RECORDING: Music for Flute and Piano by Women Composers.
When I embarked on putting together a program of works by female composers, I was pleasantly surprised to find an abundance of interesting and varied repertoire from the eighteenth- through the twenty-first century. This collection contains many “little gems” from the 19th century repertoire, as well as more contemporary works with extra-musical or cross-cultural influences. All of the works on the CD are accessible to advanced students; my hope is that one or more of these works will appeal to flutists, so that these works find their way onto recital programs, alongside works already in the canon.
I hope this will be the first of several CD volumes Celebrating Women in music. I’ve begun work assembling repertoire for the next CD in this collection, Celebrating Canadian Women.
Mélanie Bonis (1858-1937) was accepted to the Paris Conservatoire in 1876; she studied with César Franck and was a classmate of Gabriel Pierné and Claude Debussy. In addition to being a student of great promise in composition, progressing rapidly and achieving a first prize in harmony, Bonis was also near the top of her class in piano accompaniment. However, when she fell in love with a fellow student, her family withdrew her from the Conservatoire in 1881, to separate the couple. For a woman to be an artist was still acceptable, but to be married to one was not.
Bonis’ prolific and diverse body of work contains sixty solo piano pieces, pieces for four hands, two pianos, and volumes of piano lessons, vocal duets, melodies for chorus, religious songs, about thirty organ pieces, eleven orchestrated works, and a large body of chamber music, including two quartets for piano and strings and a string quartet. Her works for flute include several short works with piano: Air Vaudois, Op. 108, Andante and Allegro, Op. 133, Une flûte soupire, Op. 121, Scherzo Final, Op. 187 and Pièce, Op. 189; as well, a full length Flute Sonata, Op.64, Suite for Flute, Violin and Piano, Op. 59, Forest Scenes for Flute, Horn and Piano, Op. 123, and a “Fantasy-Septet”, Op. 72.
Correspondence from the time bears witness to the esteem that fellow composers and musicians had for her work. From the turn of the twentieth century until the First World War, Mélanie Bonis tried to make her work known to a larger audience. Having won prizes at composer competitions, her pieces could be heard at recitals in Parisian salons, as well as at student auditions. She was successful in having music commissioned by some of the most prestigious editors in Paris: Alphonse Leduc, Max Eschig and Maurice Sénart. Her music was published under a “gender-neutral” name, Mel Bonis, in order to be taken seriously.
Pièce, Op. 189; presented on this recording, is a perfect example of her lyrical writing in a short character piece. Essentially romantic, abundant in harmonic and melodic inspiration, Mel Bonis’s music became more and more influenced by a highly refined impressionism over the years. Her work was enriched by new rhythmic innovations and willingly turned towards humor.
Largely forgotten by musicians and music historians, Bonis’ music has been championed recently by family descendents, and has reemerged as worthy music from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A website devoted to her work, in French, can be found at: www.mel-bonis.com
Tracks 2 – 4
Little is known about Anna Bon. Information about her is available from the dedications of only three works published between 1756 and 1759. It is hypothesized that she was the daughter of the architect, scenographer, and Venetian painter Girolamo Bon and the Bolognese singer Rosa Ruvinetti. Bon entered the Ospedale Della Pietà in Venice as a student at age four and studied there through the end of 1754. In 1755, Bon and her parents accepted a position within the Bayreuth-based court of Princess Wilhelmine of Prussia.
With the princess’ death in 1758, the Bon family returned to touring. In 1762, they were employed in the court of Prince Nikolaus of Esterházy in Eisenstadt. Anna Bon’s mother took part in operas written by Nikolaus’ chief court composer, Haydn. Anna Bon may have left the Esterházy court in 1765; by 1767, Bon had married an Italian singer and settled in Hildburghausen; nothing more is known of her afterward. Although Bon is often shown as having died in 1767 (the year she married) and while there are references to her “short life,” there is no known record of her actual death. Bon simply disappears from the historical record.
