Showing posts with label International Women's Day. Show all posts
Showing posts with label International Women's Day. Show all posts

Thursday, March 08, 2018

International Women's Day: Is classical music blazing a trail?

It's International Women's Day and in the musical world it's the most exciting one yet. While protests and marches and the movements #MeToo and #TimesUp are raising awareness and causing at least the start of real shift in attitudes, the musical world seems to be going a step further - because everywhere you look, powerful organisations are making commitments to doing something positive to change this enduring societal mess once and for all.



• Today Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance unveils an ambitious plan called Venus Blazing. Essentially, they are abolishing all-male concerts.

They pledge that music by women of the past and the present will make up more than half of its concert programmes in the 2018-19 academic year. It also intends to build up an online database of composing women and expand its library to make sure the students have access to the material.

Harriet Harman is launching the programme and says: "Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance is strongly committed to diversity in all elements and it has a mission to constantly challenge the status quo. Venus Blazing is a great example of just how it can do this. It will encourage and inspire its students - many of whom will go on to shape the future of the performing arts - to engage with the historic issue of gender imbalance in music by women, and ensure that it does not continue into the next generation. I welcome this bold initiative to raise awareness of the disparity that has long existed in music and shine a light on music that has so frequently been overlooked. I am also greatly looking forward to hearing some of the musical treasures by women I might not otherwise have had the chance to hear in performance."

The programme has been spearheaded by Dr Sophie Fuller, programme leader of TLCMD's Masters programmes and author of The Pandora Guide to Women Composers: Britain and the United States, and Jonathan Tilbrook, head of orchestral studies. Sophie Fuller says: "It is widely recognised that music created by women - whatever the genre - is heard much less often than music created by men. In past centuries, it was difficult for women to find a meaningful musical education or get equal access to performance opportunities, but there have always been those who leapt over any obstacles placed in their way. We at Trinity Laban want our students and their audiences to hear their often powerful work. It is our duty to celebrate women's music, not just for one year, but to provide the structures, support and encouragement to ensure that this is a lasting legacy for all future musicians and music lovers."

Among performance highlights is Thea Musgrave's opera A Christmas Carol (December 2018), symphonies by Louise Farrenc and Grace Williams performed by the Trinity Laban Symphony Orchestra, an exploration of the music of Trinity Laban alumna Avril Coleridge-Taylor (the daughter of Samuel, incidentally) and music by current Trinity Laban composition students and staff, including Soosan Lolavar, Laura Jurd and Deirdre Gribbin - whose Violin Concerto 'Venus Blazing' has given the name to this celebration.

This development really is groundbreaking, because it often looks as if it's at conservatoire level that the rot sets in.  More girls than boys take up music as children and teenagers, but that has somehow not translated into those who emerge with a high level of success in the profession. Therefore something must be going wrong in the middle.

Looking back, it strikes me that at university I was never auditioned, examined, interviewed or indeed taught by anyone who wasn't a man. My own aspirations to compose were snuffed out by the university patriarchy (or whatever it was) within one month. We never studied any pieces of music by women. The place was awash with would-be conductors, some of whom have done very well since and deservedly so - but any woman who wanted to conduct had to struggle to make headway. And was there sexual abuse going on? Oh blimey. I'm sure we used to joke about the guy who was a Handle Specialist.

So at student level everything needs attention, from the makeup of the boards (which play a larger role behind the scenes than one might realise) to the membership of the faculties to, as above, the approach to programming and role models. This does need addressing, and it needs it now.

• Today BBC Radio 3 is broadcasting 24 hours of music written by women. Every note you'll hear today was set down by a composer who was female. Listen here. Just been listening there to Francesca Caccini - fabulous stuff, sung by Ruby Hughes. Now listening: Ruth Crawford Seeger.

• This week we've already looked at the Keychange project from the PRS for Music Foundation, in which 45 international festivals have committed to 50:50 programming of music by men and women and the Proms agreed that half of all its new commissions would be by composing women.

