September 16, birthday of Nadia Boulanger

Since July, I have been concentrating solely on female composers.  You can read about that in my post from July 19.  If I can’t find one born on the calendar day, I won’t post.  On with today’s composer.

Nadia Boulanger is probably the greatest music educator who ever lived. Among her pupils:

Her piece below was written in 1912 some 20 years before Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini.” Let me know if you hear any similarities.

Fantaisie pour piano et orchestre

September 9, birthday of Ai Otsuka (大塚 愛)

Since July, I have been concentrating solely on female composers.  You can read about that in my post from July 19.  If I can’t find one born on the calendar day, I won’t post.  On with today’s composer.
Ai Otsuka (大塚 愛) born 1982, is a Japanese pop singer-songwriter. I like the video of this song, “Smily,” because it objectifies men–as the polar opposite of all the “babes” you see in any music video, tv commercials, beer and car adverts.
Smily

August 31, birthday of Alma Mahler

Since July, I have been concentrating solely on female composers.  You can read about that in my post from July 19.  If I can’t find one born on the calendar day, I won’t post.  On with today’s composer.

Alma Maria Mahler Gropius Werfel (born Alma Maria Schindler 1879 – 1964) was born to a famous Austrian painter, and therefore grew up at the time when Vienna was the capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire and was awash in all the arts during a time of great upheavals in Western culture, not the least of was the revolution in classical music. She had relationships with Gustav Klimt and other artists or the time, and eventually married Gustav Mahler. Alma herself was classically trained in piano and began composing at an early age. Gustav, however, insisted she stop composing and devote herself to him, his music, and raising the family. This led to her falling into a state of depression (and had an affair with Walter Gropius of Bahaus–no not the musical group–fame) which Sigmund Freud said could be cured by Gustav allowing her to compose again. Which he did, even getting her songs into print by his publisher. After Mahler died, she had an affair with Oscar Kokoschka and then married Gropius, who eventually was sent to fight in WWI. She in 1917 then took up with a writer named Franz Werfel whom she married after divorcing Gropius in 1920. When Hitler took over Austria in 1938, the couple, being Jewish, fled to Southern France. When Hitler invaded France, they fled on foot over the Pyrenees, and eventually able to book passage on a ship to the US. They ended up in LA where Werfel had a successful career. After Werfel died in 1946, she moved to NYC and became a cultural icon (is there a school for that) and was worshiped by Leonard Bernstein, champion of Mahler’s works.

Complete Songs

August 29, birthday of Diamanda Galás

Since July, I have been concentrating solely on female composers.  You can read about that in my post from July 19.  If I can’t find one born on the calendar day, I won’t post.  On with today’s composer.

 
Diamanda Galás is a Greek-American Avant-Garde composer, who was mad as hell during the 1980s AIDS epidemic that claimed the life of her brother. This shows in today’s work, which comes from “Plague Mass,” which she performed at St. John the Divine church in NYC. She wrote it to protest the Catholic Church’s “handling” of the AIDS crisis, which, among other things, forbids the use of condoms and the was against the teaching of sex education.
 

Plague Mass:  Cris d’Aveugle

August 27, birthday of Rebecca Clarke

Since July, I have been concentrating solely on female composers.  You can read about that in my post from July 19.  If I can’t find one born on the calendar day, I won’t post.  On with today’s composer.

The biography of Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979) on Wikipedia made me wince and feel angry. Her father encouraged her to study music and she enrolled at the Royal Academy. When one of her teachers there proposed to her, the father withdrew her immediately from the school. Two years later she entered the Royal College of Music, where her composition professor encouraged her to switch from violin to viola. After complaining about her father’s extra-marital affairs, he turned her out of his house and cut off her funds. Luckily she had fallowed her professor’s advice and was able to support herself as a professional violist.

