Forgotten female composers to be given new life
Five large-scale works by women composers will be recorded
BBC Radio 3 has announced the names of five historical female composers whose works will be recorded as part of a project to bring them back into the spotlight.
The composers – Leokadiya Kashperova, Marianna Martines, Florence B Price, Augusta Holmès and Johanna Müller-Hermann – were chosen after being championed by academics studying their work. The five academics have now been invited to choose a major work to be recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3.
The works will be performed by BBC Orchestras and Choirs, and BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists, and premiered in International Women's Day 2018.
About the composers…
Leokadiya Kashperova (1872 – 1940) was a Russian pedagogue and pianist who wrote Romantic songs and instrumental music. She performed twice at London’s Aeolian Hall in 1907 and received very good reviews. Kashperova married one of her piano students, a twice-arrested and exiled Bolshevik revolutionary, and the couple was forced to flee to the Caucasus and then to Moscow. Kashperova’s role as a composer is almost completely unknown today, and she is recognised primarily as Stravinsky’s piano teacher.
Marianna Martines (1744 – 1813) was an Austrian composer, singer and pianist from a noble Neapolitan family. The large family house in Vienna where she grew up was also home to artists including the librettist Pietro Metastasio, and Joseph Haydn, then a struggling young composer. Composer and teacher Nicola Porpora was a frequent guest. Martines was a keyboard virtuoso and wrote extensively for her instrument, becoming a prodigy of Metasasio and several visiting composers, and attracting illustrious musicians to her regular salons (Mozart reportedly performed at one). Martines enjoyed fame throughout Europe in her lifetime, but has since had little recognition.
Florence B Price (1887 – 1953) was an award-winning symphonist from an affluent African-American family. Born in Arkansas, Price had her first music published by age 11. In 1903, she was accepted to the New England Conservatoire of Music, where she achieved a Double First and a piano teaching diploma. She was denied a place on the Music Teachers’ Association, however, because of her skin colour. In 1925 and 1927 Price won the Holstein prize, and her Symphony No. 1 in E minor was performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1932. Price achieved success at a time when restrictive Jim Crow laws were in place in the South, and the ‘Harlem Renaissance’ movement was taking flight.
Augusta Holmès (1847 – 1903) was a French composer of Irish descent. Discouraged by her parents, Holmès had to wait until their deaths to embark on a composing career. She had a large circle of artistic friends and admirers, including Liszt, Rossini, Saint-Saëns and Cézar Franck (who she studied with), and had five children with the poet Catulle Mendés. Holmès’s music was premiered at the 1889 Universal Exhibition, and in 1895 she was the first woman to have an opera premiered in Paris. She composed large-scale orchestral and choral works, writing a piece for 1,200 performers for the centenary of the French Revolution. The first recordings of Holmès’s music were made in 1994, but much of her catalogue remains undiscovered.
Johanna Müller-Hermann (1868 – 1941) was an Austrian composer and pedagogue. Originally a primary school teacher, she gave up this career after marriage. She was especially known for her orchestral music, chamber music and songs, and her use of subtle chromatic harmonies. Müller-Hermann studied composition under Alexander Zemlinsky and Josef Foerster, and took over as a theory and composition tutor at the New Vienna Conservatory in 1918 after Foerster left the post. Despite teaching there for more than twenty years, she is relatively unknown today and there are only a handful of recordings of her work, largely due to the suppression of progressive Viennese culture and the closure of the New Vienna Conservatory by the Nazis after 1938.
• 10 female composers you should know