Category Archives: Classical female composers

Emilie Mayer – Classical female composers – Part five

Emilie Luise Friderica Mayer 1812-1883. Was born in Friedland, in the north-eastern part of Germany. She began her serious music studies relative late, when she moved to Stettin (now Szczecin, Poland) in 1841, and started to study composition with Carl Loewe a very popular composer and opera singer in Stettin at the time.

In 1847, after the premiere of her first two symphonies, she moved to Berlin to continue her studies. Once in Berlin, she studied fugue and double counterpoint with Adolph Bernhard Marx, music theorist, professor of music at Berlin University and later one of the founders of the Berlin Stern conservatory, and instrumentation with musical conductor and composer Wilhelm Wieprecht, famous for his compositions of military music.

In 1850, Wieprecht led his orchestra in a concert at the Royal Theatre exclusively presenting compositions by Emilie Mayer. With critical and popular acclaim, she continued composing Works for most of her lifetime.

The list of her work is long with 8 Symphonies, 7 Overtures, 1 Opera, 1 Piano Concert and numerous piano solo pieces, violin sonates , cello sonates, piano trios and quartet, string quartet and quintets ect.

Her 5. and 8. Symphonie and her 5. and 7. Overture is presumably lost. 

Amy Beach – Classical female composers – Part four

Amy Marcy Cheney Beach 1867-1944, was an American composer and pianist. She was the first successful American female composer of classical music for larger orchestras. A remarkable child, she was able to sing 40 tunes by age one; she could improvise a countermelody to any melody her mother sang by age two and began composing simple waltzes at five years old. She gave her first public performance at age 7, including works by Handel, Beethoven, and Chopin.

After marrying, she reduced her number of public performances, out of respect for her husband’s wishes, and turned her concentration to composition. Beach’s compositional style was late Romantics. She was disciplined in her composition, often producing massive amounts of music in a matter of days.

Several of Beach’s compositions were commissioned for events and organizations, including the dedication of the Women’s Building of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the Trans-Mississippi Exposition in Omaha, the International Exposition in San Francisco and the San Francisco Chamber Music Society. The range of commissions indicates that interest in Beach’s music was not limited to the Boston area. In fact, many consider her to be the most successful American female composer.

Pauline Viardot – Classical female composers – Part three

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Pauline Viardot (1821 – 1910) was a leading nineteenth-century French mezzo-soprano, and composer. Her 13 years older sister Maria Malibran, was one of the most celebrated singers in Europe before her early death at age 28. Pauline made her first appearance (1837) as a singer with Maria’s husband, the violinist Charles de Bériot. In 1839, she made her opera debut in London. Soon she became prima donna for the Italian Opera season in Paris. In Russia she became the hot name of St. Petersburg, both because of her singing and stage presence, and because she sometimes threw in an aria in Russian, pronouncing the language with such skill that many took her for a native speaker.

Besides the fact that she was a famous singer, she was also an excellent pianist, and a complete all-round professional musician. As a composer her work was of such quality, that Franz Liszt declared that, with Pauline Viardot, the world had finally found a woman composer of genius. Her operas was small in scale, however, they were written for advanced singers and some of the music was difficult. She also wrote songs and instrumental compositions, often for violin and piano.

Pauline’s admirers included: Brahms wrote the Alto Rhapsody for her, Saint-Saens wrote Samson et Dalila for her. Schumann, Gounod, Meyerbeer and Faure all composed for her.
She was a close friend of Chopin and his lover Aurore Dupin (best known by her pseudonym George Sand) and got piano instructions from Chopin. Viardot arranged vocals for some of Chopin’s piano pieces.

Clémence de Grandval – Classical female composers – part two

Clemence de Grandval, born in 1828 was a well known composer in 19th century Paris. Her family was wealthy, and the composer Friedrich Flotow, a family friend, gave her composition lessons. She had piano lessons from Chopin. Later she studies with Camille Saint-Saëns. She had a wide range of friends, from the music establishment, throughout her life.

She wrote five operas and a number of other major works. In 1878 she wrote an oboe concerto. The concerto became a familiar examination piece at the Paris Conservatoire, in its oboe and piano form. Despite this popularity the orchestral score seems to have disappeared.

The oboe was not a characteristic instrument for the Romantic period, but she was a close friend the brilliant oboist Georges Gillet. That may explain why she wrote a lot for the oboe.

She died in Paris in 1907.

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Anna Bon – Classical female composers – part one.

In the process of creating my post about Don Juans Reckless Daughter.

I came to think about the fact, that from all the great classic composers, I could not think of a single female. So I thought I would dig a bit into the subject, and look for interesting classical music, composed by women.

“Anna Bon di Venezia” (aprox. 1739-??) is the name often used for a female Italian composer known in the eighteenth century just as Anna Bon. She Studied music, at “The Ospedale della Pietà”, a convent, orphanage, and music school in Venice (known for one of its teachers Antonio Vivaldi, but he left about the time Anna was born). She was studying at “The Ospedale” from about 1743, four years old !!, to the end of 1754, fourteen years old.

In 1756, Anna joined her parents at the court of Frederick, Margrave of Brandenburg-Bayreuth and Princess Wilhelmine of Prussia; She held the post of ‘chamber music virtuosa’ at the court, and dedicated her six flute sonatas (op. 1), to Friedrich. The sonatas were composed at the age of sixteen.

Anna composed Six Sonatas for harpsichord, Op. 2 (1757) and Six Divertimenti (Trio Sonatas) for two flutes and continuo, Op. 3 (1759), before she had reached the age of 20. A few other works are known, and there may well have been more.

By 1767, Bon had married to an Italian singer and settled, nothing is known of her whereabouts afterward.

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