Women Composers

Women Composers

Amy Beach

September 05, 1867 - December 27, 1944

Late Romantic Period

Born in USA

Amy Beach was the first American woman to find success as a composer. She was born Amy Cheney in New Hampshire, and later moved to Boston, where she became well known as a pianist and composer. Amy could play by ear any music she heard, and at the age of four, she composed her first piano pieces in her head. Her mother actually taught her to play the piano when she was six, and at seven she gave her first public performance.

After her marriage to Dr. Henry Beach, she turned her focus to composing, and only gave recitals once a year. Beach was first known for her art songs, but then received national and international attention for her larger works, including a symphony, violin sonata and piano quintet. Many of her works have returned to the concert stage, and hundreds have been recorded.

Hildegard von Bingen

January 01, 1098 - September 17, 1179

Early Music Period

Born in Germany

Hildegard von Bingen (Hildegard of Bingen) was a German nun who established her own convent, and was famous for her prophecies and miracles. In addition to writing poetry, she wrote books about religion and medicine – and she composed music. Only 77 songs of hers remain after all these years.

Cecile Chaminade

August 08, 1857 - April 13, 1944

Late Romantic Period

Born in France

Cecile Chaminade received her first music lessons from her mother, who was a pianist and singer. When Cecile wanted to study at the Paris Conservatory, her father wouldn’t let her, so she wound up being taught privately by Conservatory professors. She especially focused on composing and her works were well received. She promoted sales of her music through concert tours and performed regularly in England, often as a guest of Queen Victoria.

She also became popular in the United States, where she 12 cities in 1908. Considering the difficulties she faced as a woman composer, the large number of her compositions - almost 200 piano works and 125 songs - is worthy of note.

Jennifer Higdon

December 31, 1962 - --

Modern Period

Born in USA

Jennifer Higdon was born in Brooklyn, New York. She originally studied flute at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, but then went to the University of Pennsylvania for degrees in composition. She has studied composition with George Crumb and Ned Rorem, and conducting with Robert Spano. Now, she teaches composition at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Her works have been recorded on over two-dozen CDs. In 2004, her CD Concerto for Orchestra / City Scape, recorded by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, won a Grammy Award. Her composition, blue cathedral is one of the most performed orchestra works by a living composer.

Elizabeth Jacquet de la Guerre

October 10, 1666 - June 27, 1729

Baroque Period

Born in France

Elizabeth Jacquet de la Guerre was the daughter of Claude Jacquet, an organist and harpsichordist who taught all his children – boys and girls – to play. Elizabeth played and sang so well that French King Louis XIV allowed her to perform in public at a time when women weren’t allowed to do that. She started performing in court when she was 5, and only left to get married to another keyboard player, organist Marin de La Guerre.

Like most harpsichordists of her day, Elizabeth was well known for her improvisations. She was the first woman in France to write an opera, and also wrote sonatas and cantatas, which were new forms at the time.

Libby Larsen

December 24, 1950 - --

Modern Period

Born in USA

American composer Libby Larsen was born in Delaware, but now lives in Minnesota. She has written songs, chamber music, symphonies, and operas for both children and grown-ups. She is a strong advocate for music education and for women in music. In 1973, she founded the Minnesota Composers Forum, now called the American Composers Forum, to link composers to communities and develop more opportunities for new music. She has received many awards for her work, including a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and a 1994 Grammy Award for the recording that includes her song cycle Sonnets from the Portuguese.

Fanny Mendelssohn

November 14, 1805 - May 14, 1847

Romantic Period

Born in Germany

Fanny Mendelssohn was born in Hamburg, Germany, and grew up in Berlin. As a kid, Fanny took music lessons and performed with her younger brother Felix, who also grew up to be a famous musician. They both played the piano and composed. They also liked to put on plays. Their father had no problem with his son being a professional musician, but he told Fanny that there was only one suitable thing for her to become: a housewife. Fanny did get married, to an artist named Wilhelm Hensel, after which she was known as Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel. He encouraged her to compose.

When Fanny and Felix were children, the Mendelssohn family held regular Sunday afternoon concerts in their home. Much of the music Fanny composed was for those performances. Even though she never had the career her brother Felix did, Fanny wrote over 400 pieces of music. She is especially known for her songs and her "Songs Without Words" small pieces for solo piano.

Listen to a special show about women composers including Fanny Mendelssohn.

Thea Musgrave

May 27, 1928 - --

Modern Period

Born in Scotland

Thea Musgrave was born in Scotland but now lives in the United States. Her music includes everything from huge operas to very small choral pieces. Just like Aaron Copland, she studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger – and later, she studied with Copland as well. Musgrave is highly regarded as an opera composer and has achieved much success with her works for the stage. She has been also recognized for her work developing and promoting opera in Norfolk, Virginia.