The Sonata in G, from the Op. 1 set sits well in the Italian Galant tradition. In this modern presentation for silver flute and piano, we have chosen to present the work with a very simple realization, to allow the beauty of the melodic line to come forward. The flute line gives a nod to historically informed embellishment, and the tradition in Italian instrumental music to florid style. There are no claims to presenting a fully researched authentic performance practice translated to modern instruments; rather, the recording is intended as a starting point for student exploration of historical music.
For more information about Anna Bon: classical-composers.org/comp/bon_anna
Heather Schmidt’s dual talents as a pianist and composer have garnered praise from the press, describing her as “a brilliant virtuoso pianist”, “poised and utterly musical”, and “as much a pianist in the professional sense as she is a composer.” Her career spans performances, broadcasts, commissions and awards in Canada, the United States, Russia, France, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, the Czech Republic, England, Cyprus, Mexico, Brazil, and the British West Indies.
Originally from Calgary, Heather divides her time between Los Angeles and Toronto. Ms. Schmidt began studies in piano and composition at the age of 4. She studied at Juilliard and at Indiana University, where at age 21, she became the youngest student to receive a doctorate. As a virtuoso pianist, Heather is in demand for recitals, chamber and concerto performances, and recordings. Her recent NAXOS recording features solo piano music by Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel. As an acclaimed composer, she has received commissions and composer residencies worldwide. Heather also composes scores for film and television. Recently, and was featured in “Synchronicity” on BRAVO television.
Heather teaches at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, and guest teaches throughout the world. (Source: www.heatherschmidt.com)
Chiaroscuro is dedicated to flutist Eleanor Lawrence. It was premiered in July 2000 at the Sound Symposium in St. John’s, Newfoundland with Michelle Cheramy (flute) and Heather Schmidt (piano.) Ms. Schmidt has several other works for flute in solo and chamber music contexts, including a Flute Concerto (2003); these are listed on her website. Chiaroscuro, in Schmidt’s work, refers to a Renaissance painting technique exploiting the contrasts of light and dark areas of illumination in artwork. Schmidt exploits contrasts of flute tone colour with trills, flutter tonguing and other varied articulation, and the four-octave range of the instrument.
Cecilia McDowall is another of the new generation of highly communicative musicians who favours writing which, without being in any way facile, is brightly cogent, freshly witty and expressive in its own right. –Gramophone
Born in London, Cecilia McDowall has been described by the International Record Review as having ‘a communicative gift that is very rare in modern music’. Often inspired by extra-musical influences, her writing combines a rhythmic vitality with expressive lyricism ‘which is, at times, intensely moving’. She has won many awards and has been short-listed four times for the British Composer Awards. McDowall was educated at Edinburgh and London Universities, later continuing her studies at Trinity College of Music, London. McDowall is composer in residence with the Fibonacci Sequence, writing a series of works for them.
Renowned for the charm and spontaneity of her music, McDowall’s most characteristic works fuse fluent melodic lines with occasional dissonant harmonies and rhythmic exuberance. (Source: http://www.ceciliamcdowall.co.uk)
The Piper’s Dream begins with an expansive, illusory reference to bagpipe birls, almost unmetered in its quality. Following the introduction, a lively Scots dance introduces elements of strathspey feel with weighty beats and the scotch snap rhythm. This is contrasted with a second theme of a sweet and innocent quality. At the end of this fantasy, pitch bends in the flute allude to the sound of a bagpipe bag and its distinctive fall in pitch, as it ends a tune.
Other works by McDowall for flute include: for flute and piano: Six Pastiches (1985), Eleven (1999) Soundtracks (1998) Moon Dances (2003), Harlequin Books 1 & 2 (2004), Song and Dance (2007) and Three Concert Studies; Seven Impressions for piccolo and piano; Arctic Circle (2001) for piano and wind quintet; Subject to the Weather (2010) and Winter Music (1992) for wind quintet; Crossing the Bridge and Shuffle (2011) By the Seaside (1991) for Flute Orchestra (2011); Eight Folk Songs (1992) and Hotfoot (2008) for flute quartet and other chamber works.