• We've also talked to conductor Laurence Equilbey, who conducts Louise Farrenc's Symphony No.3 at the Barbican tonight with her Insula Orchestra, plus the Beethoven Triple Concerto with a dynamic trio of female soloists. I'm going along. And to Silvina Milstein, whose music is featured in the Lontano concert at King's College London tonight.

• The WOW Festival at the Southbank Centre is in full flood - the annual Mirth Control music and comedy evening, compèred by the incomparable Sandi Toksvig and conducted by Alice Farnham, is on Sunday. It's called 'Arts Over Tit'.

• Here's an important editorial from The Guardian, on the fact that promoting music by women is good for everybody because it widens the talent pool and doesn't threaten excellence but promotes it.

• Jude Kelly is leaving her post as artistic director of the Southbank Centre later in the spring to concentrate on running WOW full time. She has also introduced the WOW Women in Creative Industries Awards - the result, I understand, of the suggestion with which I went to her about four years ago, that we need awards for women in music to help blaze this trail. (Now we may also need one specifically for women in classical music.) I do think these things make a difference because they become emblems of success, helping to establish role models and being a high-profile example of what people can achieve, putting those achievements on very public display.

• Yesterday we had a fabulous day in which the Women in Music Breakfast at the Southbank Centre was attended by a huge number of women and a goodly number of men too, which is really important - if we don't get men on our side, the battle for change is impossible.

• And then an evening at the Institut Français, part of its Women Shaping the World series, in which I served as moderator to a seriously inspiring panel of conductors Claire Gibault and Alice Farnham, composer and conductor Eimear Noone and director of Harrison Parrott Lydia Connolly. The discussion went with real pizzazz. Claire told us that if we think things are bad for women conductors in Britain, we should just try France - in the UK 6 per cent of conductors represented by agents are female, but in France only 4 per cent - and that it is much more difficult to be a great musician than to be a politician (she spent 5 years as an MEP). As for being a moderator, the only snag, I discovered, is that none of us were remotely moderate. Huge thanks to the Institut Français for a smashing occasion, and wonderful cheese and wine.

Have a wonderful day, my sisters and brothers. We can do this.

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Monday, March 05, 2018

Whatever happened to...Rebecca Clarke?

This Thursday is International Women's Day and the music world is going gratifyingly bananas over it. Here at JDCMB we have already had posts about two of the events and there will be more during the course of this week (and no doubt beyond).


Today I would like to explore the fate of one of Britain's finest historical women composers, someone whose work remains underrated and deserves much better: Rebecca Clarke (pictured above).

Recently I was asked to write some programme notes about Clarke's Dumka, or Duo Concertante, which was being given at the Wigmore Hall by Henning Kraggerud, Natalie Clein and Christian Ihle Hadland, so I spent a little time reading about her. Please visit the Rebecca Clarke Society for more...

Briefly, here are 10 things that happened to her.

1. Born in Harrow to a German mother and American father, she studied violin at the Royal Academy of Music until her harmony teacher proposed marriage. She left.

2. She became a pupil of Charles Stanford at the Royal College of Music instead - his first female student. Unfortunately her father then threw her out of the house and cut off her financial support.

3. She therefore had to leave the RCM and began to earn her living as a professional violist, playing in Henry Wood's Queen's Hall Orchestra. She was one of its first female members.

4. In 1916 she moved - alone - to the USA, where she drew notice three years later when her Viola Sonata tied in first place at a competition at the Berkshire Festival of Chamber Music, sponsored by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. She termed this her "one little whiff of success". Coolidge commissioned her Rhapsody for Cello and Piano in 1923.


5. The Viola Sonata, still one of her best-known works, impressed people so much that they couldn't believe it was written by a woman. It was rumoured that 'Rebecca Clarke' must be a pseudonym for a man and it was even suggested that the piece was really by Ernest Bloch. Clarke did not speak up to refute those expressed doubts regarding her genuine authorship of the work until 1977.

6. By 1924 she was back in London and becoming a sought-after violist on the chamber music circuit. She worked a lot with our old friends Jelly d'Arányi and Adila Fachiri. She was a founder member in 1927 of the English Ensemble. However, her composition began to take a back seat.