Clara Schumann

September 13, 1819 - May 20, 1896

Romantic Period

Born in Germany

Before she was even born, Clara Schumann's father had determined that she would be a star at the keyboard. Her father, Fredrich Wieck, was a piano teacher, and he saw to it that she studied music, performed and composed - all at an early age. Clara toured all over Europe, wowing audiences with her playing, and her compositions.

When Clara fell in love with Robert Schumann, who was studying with her father, Friedrich Wieck tried hard to stop them from getting married. It took years -- and a court battle -- before Robert and Clara could finally get married. But Clara and Robert Schumann became one of the greatest musical partnerships of all time. She gave the first performance of many of his pieces, including his piano concerto and was a tremendous influence on his music. She also premiered works by Chopin and Brahms. Even though she gave birth to eight children, and had great family responsibilities, Robert encouraged her compose. When Robert got sick, and after his early death, Clara supported her family by giving concerts and teaching. She continued to perform into her 70's.

Listen to a special show about Clara Schumann.

Germaine Tailleferre

April 19, 1892 - November 07, 1983

Modern Period

Born in France

Germaine Tailleferre was born in Paris and had early success as a pianist. When she was 12, she started studying at the Paris Conservatory to study, where she won many prizes. Erik Satie was so impressed with one of her piano compositions that he called her his “musical daughter,” and promoted her career. She went on to become the only female member of “Les Six,” a group of prominent French composers. She composed concertos, sonatas,operas, ballets, and film music.

Although most of her acclaim occurred early in her career, Tailleferre composed and taught throughout her life. She was especially devoted to children and their music.

Joan Tower

September 06, 1938 - --

Modern Period

Born in USA

Joan Tower is an American composer, pianist and conductor. She was born in New Rochelle, New York, but spent her childhood in South America where she fell in love with rhythm and percussion instruments. Tower has never written for voices, just instruments, and many of her compositions were created with particular performers in mind. She has won many awards and commissions, served as composer-in-residence with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, and taught at Bard College.

Joan Trimble

June 18, 1915 - August 06, 2000

Modern Period

Born in Ireland

Joan Trimble was born in Enniskillen, Ireland. As a student at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin, she was awarded scholarships in piano, violin and composition. She then studied with Ralph Vaughan Williams at the Royal College of Music in London. Joan and her sister Valerie toured as a two-piano duo.


 

Women Composers

Women Composers

Amy Beach

September 05, 1867 - December 27, 1944

Late Romantic Period

Born in USA

Amy Beach was the first American woman to find success as a composer. She was born Amy Cheney in New Hampshire, and later moved to Boston, where she became well known as a pianist and composer. Amy could play by ear any music she heard, and at the age of four, she composed her first piano pieces in her head. Her mother actually taught her to play the piano when she was six, and at seven she gave her first public performance.

After her marriage to Dr. Henry Beach, she turned her focus to composing, and only gave recitals once a year. Beach was first known for her art songs, but then received national and international attention for her larger works, including a symphony, violin sonata and piano quintet. Many of her works have returned to the concert stage, and hundreds have been recorded.

Hildegard von Bingen

January 01, 1098 - September 17, 1179

Early Music Period

Born in Germany

Hildegard von Bingen (Hildegard of Bingen) was a German nun who established her own convent, and was famous for her prophecies and miracles. In addition to writing poetry, she wrote books about religion and medicine – and she composed music. Only 77 songs of hers remain after all these years.

Cecile Chaminade

August 08, 1857 - April 13, 1944

Late Romantic Period

Born in France

Cecile Chaminade received her first music lessons from her mother, who was a pianist and singer. When Cecile wanted to study at the Paris Conservatory, her father wouldn’t let her, so she wound up being taught privately by Conservatory professors. She especially focused on composing and her works were well received. She promoted sales of her music through concert tours and performed regularly in England, often as a guest of Queen Victoria.

She also became popular in the United States, where she 12 cities in 1908. Considering the difficulties she faced as a woman composer, the large number of her compositions - almost 200 piano works and 125 songs - is worthy of note.

Jennifer Higdon

December 31, 1962 - --

Modern Period

Born in USA

Jennifer Higdon was born in Brooklyn, New York. She originally studied flute at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, but then went to the University of Pennsylvania for degrees in composition. She has studied composition with George Crumb and Ned Rorem, and conducting with Robert Spano. Now, she teaches composition at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Her works have been recorded on over two-dozen CDs. In 2004, her CD Concerto for Orchestra / City Scape, recorded by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, won a Grammy Award. Her composition, blue cathedral is one of the most performed orchestra works by a living composer.

