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women composers

  • 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

  • Obscure Music Monday: Boulanger's Vieille Prière Bouddhique

    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: Chaminade's Avril s'éveille

    Cécile Louise Stéphanie Chaminade (Aug. 8, 1857 - April 13, 1944) was a French pianist and composer. Her first teacher was her mother, and she also took violin and compositions; sadly her father disapproved. Continue reading

  • Obscure Music Monday: Beach's Hermit Thrush At Eve

    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.

    Beach was exceptionally talented, having learned 40 songs around the age of one, and at two she was able to sing counter melodies. She taught herself to read at three, and composed some piano waltzes at age four. She began formal lessons with her mother at six, and was soon giving public recitals and performing her own music.  In 1875, her family moved from New Hampshire to Chelsea, Massachusetts, and instead of enrolling their talented daughter in a European conservatory, they chose to keep her training local. She studied piano along with harmony and counterpoint, but her thirst for knowledge was formidable. She did additional work on her own time outside of her studies. Continue reading

  • Obscure Music Monday: Boulanger's Hymne au Soleil

    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.

    Much of Boulanger's output was choral, including Hymne au Soleil This work for mixed choir, solo alto, and piano is around five minutes, and is beautifully intense. The work starts out with the piano playing quarter notes in each measure, adding on to each chord, before the choir comes in with an ascending line that reaches a peak, with the text praising and adoring the sun. After a long 6/4 section, it goes in to 3/4, and then the solo alto sings briefly in the 4/4/ section. This work is highly impressionistic, and the way Boulanger writes the chorus' ascending line is akin to the rising of the sun. It's a stunningly intriguing work!

    Here are some recordings of this wonderful work for you to enjoy!

    Orpheus Vokalensemble
    Philharmonia Chor Stuttgart

  • Obscure Music Monday: Amalia's Divertimento

    Anna Amalia of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (Oct. 24, 1739 - April 10, 1807) was a German princess and composer. As a patron of art and literature, she transformed her court in to an influential cultural center in Germany.  Continue reading

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