Monday, February 02, 2015

Seeking Alternative Follow-Ons: WQXR Misses an Opportunity

WQXR in NYC has an annual countdown of, I guess, most popular classical music works. In a nice twist, they asked a bunch of experts to nominate follow-ons: if you liked this piece, try listening to this lesser-known work.

They got interesting responses, including works by Suk, Fibich, Zelenka, van Maldere, Walker, Bridge, Palmgren, and others, some famous (Schoenberg, Mahler), some (Palmgren?) not so much.

But they really came through in one area, that of perpetuating stereotypes. Not one of the 30 follow-on works was composed by a woman. And that's from a group of experts that included three women, plus members of the WQXR staff itself.

I do note that there is one work composed by an African-American composer, George Walker, and one composed by....a collective of Chinese composers?

I'd like to offer yet another alternative list. If you know a work by a female composer that would make a good follow-on to either WQXR's originals or to their follow-ons, let me know in comments or by email, and I'll put up the list in a blog posting in a week or ten days.

19 comments: said...

Yesterday Opera San José had an event about the upcoming opera we are doing. Many panel members (all men for the review panel, all men for the composer/librettist/conductor/historian panel and one man and two women for the director, costume designer and set designer (the male stage designer couldn't get back to town) panel)) talked about new opera and the importance of doing them. I started pondering ... do I know any operas by women?

Sadly I don't.

Now I have to go hunting for them!

M. Kay said...

I am so bored with these kinds of discussions.

So WQXR and the experts MUST nominate some minimal quota of female composers regardless of the quality of the musical works themselves?

We have to do away with this destructive and nonsensical political correctness.

Lisa Hirsch said...

M. Kay - wow, nice knee-jerk response there! Perhaps you didn't notice that I did not prescribe any particular number or percentage.

And I would suggest that you stop and think about this particular situation before your knee jerks. The whole purpose of the WQXR exercise was to get people to listen to unusual music they might not otherwise here.

Music by female composers is severely underprogrammed even on new music concerts, at a time when about 30-50% of younger composers are women.

So if you're thinking about music people might otherwise not hear, music by women (and by African American composers as well) is an obvious area to promote.

Also, you might not be aware of this: there's a lot of great music at present and in the past written by women.

Michael said..., Jennifer Higdon's opera Cold Mountain premieres in Santa Fe on August 1. This is the commission that originally started out at San Francisco Opera before moving over to Santa Fe.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Some excellent operas by women: Kaija Saariaho's L'Amour de Loin and Adriana Mater; Unsuk Chin's Alice in Wonderland (playing at LA Phil later this month). I've heard and liked part of all of these (saw the American premiere of Adriana). There are plenty of other operas by women, from the 17th c. on.

M. Kay said...

"Also, you might not be aware of this: there's a lot of great music at present and in the past written by women"


Is it on the level of Monteverdi, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner...?

Lisa Hirsch said...

I would advise you to open your mind and do the research yourself, i.e. get a few CDs and DVDs. Certainly the music by women written in the last century is on par with music written by men in the last century.

Also, I'm not at all interested in debating this subject with someone who doesn't know the repertory, so this is the last comment by you that I'll be publishing. The music is out there - go listen to it.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Especially since "M. Kay" was an account created in February 2015, presumably for the purpose of these comments alone.

Tom DePlonty said...

"Is it on the level of Monteverdi, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner...?"

Women in Europe in the time from Monteverdi to Wagner were strongly expected to fulfill certain social roles, and systematically excluded from many occupations, and often from education. The number of women whose circumstances allowed them to live outside of those conventions was small. And you can be sure that there were women who had talent but no access to the institutions that would have allowed them performances, publication, and their names to be known.

It's a stupid question.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Somehow some women composed music anyway. Warren Stewart of Magnificat (Bay Area early music group) knows a ton about women composers before 1750 and has performed multiple concerts of their stuff.

Unknown said...

It becomes apparent that, in order to reach the peaks of inspiration, the heights of human intelligence, the most comprehensive vistas of understanding, the greatest accomplishments, one has to be able to embrace pretty much all aspects of consciousness - and that includes the darkest depths of the reptilian brain and all the rest of the evolutionary baggage that we're dragging.

This has been the experience of many inspired artists; also a stereotype that testifies for this view is that of the tormented genius. Also, the biographies of many brilliant people and greatest achievers from all fields are often peppered with episodes that would amount to sheer insanity if occuring in "normal" individuals, except in these cases they were all but "normal" - they were geniuses.

Therefore, in my opinion a dashing, bold, often reckless masculine spirit is what enables the highest of accomplishments, but it's also what keeps its carriers close to the edge of rather undesireable experiences.

Lisa Hirsch said...

You're both ignorant of a huge number of composer bios and full of shit; basically, you're spewing stereotypes. I will not publish any further comments from you.

Anonymous said...

I've just finished the wearying process of looking at all the pages to see what better-known these works these were recommended to follow. Some of them are pretty good choices (Le Sacre -> Prokofiev's Scythian Suite), but others strike me as grotesquely unimaginative. Listening to Medtner after Rachmaninoff, or, worse, the Yellow River Concerto after Rhapsody in Blue, for ghu's sake, is like reading Terry Brooks after Tolkien. Ades after Schubert is just ... inappropriate. And Tchaikovsky's Manfred is the worst symphony ever written by someone capable of writing a better one.

To think of works by female composers in the same place: well, if there were a Mendelssohn or early Schubert symphony on the list, how about one by Louise Farrenc? She's not great, but interesting. Gershwin could be followed by Florence Price, who's really under-rated.

And of living composers, I've been taken recently by Anna Clyne, who has a full measure of that "masculine spirit" the previous commenter was blithering about. Pair Sibelius's Second with her Night Ferry, or - I dare you - Gorecki's Third with her Rest These Hands.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Rach -> Medtner seemed pretty obvious to me; some of his music is excellent. Kapustin might have been the more imaginative choice.

Thanks for those nominees!

Mary Jane Leach said...

Yikes, who knew your site was such a troll magnet.
Eva Weissweiler wrote "Komponistinnen aus 500 Jahren" 35 years ago, and also has written books on Fanny Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann. There has been a lot more written since that time. Also, don't forget Hildegard von Bingen, one of the first known composers.

Lisa Hirsch said...

The trolls are everywhere. If "M. Kay" is the Pelleastrian, as the writing style suggests, he is known far and wide.

Susan Scheid said...

I'd love to see Sofia Gubaidulina's Offeratorium as a "next step" choice, though I don't know where I'd place the piece, given the 30 choices offered. The nearest may be Beethoven's Violin Concerto. The Gubaidulina is a great piece, in any event, and perhaps someone will be able to make the "next step" match.

Lisa Hirsch said...

That is a great choice, thank you.

Elaine Fine said...

These days I have been practicing a few great pieces written by three under-appreciated women, so right now these pieces are extremely important to me. Emilie Mayer wrote several terrific violin sonatas back in the second half of the 19th century, and I'm preparing the one in A minor for a concert later this month. Also on the program is a violin sonata from 1922 by the French composer Mel Bonis (look her up: she is fascinating), and a piece Marion Bauer wrote for Maud Powell in 1912 called "Up the Ocklawaha." With all the unearthing of music by women that has been going on in the past few years there is no reason for anyone's list of high-quality works of music to be written exclusively by men.