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women composers

  • Obscure Music Monday: Galos' Le Lac de Côme

    Giselle Galos (commonly known as C. Galos) was an obscure 19th century pianist and composer, born in France.  Very little is known about her; she didn't perform in public, and mainly published her works under the name "C. Galos" and no one knew if they were a woman or man. Some earlier works were found however, with the name "Madmoiselle Giselle Galos" or "Giselle Galos", therefore confirming they were written by a woman.  The majority of her works are salon pieces for piano, such as Le Lac de Côme.

    This piece is a very typical salon piece; it starts with an arpeggiated line in the left hand, before a pleasing and sentimental melody comes in. It makes no grand musical statements, nor does it have any innovative harmonic work, but is pleasing nonetheless. The work lays well on the piano, and is short and sweet. It makes for a fun piece to enjoy yourself, or perhaps in the company of friends.

    Sadly, we can't find any recordings of this work. Hopefully that changes soon!

  • Obscure Music Monday: Beach's Bal Masqué

    Amy Marcy Cheney Beach (Sept. 5, 1867 - December 27, 1944) was an American composer and pianist.  Extremely gifted from a young age, Beach's talents seemed to run in the family, with various members playing instruments or singing, and showing great aptitude for music. Continue reading

  • Obscure Music Monday: Szymanowska's Fantaisie in F

    Maria Szymanowska (Dec. 14, 1789 - July 25, 1831) was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist. Born in Warsaw, the history of her musical studies is largely unknown, but we know that she gave her first public recitals in Paris and Warsaw in 1810. Just five years after her first public recital, her professional career began, with tours all throughout Europe, with a few performances in private for royalty. One of the first virtuosos of the 19th century, her playing was well received. She was also one of the first pianists to play performances from memory, far ahead of Liszt and Clara Schumann. After touring for a while, she relocated to Moscow, and then St. Petersburg, where she was court pianist to the tsarina.

    Szymanowska mainly wrote music for piano, thought she also wrote a few songs and chamber pieces. Her work is usually stylistically described as stile brilliante and of Polish Sentimentalism, and many scholars have debated her influence on Chopin. Continue reading

  • Obscure Music Monday: Boulanger's Two Pieces for Violin and Piano

    Marie-Juliette Olga "Lili" Boulanger (Aug. 21, 1893 - March 15, 1918) was a French composer, and  the younger sister of the famed composition teacher/composer Nadia Boulanger. Born in Paris, Lili Boulanger was a child prodigy; at the age of two, it was discovered that she had perfect pitch. Her parents, both musicians, encouraged her musical education, and she would accompany her sister Nadia to classes at the Paris Conservatory, studying music theory and organ. Her sister Nadia was one of her teachers, and later on studied with Paul Vidal, George Caussade, and Gabriel Faure, who was particularly impressed by her abilities. Lili would go on to win the Prix de Rome at the age of 19; she was the first woman to ever win the composition prize. Tragically, she died at the young age of 24. Continue reading

  • Obscure Music Monday: Schumann's Piano Trio

    Clara Schumann (Sept. 13, 1819 - May 20, 1896) was a German composer and pianist, born to musical parents in Leipzig. Her father was well-known throughout Leipzig, where he sold and repaired pianos, and gave piano lessons. She took lessons from him, and he also made sure she was educated in music theory, counterpoint, harmony, and composition. She had her first recital at age 10, and had a wildly successful career as a pianist from that point onward, receiving praise from audiences and critics alike. The day before she turned 21 she married composer Robert Schumann. Continue reading

  • Obscure Music Monday: Smyth's Three Moods of the Sea

    Dame Ethel Mary Smyth DBE (April 22,1858 - May 8, 1944) was an English composer and member of the women's suffrage movement. The fourth of eight children, Smyth showed a keen interested in music as a career. Her father, a major general in the Royal Artillery, was not particularly supportive, though that didn't stop her from pursuing music anyway. Smyth studied privately, and then attended the Leipzig Conservatory. She wrote orchestral and choral works, chamber pieces, operas, and works for piano.  Sadly deafness brought her musical career to an end, but between 1919 and 1940, she found herself an author, writing ten successful books. Continue reading

  • Obscure Music Monday: Szymanowska's Nocturne in A-flat Major for Piano 3 Hands

    Maria Szymanowska (Dec. 14, 1789 - July 25, 1831) was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist. Born in Warsaw, the history of her musical studies is largely unknown, but we know that she gave her first public recitals in Paris and Warsaw in 1810. Continue reading

  • Obscure Music Monday: Menter's Romance

    Sophie Menter (July 29, 1846 - Feb. 23, 1918) was a German pianist and composer, born to musical parents. At the age of fifteen she soloed with an orchestra, and her concertizing after that took her all around Germany and Switzerland. Continue reading

  • Obscure Music Monday: Bauer's Night in the Woods

    Marion Bauer (Aug. 15, 1882 - Aug. 9, 1955) was an American composer, music critic, teacher, and writer. Born in Walla Walla, Washington, she was the youngest of seven children. Her father noticed her musical inclinations and she began studying piano  with her elder sister Emilie, who was 17 years older than her.  Continue reading

  • Obscure Music Monday: Farrenc's Mélodie pour le Piano

    Louise Farrenc (May 31, 1804 - Sept. 15, 1875) was a French pianist, teacher, and composer. Born in Paris, she started the piano at an early age, and later on also showed a knack for composition. At the age of fifteen, her parents let her study composition with Anton Reicha at the Paris Conservatory. Later on she embarked upon a successful concert career, started a publishing house with her husband, and eventually became a Professor of Piano at the Paris Conservatory.  Continue reading

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