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Today, March 8, marks International Women’s Day, a globally-recognised chance to celebrate and recognise the challenges and opportunities facing women across the world.

Along with our design partners Sane & Able, we have produced an infographic with stats and facts about the role women play in professional music, and how they are represented across the classical music industry. The theme of ‘space’ was chosen to highlight the light years we need to travel in order to achieve gender parity, as women are still vastly under-represented in the media for their achievements in composing and conducting.

We’ve highlighted that at the current rate, it won’t be until 2186 – 169 years away – that 50% of pieces composed and conducted by women will be the norm at the BBC Proms. Currently, only 4 of the 61 accredited ABO orchestras have women undertaking titled roles. This week we have compiled a Spotify playlist of 169 of our favourite pieces created or performed by women in celebration of the incredible contribution women make to the music industry, including those who have been overlooked by history.

The World Economic Forum’s ‘Global Gender Gap Report 2016‘ provides interesting – and sometimes difficult – reading for anyone interested in finding out the facts and statistics behind women’s role in areas such as education, economics, health and politics. From looking at the data collected it is clear that, like with classical music, we still have a long way to go to ensure that the female half of the population are given the same opportunities as their male equivalents.

It’s not all bad news. Serious efforts are being made to ensure fairer representation for women in the classical music industry. ‘Sound and Music‘ are aiming for a 50/50 split between male and female-identified composers as part of their vision for 2020, which is a short three years away. Later today, BBC Radio 3 are to broadcast a piano sonata by composer Fanny Mendelssohn, which up until recently had been falsely attributed to her brother Felix. Tomorrow, as part of HeForShe Arts Week, ‘Yes She Can’ are providing young women opportunities to network and discover more about careers in music, particularly in roles generally underrepresented by women such as tech and management.

Follow the hashtags #BeBoldForChange and #InternationalWomensDay on Twitter to find out more about how you can get involved in the campaign for gender equality.

 

(Written on March 8, 2017 )

Classical News

In today’s classical news, Lake District Summer Music cancelled summer school, but will include new series of ‘Young Artist Debut Recitals’. Results of UK Music’s survey on diversity highlight the underrepresentation of Black, Asian, minority ethnic individuals and women in the industry. Rumours have been circulating that SoundCloud is on verge of bankruptcy. Also, in Germany opinions are divided over the Elbphilharmonie following last night’s opening concert, and could Obama soon be working for Spotify?

Classical Music Magazine

Lake District ends summer school after 32 years

Lake District Summer Music, for 32 years a combined festival and summer school for students in Cumbria, is changing its pattern of activity. Public concerts by international figures in the festival are to continue as before, but this year it will include a series of ‘Young Artist Début Recitals’ by selected performers, and no summer school as such.

UK Music reveals diversity survey findings

The results of UK Music’s diversity survey highlight the underrepresentation of BAME individuals and women in the music sector.

Nathalie Stutzmann takes RTÉ principal guest conductor post

The RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra has named Nathalie Stutzmann as principal guest conductor. The announcement comes just days before she gives her second performance with the ensemble.

The New York Times

Focus! Festival to Highlight Diverse Music of Latin America

This year, the Juilliard School’s annual Focus! festival will look at “Our Southern Neighbors: The Music of Latin America.”

The Violin Channel

Rumours Circulating That SoundCloud Streaming Service on Verge of Bankruptcy

Reports are circulating that SoundCloud is on the verge of bankruptcy – following the presentation of a hemorrhaging $52 million loss.

Süddeutsche Zeitung

Merkel: Elbphilharmonie ist fantastischer Konzertsaal

Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel hat die Hamburger Elbphilharmonie als fantastischen Konzertsaal bezeichnet. Merkel gehörte zu den 2100 Gästen des Eröffnungskonzertes des NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchesters.

Hamburger Abenblatt

Bundespräsident Gauck: “Sie haben Großartiges geleistet”

Der Bundespräsident eröffnet die Elbphilharmonie und ist von ihrer Akustik begeistert. Die Eröffnungsrede im Wortlaut.

Welt

Liebe Hamburger, Weltklasse geht leider anders

Das Eröffnungskonzert sollte die Akustik des neuen Klanghauses zur Geltung bringen. Das ist offenbar misslungen. Es gibt einen Grund, warum der Klang nicht hält, was die Architektur verspricht.

euronews

Une nouvelle ère s’ouvre-t-elle pour les instruments ? Ce violon électrique, d’allure futuriste, a été conçu grâce à une imprimante 3D. 

