Ladies: L@@K! - Violin music composed by female composers

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Lance
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Ladies: L@@K! - Violin music composed by female composers

Post by Lance » Tue May 30, 2006 1:13 pm

[To our female friends on CMG, read the below with tongue-in-cheek, and don't let your blood pressure rise!]

"To be creative musicians, they (women) lack the depth, the concentration, the ability to think the broad horizon of feelings, the freedom of the bowing, etc. It is miraculous how music - the most nobel, beautiful, refined, soulful, heart[felt] thing the human spirit has invented, can be so unreachable for women, although they consist of just those qualities!"—Anton Rubinstein, pianist/composer

Truly, I did not make up the above statement. Can one, today, imagine a pronouncement like this from such a brilliant musician, composer, and pianist as the legendary Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894)? And as great as he was, people believed what he said. Today, he would have his ... head cut off! But still, for a creative musician of this stature, to think this way even back then, is utterly ridiculous. One thinks of composers such as Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel, whose brother was probably her greatest inspiration. Poor thing, some of her music had to be published under the guise of her brother's pen. One also thinks of all the women composers who stayed in the "closet," not to be found out they really wanted to compose music. The world's loss then and now.

If there any that may ascribe to Anton Rubinstein's thoughts above, here's a recording that will change your mind.

Zuk Records [324, 62:15, DDD] features the violin music of four composers: Elfrida Andrée [1841-1929], Pauline Viardot [1821-1910], Lili Boulanger [1893-1918], and Jeanne Louise Farrence (she used just the "Louise" of her name) [1804-1875], all composers born in the Romantic period of music. Of those listed, Pauline Viardot was known not for her compositions, but for voice, one of the great singers of her period. Lili Boulanger's brief career would had gone into oblivion if it wasn't for her famous teacher-sister, Nadia Boulanger, who constantly promoted the music of her sister. The other female composer who had a better carrer than most was the French composer, Jeanne Louise Farrenc. On this Zuk CD recording, violinist Karin Hendel and pianist Ewa Warykiewicz give us a recital illustrating just how great the music by all of these female composers was - and it's breathtaking.

The disc offers 14 tracks with two pieces by Andrée, six by Viardot, two by Boulanger, and four by Farrenc. Those by Viardot are equally as good as any of the male composers of the day, and they are the liveliest and most entertaining of the group, with names such as Romance, Bohémienne, Berceuse, Mazurka, Vielle Chanson, and Tarantella, offering firy, tune-whistling-type melodies, with equal creativity for the pianist. These are real charmers you will want to hear again.

Lili Boulanger's two pieces—Nocturne and Cortége—are skilfully written, the first reminiscent of Debussy, and more virtuosity displayed in the Cortége.

Elfrida Andrées two selections are a good starter for the collection, and illustrate a talent, that if it had been supported more, might have turned into something more profound. Many of these women, we must remember, were scorned for trying to be professional performers or composers.

Concluding the disc is Louise Farrenc's melodic and beautifully-structured (and most interesting) Deuxiéme Sonata, Op. 79, purely Romantic, each of the four movements beautifully written with dual importance given to the violin and piano. Farrenc studied with some important people, including Elizabeth Cecile Soria, herself a pupil of Muzio Clementi, Anton Reicha, and Johann Nepomuk Hummel. None of these teachers, especially Reicha and Hummel would have wasted their time with people who displayed no talent; we must therefore judge that Farrenc's innate genius was most apparent to these masters. After Louise married Aristide Farrenc in 1821 (aged 17), her publisher/husband made sure his wife's compositions were made available to the public, whether they liked it or not. Farrenc eventually became a teacher at the Paris Conservatoire and continued to write music until the untimely deaths of both, her daughter and husband, at which point she lost interest in composing altogether (understandably), but she continued to teach at the Paris Conservatory until three years before her passing at age 71. It must have been a tragically-lived life in more ways than one.

The duo of Hendel and Warykiewicz make a first-rate team, not well known in the USA, but well known in Poland and Germany. They deserve to be heard more. Recording quality is excellent and well balanced between instruments. The piano suddenly takes on a strange sound (in the bass area particularly, sounding suddenly rather twangy, and in a few places it is not in perfect tune (especially in the last two movements of the Farrenc sonata) and is without the richness of a full concert grand. Biographical notes are short and to the point. In the end, this is an exquisite recital making available on one disc, outstanding music by four female composers you might not otherwise hear.

Herr Anton Rubinstein: Sorry to say, you were way off base on your appraisal women composers. Shame on you.
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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