile Chaminade (August 8, 1857 – April 13, 1944)
La Morena (Caprice Espangnole), Op. 67
Amy Beach (September 5, 1867 – December 27, 1944)
(if this wasn’t composed under a strong Rachmaninoff influence – I’ll eat my hat!)
Piano Concerto in C sharp minor, op. 45 III Largo
Lili Boulanger (21 August 1893–15 March 1918)
Dun vieu jardin
Louise Farrenc (May 31, 1804 – September 15, 1875)
Besides the wikipedia reference above, I found another review of her life and music in which the author declared: Madame Farrenc is certainly the greatest woman-composer in the history of classical music. In this review it was pointed out how highly regarded she was at the time, and the great composers she was associated with, or who admired her work. (she studied with Hummell, Anton Reicha and was admired by Schumann and Berlioz) SO? Why didn’t she join the ranks of The Greats? Some of the reasons are in the Wikipedia article, about half way down, titled ‘ Why did Farrenc remain unknown as a composer?’
But what about the elephant in the room?! Male Chauvinist attitudes? “…the best known Paris critic of the 19th Century, François-Joseph Fétis (1784–1871) included her name in his important lexicon “Universal Biography of Musicians” and stressed her “quasi masculine gift for musical organisation”. (*”quasi masculine gift”?!) The same critic who proclaimed her the greatest woman composer, in the next breath states: Notwithstanding her evident extraordinary artistic and technical qualities, Madame Farrenc’s works do not show the presence of this invisible and indefinable spark, which marks the difference between the great talent and the genius.”
Aha .. the invisible and indefinable spark. What’s a woman to do?!
Farrenc Long Play 24 minutes long
Sonata No. 1, Op. 37: II. Poco adagio
Etudes opus 26 – No 18 en re bemol majeur
Nonette pour cordes et vents en mi bemol majeur Adagiol
Variations concertantes sur une mélodie suisse, Op. 20
Improptu en Si Menor
Nonette pour cordes et vents en mi bemol majeur Adagio