Une nouvelle ère s’ouvre-t-elle pour les instruments ? Ce violon électrique, d’allure futuriste, a été conçu grâce à une imprimante 3D. Avec son “3Dvarius”, un clin d‘œil au célèbre luthier italien Antonio Stradivari, Laurent Bernadac espère repousser les limites du son.

Le Figaro

Barack Obama, président des playlists pour Spotify ?

La plateforme d’écoute en ligne a publié une offre d’emploi intitulée «président des playlists» qui semble étrangement adaptée au curriculum du 44e président des États-Unis.

Twitter

Elbphilharmonie @elbphilharmonie A moment to remember forever! This is the first official photo of the Grand Hall with guests and orchestra.  https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C16x2tRXUAQAqcO.jpg

Tagesspiegel Berlin @TspBerlin Hamburg leuchtet,Berlin duckt sich weg?Von wegen! über die Vorzüge der Hauptstadt:

Classical Music @ClassicalMusic8 The Pittsburgh Symphony is back, putting the music scene at full strength – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette https://t.co/m9T8ih4eyt

Photo: BBC Photographer – Guy Levy

(Written on January 12, 2017 )

Classical News

In our news today, Guy Garvey’s Meltdown Festival line-up announced with a full day of events addressing the refugee crisis, Nils Frahms’ special Barbican weekend line-up announced and the piano from the Oscar-winning film The Piano sells at auction. Also, German Music Council  appeals to all citizens to raise their voice for democracy and rule of law and Violinist Overcomes Bone Disease To Win NPR competition.

Guardian

The Piano’s piano sells for just NZ$1,000 at auction

Non-playable prop from Jane Campion’s multiple Oscar-winning 1993 film was used in the movie’s famous beach scene

The Telegraph

Robert Plant to perform at Guy Garvey’s Meltdown

Robert Plant will join other musicians in an all-day event addressing the refugee crisis as part of Meltdown festival this year.

Classic FM

We’re celebrating the inspirational women of classical music this International Women’s Day

We asked the women of Classic FM – working both on air and behind the scenes – to each pick one woman in the world of classical music who has inspired them. Here’s what they said…

International Arts Manager

Nils Frahm Barbican weekend line-up announced

Nils Frahm, the Berlin-based contemporary composer and pianist with a cult-like following, is to curate this year’s Barbican marathon weekend – featuring Frahm’s only live show in 2016

The Strad

Violinist Ray Chen launches community crowdfunding campaign

‘Musical Heroes’ initiative aims to recognise ‘unsung’ trailblazers. American violinist Ray Chen has launched a crowdfunding campaign in aid of community musicians.

NMZ

Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar – Aufruf des Deutschen Musikrats

Neben dem Deutschen Musikrat haben sich aktuell 142 Organisationen und Verbände der „Allianz für Weltoffenheit, Demokratie und Rechtsstaat – gegen Intoleranz, Menschenfeindlichkeit und Gewalt“ angeschlossen

Musik-heute

Gesangswettbewerb DEBUT: Clarry Bartha wird künstlerische Leiterin

Die Sopranistin Clarry Bartha übernimmt die künstlerische Leitung des Europäischen Gesangswettbewerbs DEBUT

Klassik.com

Sachsen erwirbt Skizzen von Robert Schumann

Das Bundesland Sachsen hat in einem US-amerikanischen Antiquariat Skizzen des Komponisten Robert Schumann (1810-1856) zu seinem ersten Klaviertrio op. 63 erworben

CBD Minnesota

Violinist Overcomes Bone Disease To Win NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest

Gaelynn Lea has an unconventional approach to playing her instrument, born of necessity

Twitter

@WOWtweetUK Our Artistic Director @JudeKellySBC launches WOW on #IWD2016 with 1000 school girls & amazing girls education activist @SarahBrownUK #WOWLDN

@BBCRadio3 “A day like this is a way to shout from the rooftops that music is for everyone”: Radio 3’s Olwen Fisher on #IWD2016 http://bbc.in/1nrIKmS

@BBCMusic Which female musicians inspired you growing you? Share your story: http://bbc.in/1RxVDDT #BBCPHOP #IWD2016

wildkat-pr-piano-auction-news

The Guardian

(Written on March 8, 2016 )

The last minute cancellation of a performance last week by the Tehran Symphony Orchestra at the World Wrestling Cup, infuriated its conductor Ali Rahbari. As the orchestra was about to play the national anthem, it was announced that women weren’t allowed to perform; Rahbari refused to perform if the orchestra could not play all together.  

