Recently I went to a performance of the Chicago Sinfonietta, an organization that was created in the 1980s to inject some diversity into the classical music scene in Chicago. While I’ve long wished that the world of the music I love best were more representative of the breadth of humanity and applaud intentional efforts to include everyone, the classical world still, in 2016, comes up short by any measure.
Writing in the New York Times a couple of days ago, Alice Gregory provides a fly-by of some of the contributions of women to the classical music repertoire over the centuries. She includes Louise Farrenc, whose Nonet in 1850 was debuted by an ensemble that included the great violin virtuoso Joachim, as well as Clara Schumann, who despite her renown made light of her own contributions to composition due to the prevailing sentiment of the era – including that of her own husband Robert – that women simply could not be great composers. I was perhaps most pleased to learn of Ethel Smyth, composer and early 20th century British suffragist who was jailed at the age of 50 for her participation in a riotous rebellion.
Gregory compiled the NYT compendium on the occasion of the performance at the Met in of an opera composed by a woman – the first such production in over 100 years. The work to be performed was commissioned by the Salzburg Festival in 2000 from Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho and is entitled L’Amour De Loin. The production promises to be everything the New York opera house is famous for.
The milestone sure seems a little overdue, but I suppose late is better than never.
Thanks for reading.