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Great chamber music: my playlist

Chamber music is the real soul of making music: getting out of the lonely relationship with the piano , listening to all kinds of sounds and sonorities, and unlike concertos - there is certain intimacy and special communication with other musicians. It is one of the virtues of being a musician as a whole.

The huge repertoire for piano and strings is full of adventures and happiness. The piano quartets and piano quintets, that I was lucky enough to play in years of concerts, festivals and other occasions . Brahms, Schumann, Dvorak, Franck, and many others.

But again , the works of many composers who happened to be women were never on any repertoire list that I knew or experienced - in Schools, festivals, or any concert series.

This year I researched many great compositions for bigger chamber ensembles, as a part of my hashtag #weeklywomancomposer (on instagram and twitter, welcome to follow). So happy to convince colleagues , music lovers and professional musicians , along with chamber concerts series directors, that these works are wonderful and worth performing.

Let's start with the great Croatian Dora Pejačević ( 1885 - 1923) . Although she lived only 38 years, her output is outstanding .

The Piano Quartet in D minor, Op. 25, was written when Pejačević was only 23 years old, but it is clearly the work of a mature composer. Looking forward performing it next season in Jerusalem.

The Quintet for Two Violins, Viola, Violoncello and Piano in B Minor, Op. 40 (1915 -1918) is one of the peaks in Dora Pejacevic's chamber music. Its composition occupied her for an extended period of time, simultaneously with the Slavic Sonata for violin and piano, Op. 43, and with her Symphony, so their similarity of style and expression are understandable, as is the composer's desire to create, from time to time, a Slavic atmosphere in these works.

Mélanie Hélène Bonis, known as Mel Bonis ( 1856 - 1937) a student of Cezar Franck at the Paris Conservatoire and a colleague of Debussy chose a masculine name (Mel) in order to get more exposure to her work. One of the most interesting composer of the beginning of the 20th century, she produced more than 300 compositions , almost exclusively chamber, instrumental and vocal pieces including two piano quartets.

Her second piano quartet op. 124 , composed in 1927 is a mature and deep composition . At that time Bonis suffered from deep depression and bodily pain, and composed most of her music from her bed. Considering her tragic life story, it is a miracle that this beautiful and sincere music survived as a legacy of her genuine voice. I am more than happy to perform this wonderful composition next season in Jerusalem.

Born at a time when women were excluded from the profession of music composition, Amy Marcy Beach's (1867 – 1944) reputation as a composer and a virtuoso pianist was prominent. As an American composer at the turn of the century, she is esteemed as the first woman to write a symphony and a mass. Throughout her life, she won acclaim in the United States, Canada, and Europe as a prominent composer and concert pianist.

Beach composed her own three-movement Quintet for Piano and Strings in F-sharp minor, Op. 67, in 1905. Among all of Beach's chamber works, this work has been described as one of the most distinctly representative of a Brahmsian influence in her music.

Louise Farrenc ( 1804 – 1875) is a major musical personality hiding in plain sight. Composer, pianist, researcher, editor and educator, she was praised by Berlioz and Schumann; she became the Paris Conservatoire’s only 19th-century female professor of piano; she fought for equal pay as a woman, and won it. Born in the year Napoleon crowned himself Emperor, when Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ Symphony was contemporary music, she lived to see the devastation of Paris in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 and the birth of Saint-Saëns’s Société Nationale de Musique.

Her chamber output includes the nonet op. 38 , that is performed more regularly on the chamber stage, but her piano quintet no. 2 op. 31 (1840) is a wonderful gem to get acquainted with .

And as for pieces for piano trio: of the wonderful output by women composers, along with the Clara Wieck- Schumann and the Fanny Mendelsohn - Hensel , here are two wonderful discoveries:

Henriëtte Bosmans ( 1895 –1952) is considered one of the most important Dutch composers of the first half of the 20th century. As a pianist and composer, she was affiliated with various chamber music ensembles in Amsterdam, with among others the violinists Louis Zimmerman and Francis Koene and the cellist Marix Loevensohn.

Because her mother was Jewish, Bosmans was under the scrutiny of authorities during the German occupation, and by 1942 she could no longer perform on public stages in the Netherlands. Her aged mother was arrested and deported, but Bosmans and others intervened to rescue her from further detention. Unable to work as a musician, and needing to care for her mother through wartime famine and other dangers, Bosmans focused again on composing. One of her songs "became an anthem of liberation" as the war ended, and Allied soldiers arrived in the Netherlands.

Her piano trio from 1921 is a wonderful encounter .

Germaine Tailleferre (1892-1983) , the only woman in the "Le six" group was admired by Erik Satie and Igor Stravinsky. When Tailleferre was studying at the paris Conservatory, she got her pilot’s license to fly a hot airballoon (!) her harmony teacher was a passenger on her very first flight. Charlie Chaplin asked her to write music for his films.

Her piano trio from 1917 is in the spirit of the new wave in Paris and an original voice in the musical scene . It should be performed along with the great chamber works of Ravel and Poulenc.

Discovering this chamber repertoire is a great joy to listen to and to play , and I hope you will join my playlist! there are more compositions there. Look for it on Spotify. Enjoy.


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