Elizabeth Jacquet de la Guerre

October 10, 1666 - June 27, 1729

Baroque Period

Born in France

Elizabeth Jacquet de la Guerre was the daughter of Claude Jacquet, an organist and harpsichordist who taught all his children – boys and girls – to play. Elizabeth played and sang so well that French King Louis XIV allowed her to perform in public at a time when women weren’t allowed to do that. She started performing in court when she was 5, and only left to get married to another keyboard player, organist Marin de La Guerre.

Like most harpsichordists of her day, Elizabeth was well known for her improvisations. She was the first woman in France to write an opera, and also wrote sonatas and cantatas, which were new forms at the time.

Libby Larsen

December 24, 1950 - --

Modern Period

Born in USA

American composer Libby Larsen was born in Delaware, but now lives in Minnesota. She has written songs, chamber music, symphonies, and operas for both children and grown-ups. She is a strong advocate for music education and for women in music. In 1973, she founded the Minnesota Composers Forum, now called the American Composers Forum, to link composers to communities and develop more opportunities for new music. She has received many awards for her work, including a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and a 1994 Grammy Award for the recording that includes her song cycle Sonnets from the Portuguese.

Fanny Mendelssohn

November 14, 1805 - May 14, 1847

Romantic Period

Born in Germany

Fanny Mendelssohn was born in Hamburg, Germany, and grew up in Berlin. As a kid, Fanny took music lessons and performed with her younger brother Felix, who also grew up to be a famous musician. They both played the piano and composed. They also liked to put on plays. Their father had no problem with his son being a professional musician, but he told Fanny that there was only one suitable thing for her to become: a housewife. Fanny did get married, to an artist named Wilhelm Hensel, after which she was known as Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel. He encouraged her to compose.

When Fanny and Felix were children, the Mendelssohn family held regular Sunday afternoon concerts in their home. Much of the music Fanny composed was for those performances. Even though she never had the career her brother Felix did, Fanny wrote over 400 pieces of music. She is especially known for her songs and her "Songs Without Words" small pieces for solo piano.

Listen to a special show about women composers including Fanny Mendelssohn.

Thea Musgrave

May 27, 1928 - --

Modern Period

Born in Scotland

Thea Musgrave was born in Scotland but now lives in the United States. Her music includes everything from huge operas to very small choral pieces. Just like Aaron Copland, she studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger – and later, she studied with Copland as well. Musgrave is highly regarded as an opera composer and has achieved much success with her works for the stage. She has been also recognized for her work developing and promoting opera in Norfolk, Virginia.

Clara Schumann

September 13, 1819 - May 20, 1896

Romantic Period

Born in Germany

Before she was even born, Clara Schumann's father had determined that she would be a star at the keyboard. Her father, Fredrich Wieck, was a piano teacher, and he saw to it that she studied music, performed and composed - all at an early age. Clara toured all over Europe, wowing audiences with her playing, and her compositions.

When Clara fell in love with Robert Schumann, who was studying with her father, Friedrich Wieck tried hard to stop them from getting married. It took years -- and a court battle -- before Robert and Clara could finally get married. But Clara and Robert Schumann became one of the greatest musical partnerships of all time. She gave the first performance of many of his pieces, including his piano concerto and was a tremendous influence on his music. She also premiered works by Chopin and Brahms. Even though she gave birth to eight children, and had great family responsibilities, Robert encouraged her compose. When Robert got sick, and after his early death, Clara supported her family by giving concerts and teaching. She continued to perform into her 70's.

Listen to a special show about Clara Schumann.

Germaine Tailleferre

April 19, 1892 - November 07, 1983

Modern Period

Born in France

Germaine Tailleferre was born in Paris and had early success as a pianist. When she was 12, she started studying at the Paris Conservatory to study, where she won many prizes. Erik Satie was so impressed with one of her piano compositions that he called her his “musical daughter,” and promoted her career. She went on to become the only female member of “Les Six,” a group of prominent French composers. She composed concertos, sonatas,operas, ballets, and film music.

Although most of her acclaim occurred early in her career, Tailleferre composed and taught throughout her life. She was especially devoted to children and their music.

Joan Tower

September 06, 1938 - --

Modern Period

Born in USA

Joan Tower is an American composer, pianist and conductor. She was born in New Rochelle, New York, but spent her childhood in South America where she fell in love with rhythm and percussion instruments. Tower has never written for voices, just instruments, and many of her compositions were created with particular performers in mind. She has won many awards and commissions, served as composer-in-residence with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, and taught at Bard College.

Joan Trimble

June 18, 1915 - August 06, 2000

Modern Period

Born in Ireland

Joan Trimble was born in Enniskillen, Ireland. As a student at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin, she was awarded scholarships in piano, violin and composition. She then studied with Ralph Vaughan Williams at the Royal College of Music in London. Joan and her sister Valerie toured as a two-piano duo.


 

 

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