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Playing: Trio for piano and strings (Op. 1'1) in E flat major by Ludwig van Beethoven
BBC Radio 3

Elisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre

To mark International Women’s Day on Sunday 8 March we’re celebrating female composers both past and present. There are 6000 women composers in history, so why can most of us only name a handful? We as a station can’t solve the imbalances of the classical music industry - which inevitably reflect historic societal attitudes to women generally - but it's very important to take the time to explore the issues.

We will be celebrating today’s wealth of female talent and creativity and also championing history’s great trailblazers who helped pave the way for them. As well as recognisable names such as Fanny Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann we look at slightly lesser known names from history such as Barbara Strozzi and Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre who managed to make a name for themselves in a male-dominated world, alongside a range of composers working today including Charlotte Bray, Anna Clyne, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Hannah Kendall and Dobrinka Tabakova.

Our celebration isn’t about discounting or banishing male composers either; composer Anna Meredith includes music written by men in her Private Passions selection of music that has inspired her. Male presenters will be involved in the programming and male figures from the classical music industry including conductors Edward Gardner and Harry Christophers will also throughout the day champion the music of women composers they particularly admire.

However, this is certainly a focus on female creativity and to have a whole day of programming dedicated to the music written and chosen by women (including a Through the Night of music exclusively written by women composers) and complementary programmes across two weeks is testament to the great wealth of female talent around today and across the centuries.

 

 

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  • Comment number 5. Posted by ann kelland

    on 15 Mar 2015 17:04

    A word of high praise and thanks for the excellent (surprisingly so) Composer of the Week: Five Under 35 - Contemporary British Women Composers.
    I had given up listening to C of the W as DM's scripts were just too cliched and on numerous occasions gratuitously unpleasant re 'the female' ( the comments on Alma Mahler and her memoirs spring to mind; they caused quite a stir in my academic circle - not a word on its and her merits and importance to so many researchers and artists, just that she was a bit of a whore and a compulsive liar to boot). Fair enough, we all realised DM didn't write his own scripts and indeed discovered he had a small team working for him, but once we realised this included a chap with EM (Everyday Misogyny) issues, well life's really too short to keep on listening and hoping. But I/we did decide to listen to this series because of the theme.
    Very glad we did.It was a joy. Well conceived and executed, and DM was very good wasn't he, not hiding his years but avoiding any condecension and clearly impressed by a lot of what he played. He interviewed all of them intelligently and cleverly (reminding me of an older Sean R of In Tune who does this so brilliantly.
    So more please Donald Mc! Perhaps its time to break free of the back-room boy(s) with a problem and enjoy exploring composers both female and male on your prog. More modern composers instead of Schubert yet again (and I admire Schubert hugely) would be a great boon. I wonder what others think?
    Incidentally, I have just ordered Dobrinka Tabakova's CD and more will follow after next pay-day! So thank you Radio 3.

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  • Comment number 4. Posted by BrightonEarlyMusic

    on 9 Mar 2015 14:31

    David - there are a number of festivals featuring women composer this year. London Festival of Baroque Music coming up in May, and in Brighton between 23rd Oct and 8th Nov we'll be featuring music by Hildegard of Bingen, Francesca Caccini, Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre and others as part of Brighton Early Music Festival (www.bremf.org.uk)

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  • Comment number 3. Posted by David Webster

    on 8 Mar 2015 11:45

    A few years ago your Saturday magazine programme featured the works of two French women of the nineteenth century: Mel (Melanie) Bonis and Louise Heredia Viardot (I think). They were strong, vigorous pieces (piano quintets or quartets, quite German). On numerous occasions I have asked to hear more of the work of these composers, and my requests are always met with, 'Oh, yes, we must...' and then nothing happens. Last year Donald MacLeod was asking for the names of composers who had not featured on Composer of the Week. I put forward their names. Nothing! In honour of International Women's Day, might you consider playing some of their work at some time, please. I haven't seen either of their names in your schedules (have I missed something?) - also, more Hildegard and more Lili B, please

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  • Comment number 2. Posted by David Webster

    on 8 Mar 2015 11:29

    What is going to be interesting is seeing what happens when the hurly burley's done. Will there be more women composers in the schedules? or will things go on as usual. Give it six months and then, if there is no change, we'll know that all this hype about women composers represents a real commitment on behalf of radio 3 or whether it is just pious clap trap

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  • Comment number 1. Posted by Pamela Blevins

    on 4 Mar 2015 13:53

    As we stand in the 15th year of the 21st century perhaps devoting this ONE day out of 365 to women composers will serve as an example of what should be done every day for women composers throughout time -- equal representation on our airwaves, in the concert hall and on recordings. We have come a long way since 1977 when I launched a lecture series I titled "Silent Destiny: The Woman Composer", but we still have a very long way to go before women are truly integrated into and equal in the world of classical music. At least after nearly 40 years of promoting women in music, I have finally felt it appropriate to change the title of my lectures to "Silent No More". Please see the online magazine "Signature: Women in Music" for in-depth articles and new discoveries about women who slipped into unjust obscurity at: http://www.maudpowell.org/signature/

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