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Troubles with Henry

Donald Macleod examines the significance of Ethel Smyth's relationships with writer and philosopher Henry Brewster and Empress Eugenie, widow of Napoleon III.

A reunion with Henry Brewster and London success for Ethel Smyth, with music from the Mass in D, the Serenade in D and Four Songs for voice and chamber ensemble.

Accounts of Dame Ethel Smyth cast her as a doughty figure, unafraid to flout convention. Born into an upper class Victorian family, the fact that Smyth wanted a professional career in music is exceptional in itself. Two major choral works, several orchestral works, six operas and a significant body of chamber music, attest to her seriousness of purpose as a composer. However, the sheer gusto and number of other activities the ebullient Smyth pursued have tended to obscure her artistic reception. A keen traveller, she was a successful author, producing nine largely autobiographical books. A life-long champion of women's rights, among the causes she supported was Mrs. Pankhurst's "right to vote" campaign. Her competitive nature found a perfect partner in sport; she was often to be found riding to hounds, playing tennis matches or striding over the golf course. As one rather bemused contemporary musician remarked when he met her, she is "the most remarkable and original woman composer in the history of music".

Donald Macleod examines the significance of two of Ethel Smyth's most important relationships, with American writer and philosopher Henry Brewster, who wrote several librettos for her operas, and Empress Eugènie, the exiled widow of Napoleon III, who helped launch the Mass in D and her Four Songs for Voice and Chamber Ensemble.

1 hour

Music Played

  • Dame Ethel Smyth

    Mass in D major for soloists SATB, chorus and orchestra - Benedictus

    Singer: Eiddwen Harrhy. Orchestra: Plymouth Festival Orchestra. Singer: Dan Dressen. Conductor: Philip Brunelle. Choir: Plymouth Festival Chorus.
    • Virgin Classics: VC7911882.
    • Virgin Classics.
    • 1.
  • Dame Ethel Smyth

    Serenade (Symphonic serenade) in D major - Finale

    Conductor: Odaline de la Martinez. Orchestra: BBC Philharmonic.
    • CHANDOS : CHAN-9449.
    • CHANDOS.
    • 1.
  • Dame Ethel Smyth

    Four Songs for Voice and Chamber Ensemble

    Performer: Georgi Georgiev. Performer: Friedemann Kupsa. Performer: Corinna Zirkelbach. Performer: Ulrike Siebler. Performer: Renate Eggebrecht Kupsa. Performer: Alexander Gotowtschikow. Singer: Melinda Paulsen. Conductor: Johannes Schmeller.
    • Troubadisc: TRO-CD 01405.
    • 1-4.
  • Dame Ethel Smyth

    The Wreckers Overture

    Orchestra: Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Conductor: Alexandra Gibson.
    • EMI CDM 7692062.
    • 1.
  • Dame Ethel Smyth

    3 Songs for voice and piano - Possession

    Performer: Graham Johnson. Singer: Anthony Rolfe Johnson.
    • HYPERION : CDA-66709.
    • HYPERION.
    • 18.

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