Friday 10 March 2017

BBC Radio plans to celebrate the work of five forgotten composers.

Augusta Holmès
Augusta Holmès
Following on from its unveiling of Fanny Mendelssohn's lost Easter Sonata as part of its International Women's Day celebrations, BBC Radio 3 announced that it plans to celebrate the work of five forgotten women composers with a major recording project. The composers are Leokadiya Kashperova, Marianna Martines, Florence B Price, Augusta Holmès and Johanna Müller-Hermann, and the project, a collaboration with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), will use BBC Orchestra and Choirs, and the BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists to record music by the five women.
  • Leokadiya Kashperova (1872 – 1940) was a Russian pedagogue and pianist who wrote Romantic songs and instrumental music. She performed twice at London’s Aeolian Hall in 1907 and received very good reviews. She is recognised today primarily as Stravinsky's piano teacher.
  • Marianna Martines (1744 – 1813) was an Austrian composer, singer and pianist from a noble Neapolitan family. The large family house in Vienna where she grew up was also home to artists including the librettist Pietro Metastasio, and Joseph Haydn, then a struggling young composer. Composer and teacher Nicola Porpora was a frequent guest.
  • Florence B Price (1887 – 1953) was an award-winning symphonist from an affluent African-American family. Price achieved success at a time when restrictive Jim Crow laws were in place in the South, and the ‘Harlem Renaissance’ movement was taking flight.
  • Augusta Holmès (1847 – 1903) was a French composer of Irish descent, who had a large circle of artistic friends and admirers, including Liszt, Rossini, Saint-Saëns and Cézar Franck (who she studied with), and had five children with the poet Catulle Mendés.
  • Johanna Müller-Hermann (1868 – 1941) was an Austrian composer and pedagogue. Originally a primary school teacher, she gave up this career after marriage. There are only a handful of recordings of her work, largely due to the suppression of progressive Viennese culture and the closure of the New Vienna Conservatory by the Nazis after 1938.
Those with long memories may remember Ronald Harwood's novel Cesar and Augusta about Cesar Franck's possibly passionate relationship with Holmes, and in 1991 Naxos Patrimoine issued an invaluable disc of her music including three substantial and very Lisztian symphonic poems.

The composers were suggested to the BBC by a group of academics and each academic will be invited to recommend a major work to be recorded, which may mean re-creating orchestral parts from the original manuscript.

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