England didn’t seem ready for female composers in the early 20th century. As proof, she and a cellist gave a recital of new works by young composers. It included works by Anthony Trent as well as Clarke’s. While Trent’s works were well received, Clarke’s received little attention. The truth was that Clarke had submitted one her pieces under the pseudonym, “Anthony Trent.”

Later she entered a piece in a prestigious composition competition, where her piece tied one by Ernest Bloch. Judges awarded first prize to Bloch, and reporters:

“speculated that “Rebecca Clarke” was only a pseudonym for Bloch himself, or at least that it could not have been Clarke who wrote these pieces, as the idea that a woman could write such a work was socially inconceivable.”

She came to the US while on tour as a successful performer, but when WWII broke out, she couldn’t get a visa to return to the UK. She became a nanny in Connecticut and during the War composed a number of her most important works, like today’s, “Prelude.”

One day in Manhattan, she bumped into a fellow student from her days at the Royal College.  His name was James Frisking and he was one of the founding members of Julliard.  Both in their 50s, they married, and she lived until the ripe old age of 93.  Sadly, she suffered from depression and said she could not balance her personal life with the demands of being a composer, and only composed sporadically for the rest of her life.

Prelude, Allegro and Pastorale (1941)/b>

August 25, birthday of Ruby Keeler

Since July, I have been concentrating solely on female composers.  You can read about that in my post from July 19.  If I can’t find one born on the calendar day, I won’t post.  On with today’s composer.

Ruby Keeler isn’t a composer, nor a songwriter, so I guess I’m getting a bit far away from my goal of writing first about classical music pieces and then female composers. But she was born today and I like this song.

42nd Street
 

 

August 24, birthday of Ronee Blakley

Since July, I have been concentrating solely on female composers.  You can read about that in my post from July 19.  If I can’t find one born on the calendar day, I won’t post.  On with today’s composer.

Ronee Blakley (b. 1945) is a singer-songwriter and actress, probably best known for her performance in Robert Altman’s 1975 film, “Nashville.” Her first album was written, performed and produced by herself and featured this song with Linda Ronstandt backing. She was married to the German film maker, Wim Wenders.

“Bluebird”

August 23, birthday of Malvina Reynolds

Since July, I have been concentrating solely on female composers.  You can read about that in my post from July 19.  If I can’t find one born on the calendar day, I won’t post.  On with today’s composer.

Malvina Reynolds (1900 – 1978) is probably best known for her song, “Little Boxes,” which she wrote as she and her husband were driving by a new housing development in California. The song was recorded by Pete Seegar, and I remember listening to it as a boy on the radio when it came out in 1963. It’s always made me feel a bit sad, being about middle America conformity and the shoddy construction of the buildings, “made out of ticky tacky.” Though everyone hates the suburbs, perhaps they made housing affordable for the first time for massive amounts of people.

“Little Boxes” performed by Peet Seegar

August 20, birthday of Elisabeth Sophie of Mecklenburg

Since July, I have been concentrating solely on female composers.  You can read about that in my post from July 19.  If I can’t find one born on the calendar day, I won’t post.  On with today’s composer.

Duchess Elisabeth Sophie of Mecklenburg (1613 – 1676) was a German composer an poet. She is probably the first female composer whose work was published. She wrote mostly hymns and collaborated with the composer Heinrich Schütz.

Once again, I can’t find any recordings of her works.  Do any of you, dear readers, have any leads?

 

August 16, birthday of Dora Bright

Since July, I have been concentrating solely on female composers.  You can read about that in my post from July 19.  If I can’t find one born on the calendar day, I won’t post.  On with today’s composer.

Dora Estella Bright, married name Knatchbull, (1862 – 1951) was the first woman to receive the Charles Lucas Medal in 1888 (for her musical composition, Air and Variations for String Quartet).  She toured as a pianist until the early 20th century when she devoted most of her time to composing.  In the 1940s, the began writing for the journal Musical Opinion, which had previously reviewed her works quite favorably.  Many of her works have not survived.

 

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