Recording GEMS was a great experience: meeting these wonderful composers and spending the time with their music and life story was so special, and the question that was asked : how come I have never heard about them? Heard their music before?
I had studied music so many years , and in so many institutions – but never - any composer of this list was ever mentioned!
History of music is full of masterpieces by women composers, but they were not revealed to the listeners and disappeared for many years. Today, these works are performed and recorded more and more and the awareness of them among the performers, musicologists, as well as the radio stations, is growing.
Many musical treasures are revealed and the new album GEMS is just one example of this trend.
This album represents a variety of works, whose recordings are rare and which are almost never performed on the concert stage. For the album I chose beautiful miniatures composed by composers from Europe and the USA in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Clara Wieck-Schumann (1819-1896) is represented on the album by two rarely recorded gems: the impromptu in E major (1844) and the B minor romance(1855)This year was a very difficult time for Clara- It was a year after the suicide attempt of her husband, Robert Schumann .The work was discovered after her death. It is a pure refined inner pain , mixed with a passion for life .
The Czech Otilie Sukova (1878-1905) was the daughter of Antonin Dvořák, and the wife of the violinist Josef Suk. She died at the age of 27. Recently Bärenreiter Verlag published her piano pieces copied in Suk's handwriting . In the album : Humoresque, a lullaby, and an intimate excerpt dedicated to her father. The music is a sincere and simple piano image of Dvorak'symphonic music, and is suitable for young pianists.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries France, and Paris in particular, was a rich musical center and many women composers flourished in this creative atmosphere
Composed in 1915 and published in 1929, The Wounded Cathedral , opus 107 by Mel (Melanie) Bonis (1858-1937) is dedicated to the memory of the playwright and poet Lucien Augé de Lassus, who died in 1914. Of a “serious” and “majestic” character , it constitutes a vast funeral lament inspired by the First World War. The piece opens with a series of descending, heavy and hieratic parallel chords, expressed in the resonance of a pedal given to the extreme low of the piano. The complexity of the harmony gives birth to harsh tones, which are transformed into cries in an embroidered figure of appoggiature, played fortissimo. Ternary in form - with a largely truncated and varied return from the first part - the work obeys a very free formal construction, almost rhapsodic in places, willingly interspersed with suspensive breaths, and punctuated by large arpeggios escaping any meter. From tempo largo , the second section of the piece is introduced by a mysterious arpeggio that makes the piano sound like a harp. This part is based on material derived from the Dies Irae , presented in the form of a marcato funeral march , set in motion by the combination of the offbeats of the bass and the syncopations of the inner voices. One can wonder if the title of this work was given a posteriori by the composer, after she had survived the bombardment of the Saint-Gervais church in 1918; however, the resonant texture of the piano, which evokes the acoustics of a cathedral, might suggest that this enigmatic title is contemporary with the composition of the work.
Cécile Chaminade (1857-1944), known mainly for her flute concertino had a successful career as a virtuoso pianist, and is represented in the Serenade op. 29 , influenced by a Spanish color, and energetic toccata op, 39 , both pieces are suited for young pianists .
Lili Boulanger (1892-1918) , a genius creator at the turn of the century in france (Fin de siècle) and the younger sister of Nadia Boulanger, was the first woman to receive in 1913 the prestigious "Prix de Rome" . She died at the age of 24 . The three piano pieces from 1914 are at the top of the piano repertoire and are often performed. The third piece , "Cortege", is performed also in the version for violin and piano. The music is full of sonorities and colors associated with the music of Debussy and Ravel- however, her originality by all means , and her experimental attitude towards harmony and orchestration is superb .
Germaine Tailleferre (1892-1983) The only woman in the "Le six" group, the young people who gathered around Jean Cocteau and Erik Satie , was one of the most important figures in the twentieth-century Paris. Charlie Chaplin asked her to write music for his films. While studying at the Conservatory in Paris, she also issued a balloon pilot license! Tailleferre has written throughout her life, despite many difficulties in her marriage (two husbands who abused her) . From her huge amount piano compositions I chose the beautiful Impromptu composed in the parisian salon image and Faure's inspiration (1909) as well as two later pieces : Larghetto (1946) and Valse Lente (1948)
One of the most colorful figures of the nineteenth century is the French singer and composer Pauline Viardot (1821-1910). Viardo (nee Garcia) was a very close friend of Frederic Chopin and George Sand and even adapted Chopin's Mazurkas into songs, with his approval. Her home was a lodge for many artists, writers and musicians, and she had a long love affair with the writer Ivan Turgenev. Of her few piano works, i chose to record The elegant Gavotte , and the spanish -oriented Serenade. (1885)
And the last piece of the album is by the American composer and pianist Clara Gottschalk Peterson (1837-1910), sister of pianist and composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk. "Staccato Polka" inspired by Vienna and Broadway, and is also very suitable for young pianists.
The process of recording, editing and sharing the album is very new to me, since times are changing so fast! all music is accessable immidiately, and it is a great pleasure for me to present this great music to pianists, teachers, students and piano lovers. Women composers deserve to be played and heard.
will be very happy to hear and see more performances and recordings of these great creators.