8 August 1857 – 13 April 1944
Cécile Chaminade's music is skilled, elegant, and highly accessible - during her life most of her compositions were published and financially successful. While her work for piano was well received (and wildly popular in the US) critics were less thrilled by much of her other work. In 1913, she was the first woman to be awarded the Légion d'Honneur
Agathe bäcker Grøndahl
1 December 1847 – 4 June 1907
Like many women who composed, Agathe Bäcker Grøndahl was most well known as a pianist. She juggled being an active performer, artist with her social responsibilities as a wife and a mother. She was one of the most widely reviewed and written about Scandinavian artists, and very much defined modern Norwegian music. Along with her work as a performer and a composer, she was active as a teacher and wielded great influence in that arena. Edvard Grieg, who she considered a friend, said said that her melodies sounded like the sound a mimosa would make if it were capable of singing, which is an excellent metaphor for the sparkle in her music.
Chant De noces
Translation in progress
18 July 1821 – 18 May 1910
As an outstanding pianist, an accomplished composer, and a singer of exceptional range and ability, Pauline Viardot was exceptionally well suited to be a composer. During her life, she was widely regarded as one of the greatest artists of all time, and when she took up composition after her retirement from the stage (in part to facilitate her work as a teacher) she maintained that excellence. Her music is vivacious, charming, and creative.
22 April 1858 – 8 May 1944
Always a determined person, young Ethel Smyth studied to be a composer in spite of firm opposition from her father. She has an extensive body of work, and until 2016 was the only female composer to have had a work performed at the Metropolitan Opera. In 1922, she was the first female composer to be awarded a damehood (DBE). She was also well known as a writer and as a suffragette - her piece "The March of the Women" was widely considered to be the anthem of the suffrage movement in England.
Poem by Maurice Baring
There was once a poor clown all dressed in white,
All chained to the dungeon bars;
And he danced all day, and he danced all night,
To the sound of the dancing stars.
"O clown, silly clown, O why do you dance ?
You know you can never be free.
You are tied by the leg to the strings of chance,
But you dance like captive flea."
"My chain is heavy, my cell is dark,
I know I can never be free.
In my heart, in my heart there's a dancing spark,
And the stars make music for me.
"Oh ! muffle my cell and rivet my chains,
And fetter my feet and my hands,
My soul is a horse of foam without reins.
That dances on deathless sands."
the march of the women
Ethel Smyth wrote several arrangements of this work. It was sung at rallies, and in prisons. First performed in January of 1911 to celebrate the release of activists from prison.
One of the more famous renditions of this piece was in 1912. After a window-smashing campaign, a group of activists was imprisoned. Smyth's particular offense was breaking the window of the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
Thomas Beecham made a visit, and his account was that he saw all the activists in the courtyard "...marching round it and singing lustily their war-chant while the composer, beaming approbation from an overlooking upper window, beat time in almost Bacchic frenzy with a toothbrush."
31 August 1879 – 11 December 1964
Although musical from very early in life, Alma Schindler married Gustav Mahler at 22, and he clearly and deliberately demanded that she suppress her composition. Her work only resurfaces when she had an affair and Freud advised her husband to have her start composing again. Her output is not extensive - we know of at least 17 songs for voice and piano.
This excellent article by Sarah Connolly looks at the difficulties of knowing who Alma Mahler was, and also addresses the fact that while she was both talented and artistically repressed, she could also be cruel, anti-semitic, vain, and insecure.
She also became the object of obsession for artist Oskar Kokoschka - after their relationship ended, he commissioned a life-size replica. He painted the doll obsessively, and when he had finished with it he threw a party and tore the doll apart in his garden.
Amy marcy cheney beach
September 5, 1867 – December 27, 1944
One of the most respected American composers of her time, Amy Beach began her career as a pianist, and debuted at 16 in Boston Music Hall. She was the first American woman to compose and publish a symphony - the Gaelic Symphony was and remains quite successful. She actively worked to further the careers of young musicians, and was the first President of the Society of American Women Composers. She was perhaps most popular for her songs - she wrote over 150, although they have never been collected, and some can be difficult to obtain.
An example of her work as a writer and an educator:
O Mistress mine
O mistress mine, where are you roaming?
O stay and hear, your true love's coming
That can sing both high and low.
Trip no further, pretty sweeting;
Journeys end in lovers' meeting,
Ev'ry wise man's son doth know.
What is love? 'Tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What's to come is still unsure:
In delay there lies no plenty;
Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty;
Youth's a stuff will not endure.
Richard Pearson Thomas
Richard Pearson Thomas, composer and pianist, has had works performed by the Boston Pops, Covent Garden Festival, Houston Grand Opera, Manhattan Chamber Orchestra, Chautauqua Opera, Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, Banff Centre, Portland Opera, Skylight Opera Theatre, and Riverside Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir. His songs have been sung in Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Merkin Concert Hall, Wigmore Hall, Joe’s Pub, Le Poisson Rouge, and before the U.S. Congress by artists such as Audra McDonald, Sanford Sylvan, Lauren Flanagan and Kurt Ollmann. He is a frequent collaborator with The Mirror Visions Ensemble which has performed his commissioned works in the United States and Europe.
Mr. Thomas is currently on faculty at Teachers College/Columbia University. He has taught at Yale and the University of Central Florida. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music and the University of Southern California, and is a native of Montana.
Portraits of Imagined Love
This cycle began as part of the composition process when Mr. Thomas was writing an opera - the songs are from the perspective of four potential characters. Although these songs were written in 1989, they were not premiered until November 2017 at the first performance of Café 1907.