7. World War II: she returned to America, lived with her brothers and took a post as a nanny. But - was her creativity drying up? Nope. The Duo Concertante dated from about 1941.

8. She married an old friend from her RCM days, the pianist James Friskin, who was on the faculty at the Juilliard School in New York.

9. As late as her nineties, she returned to some of her old pieces and reworked them. She died in 1979 aged 93.

10. Despite increasing recognition of her work at long last, much of her music remains unpublished. Several works were issued in 1998-9. More remains. In fact she wrote more than 100 compositions. In her lifetime, only 20 were published.

Here's hoping that more will emerge, sooner rather than later.

Here's the Viola Sonata played by no lesser team than Gerard Caussé and Katya Apekisheva at the Holywell Music Room in Oxford a couple of years ago. Enjoy.






Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Happy International Women's Day!

Thought for the day: let's persuade more of the great male performers to play some music by women!

If female composers are going to achieve equal recognition to male ones, we need men to play their music. After all, women performers play men's music. And one sometimes has the impression it can be a little bit tricky [British understatement -ed.] to persuade blokes to learn the material in question. So, chaps, I'd like to offer you suggestions for some very fine role models.


1. KRYSTIAN ZIMERMAN PLAYS GRAZYNA BACEWICZ (1909-1969): PIANO SONATA NO.2
I remember Zimerman mentioning Grazyna Bacewicz to me in an interview at least 20 years ago - he was determined to champion her works beyond Poland. He proved as good as his word.



2. PHILIPPE JAROUSSKY SINGS POLDOWSKI (1879-1932) 'L'HEURE EXQUISE'
Irene Poldowski was actually Régine Wieniawski, daughter of the violinist. Quite a life. Check her out.



-- 2.2 WHAT A HERO - JAROUSSKY SINGS PAULINE VIARDOT (1821-1910) TOO. 'HAVANAISE'




3. GIDON KREMER & CHARLES DUTOIT PLAY SOFIA GUBAIDULINA (b.1931) : OFFERTORIUM




4. MATT SHARP & DOMINIC HARLAN PLAY ERROLLYN WALLEN (b.1958):
'Dervish' from The Girl in my Alphabet




5. GREGOR PIATIGORSKY PLAYS LILI BOULANGER (1893-1918): Nocturne
Recorded in 1936. Heard since? I hope so...




6. NICHOLAS DANIEL PLAYS THEA MUSGRAVE (b.1928)
His first CD was of her oboe works.





There's plenty more where this comes from, but we still need to keep proving it.



Monday, March 06, 2017

9 of the best musical ways to mark International Women's Day

International Women's Day, 8 March, has risen to become a big deal in music programming these past few years - championing, not before time, the creativity and achievements of women musicians over the years, decades, centuries, often, and still often, against the odds. Here are a few highlights of the celebrations taking place around Britain this week.

• The UK premiere of Fanny Mendelssohn's 'Easter Sonata' when Sofya Gulyak plays it on Wednesday. BBC Radio 3 will be broadcasting the performance live from the Royal College of Music at 1pm. The formidably gifted Sofya Gulyak is the only woman ever to have won first prize in the Leeds International Piano Competition. More about the sonata - which was mistaken for a work by Felix for years - and Fanny's 4xgreat-granddaughter Sheila Hayman's efforts on its behalf here.

• Plenty more on BBC Radio 3 this week for International Women's Day: they are playing only music by women on Wednesday 8 March. Catch up on new recordings of music by women with Alexandra Coghlan on Record Review, and an exploration of the works of Dame Ethel Smyth from Kate Kennedy. Now available on the iPlayer. And Composer of the Week is Barbara Strozzi. This is all part of some very welcome, intensive programming focusing on female composers. Full listing for Wednesday here.

• The Southbank Centre's week-long Women of the World Festival launches on Tuesday 7 March, celebrates women's achievements everywhere and surveys the obstacles that still keep them from fulfilling their potential. Musical highlights include the Women of the World Orchestra conducted by Jessica Cottis at the annual Mirth Control evening hosted by Sandi Toksvig. More here.