Since the Islamic revolution in 1979, women have been forbidden from performing solo on stage. Outside the capital, performances are often cancelled if there is a female musician, even when tickets have been sold. To perform music in Iran, it is necessary to have a permit from the ministry of culture, however even with the permit, anti -music groups call off concerts; conservatives and some religious leaders claim music can “excite and cause deviation” among the country’s youth. Last week’s incident was the first time a performance by the Symphony Orchestra had been cancelled because of its female members.

Only this April, after a three year interlude, was the orchestra revived by Alexander Rahbari. According to Rahbari, this is thanks to Rouhani’s relatively moderate administration. Under the previous president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the orchestra was broken up, due to negligence and financial stringency.

Tehran Symphony Orchestra performs in Tehran in March after a 25 month break/ photo: Payvand Iran news

Tehran Symphony Orchestra performs in Tehran in March after a 25 month break/ photo: Payvand Iran news

It is odd that there are such gender issues in Iran’s entertainment industry. In many ways, the country is one of the more progressive middle Eastern countries; 70% of university graduates in Iran are women. The cancellation of concerts which have been permitted by the ministry of culture is considered wrong, and there doesn’t seem to be much clarity or consistency on the issue; Iranian law allows women to perform as part of an ensemble, however sometimes concerts go ahead and on some occasions they are called-off. Women aren’t allowed to sing solo either, as a result many are forced to go abroad in order to pursue careers in music. Are the restrictions on women performing just an extreme method of limiting music in Iran rather than restricting women? It seems that women in other industries aren’t discriminated against as severely, but according to some conservatives, music can “excite and cause deviation.”

The restrictions on the performance of music, the necessity of a permit and the cancellation of concerts because of female performers seem bizarre to Europe. Although females in the European music industry – most notably composers and conductors – do face gender issues, we have progressed considerably. This week, it was announced that Xian Zhang will be guest conductor at BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Although female conductors are still a rarity, the idea of women in this role is becoming normalised.

Conductor Ali Rahbari

Conductor Ali Rahbari

The human rights of women in Iran have been infringed upon; the orchestra was quite right not to perform rather than bow to the demands of the authorities, who prohibited the women from playing. Not only is it a kind of gender segregation, but audiences are deprived of music, which they have paid to hear. The head of the Wrestling Federation, Rasoul Khadem, has asked the orchestra to play the national anthem at another wrestling event in Tehran in January; let’s hope it goes ahead uninterrupted! 

(Written on December 4, 2015 )

Classical News

In today’s news, Arts Professional reveals a stark gender pay gap in arts salaries and Classic FM reports that ‘1 in 10 violin prodigies attempt suicide’. Also, First Lady of China visited the Royal College of Music and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales embarks on a tour of South America

Classic FM

Terrifying new study suggests ‘1 in 10 violin prodigies attempt suicide’

The harsh truth of being a virtuoso musician at a young age is spelled out in a new book – and violinists don’t come out of it well

Classical Source

First Lady of China visits the Royal College of Music

Today, the Royal College of Music open its doors to the First Lady of the People’s Republic of China, Madame Peng Liyuan

The Strad

Trio Isimsiz wins Trondheim International Chamber Music Competition 2015

The London-based piano trio receive €15,000 and concert engagements

Arts Professional

Arts salary survey reveals stark gender pay gap

Full-time working women earn less than men doing the same level of work at all stages in their careers, with the gap at senior levels having grown since 2006

BBC

BBC National Orchestra of Wales first for Patagonia

The BBC National Orchestra of Wales (BBC NOW) is embarking on its first tour of South America

Concerti 

Keine Zeit für Nettigkeiten

Die Cellistin Alisa Weilerstein schätzt das Musizieren mit Familienmitgliedern – und das nicht nur, weil der Vater ihr schon früh eine Begegnung mit Don Giovanni bescherte

Audiophil 

HOUSE OF MARLEY

The House of Marley setzt auf nachhaltige Eleganz mit Premiumklang: „One Love, One World“ – der Speaker-Experte The House of Marley lässt die Botschaft von Musik-Legende Bob Marley weiterleben

Pizzicato 

Salzburger Festspiele verlängern Zusammenarbeit mit Wiener Staatsopernchor

Die Salzburger Festspiele und die Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor haben gestern in Wien einen 5-Jahresvertrag für den Zeitraum 2017 bis 2021 unterzeichnet

