A prevailing theme for the Yakima Symphony Orchestra’s 2019-20 season has been to highlight women composers.
The idea that women composers need attention is one that is often lauded, but is also met with some trepidation. For example, it is clear that women composers are underrepresented in the written accounts of music history, so the attention is deserved. Still, the singling out of a particular group can also have the unintended consequence of separation, even isolation.
While some composers are pleased to have their works performed in any circumstance, I know active women composers who recoil at the idea of having their works performed at a concert of works composed only by women; this singling out can perpetuate the idea that these works need to be heard separately because they are still not good enough to join the mainstream musical canon.
I hope those who have come to our concerts this season have come to realize that women composers have produced works that deserve equal attention, programming and acclaim. And, as a result of the works we are featuring this season, I invite you all to join me in a New Year’s resolution: to actively look for, listen to and study the works of women composers.
A simple Google search, or even the Wikipedia article titled “List of women composers by birthdate,” presents a surprising, if not overwhelming, list of composers from all historical style periods. Fortunately, research into these composers and their works has exploded over the past several years, so there is plenty for all musical tastes.
To get started on this resolution, here is a sampler list of composers and symphonies, presented chronologically. I have purposely chosen symphonic works by composers the YSO will not be performing this season. These composers and many others have also composed chamber music, solo repertoire, operas and more, in all musical genres.
Further, all of these particular works have commercial recordings available — again, a quick internet search will provide information on how to listen to them. Some are even available for free on YouTube. Happy New Year, and enjoy!
• Marianna von Martines, Austria, Ouverture (Sinfonie) in C (1770).
• Jeanne-Louise Farrenc, France, Symphony No. 3 in G minor, op. 36 (1847).
• Emilie Mayer, Germany, Symphony No. 4 in B minor (1851).
• Amy Beach, United States, Symphony No. 1 “Gaelic” (1896).
• Florence Beatrice Price, United States, Symphony No. 1 in E minor (1933).
• Grazyna Bacewicz, Poland, Symphony No. 4 (1953).
• Ruth Gipps, England, Symphony No. 4 (1972).
• Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, United States, Symphony No. 1 (1982).
• Alla Pavlova, Ukraine, Symphony No. 5 (2006).