• Diana Ambache, head of the Ambache Charitable Trust which offers grants to aid the promotion of female composers, has started a record label and the third release is being launched on Wednesday. It's chamber music by the fabulous Polish composer Grażyna Bacewicz, including the Quartet for Four Violins, Trio for Oboe, Violin and Cello, Theme and Variations for Violin and Piano and more. Details here. More to read from Diana on the topic of women composers here.

Dobrinka Tabakova. Photo: Sussie Ahlburg/ECM Records

• St George's Brandon Hill, Bristol, presents a programme featuring the music of the dynamic young composer Dobrinka Tabakova, performed by the very starry Tabakova Players (Alexander Sitkovetsky and Roman Mints, violins; Maxim Rysanov and Philip Dukes, violas; Kristine Blaumane and Dora Kokas, cellos; Stacey Watton, bass; Ashley Wass, piano/harpsichord). Programme includes excerpts from her Grammy-nominated ECM album 'String Paths'. Dobrinka gives a pre-concert talk at 6.15pm. It's the culmination of a whole day of IWD events at St George's. More details here.

• Holywell Music Room, Oxford: soprano Claire Booth, cellist Natalie Clein and pianist Anna Tilbrook present a programme including music by Rebecca Clarke, Lili and Nadia Boulanger both, Elizabeth Lutyens, Clara Schumann, Roxanna Panufnik, Charlotte Bray and a new commission from Deborah Pritchard with text by Jeanette Winterson. Booking and details here.

Ruby Hughes
• Kings Place, London: soprano Ruby Hughes and Friends offer a magnificent baroque programme entitled Heroines of Love and Loss, launching their album of the same name. Music includes works ny Francesca Caccini, Lucrezia Vizzana, Barbara Strozzi, Claudia Sessa, Antonia Bembo, Henry Purcell and John Bennet, as well as a song, 'O Death Rock Me Asleep', attributed to Anne Boleyn. Grab a ticket here.

• Hull University has a full day of events for IWD and as part of this a tribute to Pauline Oliveros is being given in a 4pm concert of her works. More details here.

• Cardiff, Hoddinott Hall: The BBC National Orchestra and Choir of Wales under its principal guest conductor Xian Zhang presents the world premiere of a new choral work, Speak Out, by Kate Whitely, which sets to music the 2013 speech by Malala Yousafzai about the right of every girl to an education. It's a commission from BBC Radio 3. In the same concert the remarkable Latvian Skride sisters, Baibe and Lauma, play Mendelssohn's Double Concerto for violin and piano and the programme ends with Zemlinsky's fairy-tale tone-poem The Little Mermaid. More here.

This are just a few selections, with a classical focus - there is much, much, much, much more out there for IWD in many different genres and countless spheres. And you can even go and hear music by men if you prefer. While the day-long celebration is snowballing into a week, sometimes longer, the challenge now is for women's music and musicianship to be celebrated not only in one patch per year, but across the board, all the time, to the point that special celebrations are no longer needed because equal representation will be a no-brainer, something that would simply be taken for granted. The more women are writing music and giving performances, the better for everyone, because there will be more music of still greater range, offering us all even more choice and even higher standards. Meanwhile, it's worth remembering that forecasts now say the gender pay gap won't close until the year 2186. That's how far we still have to go.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

How to mark International Women's Day. Not.



What do you notice about this programme?

• It's taking place on 8 March and the poster says it's a special concert "From Haydn to Piazzolla, to mark International Women's Day..."
• It consists of music entirely by men.
• It is led by a male violinist/conductor.
• The orchestra is all-male, unless there are some players whose names aren't listed here, since on the website picture I can see maybe two or three amid the massed players.
• The music includes "Hymn to Beauty" and some sexy tangos. [Just what we always wanted, yes?]

Beggars belief, really. Anyway, I'll be at the Southbank for the Women of the World Festival, in which events include Strength in Song - Women in Opera, a lively exploration of the power of the female singing voice, with some of ENO's brightest young singers...



