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Why Aren't There More Women Composers ?

   When we think about composers , we usually think of men .  Why are there no female  Beethovens , Mozarts ,  and Bachs ? 
Why do we almost always hear music by men alone  at concerts ?  The reasons cannot  be  explained by sexism alone , although sexism certainly has played a role in this . 

    There have been women composers from the very beginning of what we call  western classical music , centuries  ago .  And far more than  most people realize .  After googling a list of them , I found a list of hundrends of them going back nearly a  thousand years  ago to the present day .  Women composers from every corner of Europe ,  plus Americans ,Candians and Asians etc .  None of them household names , but some with  some reputation and  familiar to died in the wool classical music buffs .

    Pauline Viardot , Dame Ethyl Smyth , Amy Beach, Cecile Chaminade , Lili  Boulanger ,  Germaine Tailleferre , Louise Farrenc,  Grazyna Bacewicz ,  Ruth Crawford Seeger , Elisabeth Lutyens ,  ?   You've probably never heard of any of these women composers , but they all  had  some reputation in the past , and music by all  of them has been recorded . And numerous other women composers .

    Clara Schumann ( 1819 - 1896 ) was the wife of the great  Robert Schumann , and survived him by 40 years .  She was a renowned  pianist and a composer in her own wright .  Felix Mendelssohn's sister Fanny showed  considerable musical talent, and  also composed . But unfortunately , her  very proper family did not think it  appropriate for a young lady to compose, and some of her works were actually published  under her much more famous brother's name !

     Ethyl Smyth  of  England was probably the best known woman composer of  the late 19th and early 20th centuries , and  she was  actually awarded the title of Dame Ethyl Smyth .  Her opera "The Wreckers", her best known work ,  was successfully performed  all over  Europe and  England , and  a  recording of it was made  in London  some years ago .  She also has the distinction of be9ing the only women composer to have have  an opera performed  by the Metropolitan  opera , about a century ago .  It was in German and called  "Der Wald " (the forest ), but hs faded into oblivion since , like so mny other operas whether the composer was male or female .

     But in recent years ,  barriers to  to women  making successful careers have been  receding ,  and the glass  ceiling  is being shattered . There are now more women composers than ever before ,  and more young aspring women composers  studying in music schools everywhere .  It's no longer even news when an orchestra plays a work by a woman composer  any more  or an opera house  does an opera by one . 

    Kaaia  Saariaho of Finland (1952 -) is  one of  today's most widely performed composers , male or  female , and her music has been championed by such eminent conductors as her countryman  Esa-Pekka Salonen , Kent Nagano and others , and recorded .  Her opera "L'Amour  de Loin " (love from afar ) , set toa libretto in French, is the story of  medieval  love mong the troubadors , has had international acclain and has been available both on CD and DVD . 

     Jennifer Higdon  (1962 - )  has written numerous orchestrl works which have been performed by leading  orchestras all over America and elsewhere .  South Korea's  Unsuk Chin  hs written a highly etertaining opera based on  Alice in Wonderland , which can be found on DVD .

     Sofia Gubaidullina  , (1931 -)  is  Russia's best known woman composer , and her music has  been performed  all  over the world  and  has been championed by many eminent composers and instrumentalists .   Judith Weir (1954 -) is proably England's best known living woman composer . 

    This list barely scratches the surface . But one thing is certain ; it's a better time to be a woman composer than ever before .


Posted: Oct 29 2013, 09:40 PM by the horn | with no comments
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