El Mundo 

Muere Gloria Van Aerssen, mitad superviviente de Vainica Doble

Ha fallecido a los 83 años, 15 después que Gloria Santonja, con quien formó dúo creando uno de los fenómenos musicales más singulares de la escena española

El Pais 

García Calvo: “La ignorancia y la intuición han guiado mi carrera”

Guillermo García Calvo (Madrid, 1978) no consta en Wikipedia. Y no por falta de méritos. Se deshizo del anonimato y del trabajo gregario cuando una indisposición de Daniele Gatti en la Ópera de Viena precipitó su debut en el teatro más carismático de Europa

Twitter

Sinfini Music ‏@SinfiniMusic : The truth behind the spirits, sprites and spooks haunting concert halls. @auroraorchestra http://www.sinfinimusic.com/uk/features/other-features/scary-creepy-and-ghostly-classical-music-for-halloween-2015 …

Classical Diary ‏@ClassicalDiary : Music is a big family. We fully support @Music_in_Exile and all musicians against those who’d like to silence us > http://www.theywillhavetokillusfirst.com/ 

Gramophone ‏@GramophoneMag : Here is your complete guide to #Beethoven‘s symphonies explored by 9 leading conductors. http://bit.ly/beethovensymphonies …

 newsoct23

First Lady of China visits the Royal College of Music/Classical Source

(Written on October 23, 2015 )

Classical News

In today’s news, Sokolov refuses award won by Lebrecht, and Juilliard opens a campus in China. Also, Classical Music Magazine writes that women in classical music are thrust into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, and Classic FM lists the struggles of being a classical-music loving Millennial

Gramophone

Grigory Sokolov refuses award because it has previously been won by Norman Lebrecht

Sokolov: ‘According to my ideas about elementary decency, it is shame to be in the same award-winners list with Lebrecht’

Classical Music Magazine

Women in classical music are being thrust into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons

When 17-year-old Jessy McCabe made headlines last month with her shocking discovery that Edexcel’s Music A-Level syllabus featured not a single work by a female composer, my reaction was one of anger and frustration

The Guardian

Meet the Turner prize shortlist, from the musician to the mind-reader

Architecture, opera, fashion, parapsychology … this year’s contenders are taking contemporary art into exciting new territory. We sent our experts to meet the artists on the shortlist

Classical Music Magazine

Juilliard to open campus in China

The Juilliard School is to open its first campus outside New York.

The Guardian

Turning opera inside out: how I got Lost in Thought

Shoeless and armed only with a swizzle stick, Stuart Jeffries attempts to banish distracting thoughts and be part of the world’s first mindfulness opera

Classic FM

The worst things about being a classical music-loving Millennial

You were born in the 1990s, you love classical music, and it’s a nightmare. Here are 11 of the worst day-to-day trials that you have to put up with…

Klassik.com

h-Moll-Messe von Johann Sebastian Bach für Weltkodumentenerbe nominiert

Die deutsche Unesco-Kommission sieht das Werk als Meilenstein der Musikgeschichte in Bezug auf Satztechnik, Wort-Ton-Verhältnis sowie ihre ästhetisch und theologisch durchdachte Gesamtform.

Tagesspiegel

Im Strudel – Igor Levit und das DSO

Der Pianist Igor Levit gibt sein Debüt in der Philharmonie. Zusammen mit dem DSO unter der Leitung von Oslo Vänskä lässt er den Saal vor Spannung vibrieren.

Klassik heute

“Musik in den Häusern der Stadt” in Köln, Hamburg und Bonn

Weltmusik im Wohnzimmer, Klassik im Atelier, Jazz im Foyer – vom 3. bis 8. November ist wieder “Musik in den Häusern der Stadt” zu hören.

El país

Les Arts y el IVAM llevarán ópera al museo y exposiciones al coliseo

La muestra ‘Testigos del arte’ ya se puede ver en el Palau de les Arts y desde octubre intérpretes del Centre Plácido Domingo a cantarán en el muse0

El mundo

Plácido Domingo canta y llora a su hermana recién fallecida

María José Domingo, de 72 años, murió este verano en Boston. El tenor la ha homenajeado con un recital en la catedral de Los Ángeles.