UPDATE: The Barbican explains that it's a hall hire with external marketing. More here.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

International Women's Day: Violin Legend #1

This recording is pretty good quality for 1928. This was the year in which votes in the UK were extended to include all women over 21 (not only those over 30). Here is the incredible Jelly d'Arányi - pupil of Hubay, great-niece of Joseph Joachim, inspirer of Ravel's Tzigane, Vaughan Williams's Concerto Accademico, certain bits of Bartók and much more - playing Brahms's Hungarian No.8. Happy International Women's Day!

Saturday, March 07, 2015

International Women's Day: World Piano Legends #2

Just found online the radio broadcast from 1963 in which John Amis interviews the glorious Dame Myra Hess, whose cut-glass accent and irrepressible humour are firmly in place. She remembers what happened when she took a "wrong turning" in Brahms 2 with Sir Henry Wood in 1908, a concert for which she received the "large fee" of 3 Guineas. "Sometimes I was ten and six to the good!" she declares of her mother's book-keeping.

Beecham, she says, was "impossible, because you never knew when you were going to get a rehearsal". And he was "terribly naughty", she adds, performing without the score in music that he didn't always know terribly well.

She reveals, too, that she used to play her own cadenzas, but the manuscripts were now "destroyed and burned". And she talks a good bit about the National Gallery wartime concerts.

Fab quote: "If Mozart isn't spontaneous, it's dead."



Friday, March 06, 2015

International Women's Day continues apace

Great to see International Women's Day really flying this year. There's such a lot going on that I feel quite boggled. Of course, one looks forward to the day when women's equal representation, recognition, pay and respect are taken for granted as human rights and none of this special stuff will be necessary any more. Sad to reflect that instead we're thanking our lucky stars that we live in a part of the world where we have the freedom to have this festival.

If you're in London, get yourself to the Southbank for the WOW Festival - Women of the World - culminating in the annual Mirth Control concert on Sunday night. It features Alice Farnham and Sian Edwards conducting an all-female orchestra in rare works by female composers including Florence Price, plus appearances by amazing singer Angel Blue, the brilliant West End star Sharon D Clarke, the marvellous young musician Ayanna Witter-Johnson, ace comedian Sarah Millican and more. Sandi Toksvig is compère.

Explore the full WOW programme here.



Over on BBC Radio 3 the celebratory programming started earlier this week and extends into next as well. UPDATE: fabulous article here by the R3 presenter Sara Mohr-Pietsch covering this ground and more.

Here is their line-up for the weekend and next week. On Sunday it's the entire day.

Saturday 7 March
CD Review (0900-1215)
Andrew McGregor will be Building a Library on the Clara Schumann Piano Trio with pianist and broadcaster David Owen Norris
Music Matters (1215-1300)
Sara Mohr Pietsch presents a package examining how the world has changed for women writing music across the centuries
Sunday 8 March – International Women’s Day
Geoffrey Smith's Jazz (0000-0100)
Geoffrey Smith presents a portrait of American jazz singer, composer, pianist and actress Carmen McRae
Through the Night (0100-0700)
Through the Night broadcasts music exclusively written by female composers
Breakfast (0700-0900)
A special edition presented by Clemency Burton-Hill
Sunday Morning (0900-1100)
A special edition presented by Rob Cowan and Sarah Walker
Live Concert from the BBC Radio Theatre (1100-1300)
Suzy Klein presents a concert of music by Fanny Mendelssohn, Clara Schumann and English composer and violist Rebecca Clarke live from the BBC Radio Theatre (1100-1300) with performances from Radio 3 New Generation Artists Lise Berthaud (viola) and Kitty Whatley (mezzo soprano)
Private Passions (1300-1400)
Michael Berkeley talks to composer Anna Meredith
The Early Music Show (1400-1500)
Lucie Skeaping explores the life and work of Italian Baroque singer and composer Barbara Strozzi
Choral Evensong (1500-1600)
A service from King’s College Cambridge with music composed by female composers
The Choir (1600-1700)
A live edition of with a performance of a new commission by young composer Rhiannon Randle by St Catherine’s Choir
Sunday Feature: From Convent to Concert Hall (1845-1930)
Dr Kate Kennedy tells the story of four string players who were pioneers in different eras, from the 18th to the 20th century with contributions from violinist Margaret Faultless and cellist Julian Lloyd Webber
Radio 3 Live in Concert (1930-2200)
Augusta Holmes: Andromede
Boulanger: D’un matin de Printemps
Tailleferre: Concerto for Two Pianos, Mixed Chorus, Saxophones and Orchestra
Chaminade: Konzertstucke
Mélanie Bonis: Trois Femmes de Legende
Katie Derham presenter
Noriko Ogawa piano
Pascal & Ami Roge piano duet
BBC National Chorus of Wales
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Jessica Cottis conductor
Drama on 3 (2200)
Broadcast premiere of Sophocles’ Electra starring Dame Kristin Scott Thomas
Monday 9 March – Friday 13 March
Composer of the Week (Monday-Friday, 1200-1300)
Donald Macleod interviews five female composers under the age of 35 - Charlotte Bray, Anna Clyne, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Hannah Kendall and Dobrinka Tabakova.



