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Femmes (Raphaela Gromes)

Raphaela Gromes (cello), Julian Riem (piano); Festival Strings Lucerne/Daniel Dodds (Sony Classical)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Works by Bizet, Lili Boulanger, Hildegard, Le Beau, Mozart, Purcell, C Schumann et al
Raphaela Gromes (cello), Julian Riem (piano); Festival Strings Lucerne/Daniel Dodds
Sony Classical 19658710712   115:10 mins (2 discs)


This features 23 female composers, from Hildegard to Billie Eilish, in vivacious performances. But, sadly, it plays into the very narrative it seeks to dispel: that female composers were only capable of producing trifles, revealing little originality or innovation. The optics are terrible: the longest single work here is the Carmen Fantasy by Georges Bizet.

It’s a case of quantity over quality: three tiny nocturnes, by Lili Boulanger, Cécile Chaminade and Henriëtte Bosmans, are delightful but do not reveal the talent of these composers, who wrote far greater works, in the case of Bosmans a significant Cello Sonata. Likewise Luise Adolpha Le Beau, whose sonata Steven Isserlis has recently and ravishingly introduced, or Bacewicz – now finally recognised for the radical potency of her string writing – here represented by a three-minute Mazovian Dance. The Italian Matilde Capuis (1913-2017) and Swede Laura Netzel (1839-1927) were new to me, but I learnt little from these generic miniatures.

There’s no denying these artists penned short pieces, often a result of the cultural and economic restrictions imposed on them, but so many broke free from that cage: where, for example, is Maconchy’s Epyllion, Saariaho’s Limen or Dobrinka Tabakova’s Cello Concerto? I love Gromes’s effervescent style, but what a missed opportunity!


Helen Wallace