Twitter

Sinfini Music‘they were taking the piano apart and reassembling it as I played’ on SLEEP

Music Education UKBBC Music launches Ten Pieces Secondary film

In Tune BBC Radio 3 A packed studio today! Players from & teaming up to perform an amazing mash up of the

News 29th Sep

‘Music is doing what it always does – dividing up time, but this time in order to structure our work’ Lost in Thought: a mindfulness opera, by Rolf Hind, at LSO St Luke’s. Photograph: Simon Jay Price/The Guardian

(Written on September 29, 2015 )

With the summer holidays drawing to a close, for students all around the country this means one thing. Results. But one seventeen-year-old girl had other things on her mind.

Jessy McCabe noticed a distinct lack of female representation on the Edexcel A-level music syllabus, with 63 male composers and no females, despite including a variety of genres and eras.

She contacted Edexcel’s Head of Music, who claims “given that female composers were not prominent in the Western Classical tradition (or others for that matter), there would be very few female composers that could be included [in the A Level specification]”. McCabe dismisses this statement. She argues that there are over 6000 female composers in history and BBC Radio 3 managed to programme a full day of music written by women in honour of International Women’s Day.

And it would appear that she is not alone in her opinions. Over 1700 people have already supported her online petition.

This topic certainly has sparked lively debate from both sides. What do you think? Tweet us at @WildKatPR or comment on our Facebook page.

Jessy McCabe

Seventeen-year-old Jessy McCabe
Photo credit: The Independent

(Written on August 21, 2015 )

Classical News

In today’s news, the RSNO launches new composers’ hub, a campaign to ensure women are included on next A-level music syllabus and the Titanic violin will go on display in the US next year.

Classical Music Magazine

RSNO launches composers’ hub

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra has launched a new initiative aimed at composers in the early stages of their career.

Campaign to include women on A-level music syllabus

Student Jessy McCabe has started a campaign to ensure that women are represented on Edexcel’s next A-level music syllabus.

BBC Music Magazine

Six of the best: Schubert songs

We profile some of Schubert’s greatest Lieder

The Strad

Titanic violin to go on display in two US museums in 2016

The instrument, thought to have been played by bandmaster Wallace Hartley as the ship went down, sold for a record sum in 2013

Gramophone

Dima Slobodeniouk appointed Principal Conductor of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra

Slobodeniouk will replace Okko Kamu in autumn 2016

Die Welt

Auch die Klassik hat ihre Transgender-Debatte

Oper nichts Neues. Nun entdecken auch Sänger und Musiker die Transgender-Identität im wirklichen Leben. Obwohl gerade in vielen Orchestern Diversity eher selten ist.

BR Klassik

Leere Kassen in Italien: Sparpläne für die Kultur

Die Ankündigung von Italiens Kulturministerium, die staatlichen Mittel neu zu verteilen und 20 Millionen Euro einzusparen, hat für einen Aufschrei in der Musikszene des Landes gesorgt. Zum Beispiel beim Opernfestival von Macerata.

Musik-Heute

Daniel Barenboim feiert 65-jähriges Bühnenjubiläum

Bei einem Konzert mit seinem West-Eastern Divan Orchestra hat der Dirigent und Pianist Daniel Barenboim an sein 65-jähriges Bühnenjubiläum erinnert. Es sei ein besonderer Tag für ihn, sagte der 72-Jährige am Dienstagabend nach dem Auftritt in London.

BWW Classical World

Long Yu and the China Philharmonic Travel the Silk Road

From Athens to Tehran, the China Philharmonic ‘builds a cultural bridge’ across six countries that recreates the famous Silk Road trade route from China – and plays Dvorak’s New World Symphony in Tehran.

France Musique

Comment l’Asian Youth Orchestra a changé la vie d’un réfugié vietnamien

Alors que l’Asian Youth Orchetra vient de célébrer ses 25 ans et sa réussite sur la scène culturelle locale, l’orchestre revient sur le parcours atypique d’un de ses anciens membres, Khac-Uyen Nguyen, réfugié vietnamien devenu musicien suite à une audition qui a changé le cours de sa vie.

Twitter

Constella @constella_UK: @edfringe @Cvenues – come along and meet one of the clowns @SusanScraper 13.35 every day!

BBC Radio 3 @BBCRadio3: Now on our @bbcproms artist of the week @DBarenboim with Chopin’s Three Nocturnes Op. 9

John Suchet @johnsuchet1: What is it? Plumbers box of tricks. Clears a U bend – sounds like it too. Save the bassoon! Find out how @ClassicFM

Titanic_Violin

Titanic Violin to go on display
Photo credit: The Strad

(Written on August 19, 2015 )

Marin Alsop holds the title ‘first woman to…’ in a (worryingly) large number of areas: first woman to head a full time major American orchestra, the first woman to conduct the Last Night of the Proms in 2013 and first female principle conductor of a UK orchestra (Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra). I say worryingly because there are still so many firsts for women to be had in 2015 as she herself has said.