Friday, March 08, 2013

Seven - no, EIGHT - things to do on International Women's Day

1. Go to the eclectic Women of the World Festival at the Southbank. Among musically-oriented treats today are Jessye Norman (yes), speaking at 4.30pm this afternoon; and tonight, the OAE with Marin Alsop and soprano Emma Bell in a delicious programme of Mozart, Beethoven, Weber and Schumann, part of the Queens, Heroines and Ladykillers series.

2. Go to the UK premiere of Written on Skin by composer George Benjamin and librettist Martin Crimp, at the Royal Opera House. It is a contemporary masterpiece and, although it's by two men, the story is very much about the sexual emancipation of a woman in the 13th century. I talked to its director, Katie Mitchell, about that, and the article should hopefully be out tomorrow. (Not going to see it until 18th, but I've heard the recording from Aix and found it absolutely amazing. My chat with George about the music for the ROH website is here.)

3. Spend a little time celebrating the music of women composers over the centuries whose work was discouraged, disguised or suppressed, unless it happened to be cute salon music for the home. And remember the ones who went right on ahead and did their own thing. 



4. Spend a little time remembering the great female performers of the past who knuckled down to work instead of knuckling under.



5. Listen to some music by the increasing raft of gifted, dedicated and proud women composers of today, whether on stage, screen, concert hall or multimedia. A reasonably random example, but one I've much enjoyed, is this mingling of space mission, dance, special effects and music by Errollyn Wallen in Falling.



6. Remember that today's greatest women performers simply cannot be bettered.



7. Reflect that it should not be necessary, in an ideal world, to add extra celebration to the achievements of women - in the classical music world as much as anywhere, and more than some - but with sexism so desperately ingrained in our culture, it is.

8. Remember that International Women's Day is all very well, but next we have to sort out the other 364 days of the year.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

International Women's Day - a little listening

As you know, it's International Women's Day - a concept I'm not all that mad about, since it implies that the men get the other 364, and this time 365 because it's a leap year.

Nevertheless, it's a great opportunity to note that great musicianship transcends all those issues. There's a major and ongoing problem with the bimbo-isation, if you'll pardon the term, of young musicians in particular: nobody has any illusions any more that young women have to be selected by agents, record companies and so on for their musicianship above their looks. The standout ones, however, can still win through. Here are an initial selection of just ten of my favourite musicians at the top today: solo instrumentalists at different stages of life whose artistry is exceptional. Please note that no particular order of ranking is implied in this selection - and I could easily have added another ten at the very least. Tomorrow: composers!

Meanwhile, at the Southbank Centre, the festival Women of the World is underway - more details here.

Now, prepare to be wowed...

MARTHA ARGERICH



MITSUKO UCHIDA



IDA HAENDEL

The Sibelius Violin Concerto. Embedding has been disabled - please click through for this amazing 1981 performance. http://youtu.be/BCvs_eWVw7g

ALINA IBRAGIMOVA



JULIA FISCHER



ALISA WEILERSTEIN



ANGELA HEWITT



YUJA WANG



JANINE JANSEN



TASMIN LITTLE