This month marks International Women’s Day. To celebrate the achievements of female composers we will be performing a special recital as part of Live at Lunch series at the Royal Opera House. We will be showcasing an array of exciting music by female composers from all over the world. The programme will include pieces by:
- Nadia Boulanger, a French composer, conductor and a teacher who taught some of the leading composers and musicians of the 20th century. She was also one of the first women to conduct some major orchestras in Europe as well as America, including world premieres of Igor Stravinsky.
- Rosy Wertheim, a Dutch composer and a pianist. Whilst composing and writing for a Dutch newspaper she was also studying composition in Paris and then Vienna. She later traveled to New York to give lectures and performances of her work. Having returned to Amsterdam just before the World War II, Wertheim continued giving secret concerts playing music by banned Jewish composers and managed to escape deportation herself by going into hiding.
- Rebecca Clarke, an English composer and a fantastic violist who is particularly well-known for her writing for the instrument. Having started a career as a solo and ensemble performer she toured around the world in 1922/23. Whilst on family visit in US at the outbreak of the World War II, she was unable to return to Britain and later moved to New York where she settled permanently. One of her close friends and colleagues was British cellist May Mukle who helped Clarke with arrangements of some of her pieces for cello. Rebecca Clarke later established the May Muckle Prize at the Royal Academy of Music which is still awarded annually to an outstanding cellist.
- Fanny Mendelssohn, late Fanny Hensel after her marriage, was a German pianist and a composer and an older sister of famous composer Felix Mendelssohn. She was an accomplished pianist who also showed an incredible talent for composing at an early age. Fanny Mendelssohn composed many solo piano pieces and songs and also chamber music pieces, including piano trio. Unfortunately she was limited in what she was able to achieve by prevailing attitudes towards women at the time which were shared both by her father and her brother. Some of her music was originally published under her brother’s name.
- Dame Ethel Smith, a well-known figure not just as a composer, but as a member of suffragette movement. Having joined the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1910, she mostly stopped composing to concentrate on helping Mrs Pankhurst. She wrote “The March of the Women” which became the anthem of the suffragette movement. She was arrested for taking part in some violent action by throwing stones and served two months in Holloway Prison where she was visited by her friend, English conductor Sir Thomas Beecham. She became the first female conductor to be awarded damehood later on.
As of today, most of the composers mentioned above are underrepresented in the current music scene. Our aim is to bring their works into the mainstream where possible. We would very much like for the audience to have a chance to hear their works, sometimes for the very first time, and to have an opportunity to judge their true merit for themselves.
We are grateful to the Royal Opera House for the opportunity to showcase these wonderful if somewhat forgotten works and are hoping to do them justice.
Please visit the Events page for more info.