We all remember when she was announced as the conductor of the Last Night of the BBC Proms in 2013 and we shouted for joy at there FINALLY being a female conductor at one of classical music’s most famous evenings. Yet, we also collectively shook our heads in agreement when, in her Last Night speech, she voiced what we were all thinking: ‘I find it shocking that in 2013 there are still firsts for women.’

Marin-Alsop-c-Grant-Leighton-8

Photo: Grant Leighton

Marin tells how she is extremely lucky to have grown up in a very musical family with both her parents being professional classical musicians. Clearly a very talented young child, she took up the piano and, a little later, the violin when she was 6 or 7 and began studying at the Juilliard Pre College Division around the same time. Her passion for conducting also came at an early age when she saw Leonard Bernstein at a concert and, from that moment, she knew it was the profession for her. She has now held the prestigious position of Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra since 2007, a tenure which has been extended twice until 2021. She added to her busy schedule in 2012 by taking up the post of Principal Conductor of the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra in 2012 and became Music Director in July 2013.

So, why do we not see more women conducting or composing when, simultaneously, there is a wonderful amount of talented female soloists? Vasily Petrenko famously said it was because a woman on the podium would be distracting, whilst Marin cites Roger Wright who blames the trajectory of history which has prevented role models breaking through. Well, that is until now. Later on in her Last Night speech, Marin said that ‘it is all worthwhile if it inspired young women to realize that they, too, should follow their passion, should aim high and not let any barriers stand in their way.’

Conductor Marin Alsop leaning on a rail holding a baton

Photo: Richard Saker for the Observer Richard Saker/Observer

With girls throughout the world risking their lives to even go to school (see James McCarthy’s work inspired by Malala Yousafazi), those of us in classical music should be inspired by this boldness for change in our industry and do our part for the equality of women all over the world.

Check back here tomorrow for our final blog in the #ClassicalWomen series: our top 10 women in classical music moments.

(Written on March 5, 2015 )

In the run up to International Women’s Day this Sunday (8th March), WildKat PR are turning the spotlight onto influential and inspiring female figures in classical music, past and present.

Today’s focus is on Dame Ethel Smyth, a female composer of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, who was also an extremely active suffragette. Such was her devotion to women’s rights that she gave up her music for two years to fight for the cause.

As common to many women of middle class origins at the time, music and music theory lessons were undertaken only as part of a ‘ladylike’ education and not a serious career option. Yet, for Ethel, these inspired her to relocate to the Leipzig Conservatoire when she was 19 where she studied composition, much to her Father’s disapproval who preferred for her to marry.

Ethel Smyth Picture

Bassano. Dame Ethel Mary Smyth Image: National Portrait Gallery, London

In Leipzig she studied under Carl Reinecke and Heinrich von Herzogenberg and it was around this time that her work was introduced to Brahms. He commented, with what she realised afterwards was not a compliment but actually ‘scathing irony,’ ‘So, this is the young lady who writes sonatas and doesn’t know counterpoint.

Despite Brahms’ comments, Smyth’s works were received with critical acclaim, particularly her String Quintet in E Major. Highly respected critic, Wilhelm Altmann, wrote ‘this quintet clearly showcases the composer’s tremendous talent.’ Her Symphonic Serenade in D, secured her recognition with both public and press.

Her introduction to Emmeline Pankhurst in 1910 sparked her passionate involvement in the Suffragette movement. Indeed, she was sentenced to two months in jail for breaking an anti-suffrage politician’s window with a brick! The movement also influenced her music: she wrote The March of the Women which became an anthem for suffrage and was sung by the women on marches.

So, what can we learn from Ethel today? Clearly, her uncompromising commitment to women’s rights is something which is still very important (although we do not condone her violent methods). Whilst there are many wonderfully talented female musicians, there is still a distinct lack of women composers and conductors and Ethel’s determination to buck the trend in 20th Century England is something our industry should celebrate and encourage.

Check back here tomorrow for the next in our series on Marin Alsop!

suffragettes_372

A Suffragette protest in London. Photograph: PA

Sources: WomenComposers.org

Spartacus Educational

The Telegraph

(Written on March 4, 2015 )