Anne Boyd has enjoyed a distinguished career as a composer and music educator. She graduated from the University of Sydney with an Honors BA (Music) in 1967 and subsequently, in 1972, from the University of York in England with a PhD in composition. In 1990 she became the first Australian and the first woman to be appointed Professor of Music at the University of Sydney where her research work focuses upon the influence of landscape and of Asian music upon Australian composers. In 1996 Anne Boyd was honoured with the award of an AM in the Order of Australia for her service to Music as a composer and educator. In 2003, she was conferred Honorary Doctor of the University by the University of York (UK).
As a student of Peter Sculthorpe, she inherited through him a lifelong fascination with the musical cultures of South East Asia, especially Japan and Indonesia. She regards the ancient court music of Japan as a primary influence, the closest musical representation of the arid outback landscape of her early childhood. Boyd views composition as essentially spiritual and she is much interested in the idea of music as meditation, as a means of changing states of consciousness.
Bali Moods No. 1 was commissioned by Australian Flute Association and funded by the Australian Council Music Board, for the 7th Australian Flute Convention, 1988. This work makes reference to the music of Balinese gamelan; at many points the metallophones of the gamelan ensemble are alluded to in the bell-like sounds of the piano writing. Bali Moods No. 1 is based on a pelog (Selisir) scale found in Indonesian music, a pentatonic pattern that avoids half steps, or semitones (in this case, the notes A-B-C#-E-G#). The layering of small motivic cells and their subsequent rhythmic shifting emulates a minimalist atmosphere. Two cadenza-like passages for the flute, explore the special colours of the scale in the full range of the flute. Boyd incorporates an expansive wind colour through “tremolo harmonics” – overblowing a trill through its harmonic series.
The original manuscript of Where the Trade Winds Blow (1982) includes a dedication to Anne-Elise Keefer, the daughter of Euphrosyne Keefer (1919-2003), a British Columbia composer. The work is like several others she wrote for solo instruments between 1979 and 1989, in three sections or movements. Others include Shizen (1979, oboe and piano), Dopo boticelli (1985, cello and piano), Frescoes (1985, harp and violin) and Gardens (1989, clarinet and piano). Each movement of Trade Winds (I-Shining Morning, II-Night Song, III-East Wind) celebrates the sun and sea of Hawaii, where she created sketches of the work in 1981 – 1982.
Dr. Jean Coulthard was born in Vancouver, in 1908; she wrote her first compositions under the supervision of her mother. Her early professional training was at the Royal College of Music in London, where her teachers included R. O. Morris and Ralph Vaughan Williams. In the 1930s and early 40s she had assessment critiques from Schoenberg, Milhaud and Bartók as well as further studies with Bernard Wagenaar in New York. Throughout the 1950s and 60s Coulthard forged her own tonally-based musical idiom and laid the foundations of her extensive repertoire, which encompasses over 350 works in virtually all musical genres. During these years Coulthard also maintained her “parallel career” as a lecturer at the University of British Columbia. With her retirement from UBC in 1973 her musical activity as a composer continued with renewed vigour. In 1978 she was named an Officer of the Order of Canada and in 1984, she was declared “composer of the year” by PRO Canada. She received an honorary doctorate from UBC in 1988. (Source: Encyclopedia of Music in Canada)
Coulthard’s earliest works show the marked influence of the French impressionists and, to a lesser extent, the imprint of her early training in England. Immediately after the Second World War she was to develop her characteristic style: a blend of traditional formal processes with polytonally based and chromatically enriched harmonies. Several major works dated from this period, including the frequently performed Sonata for Cello and Piano, Québec May, and the Variations on B.A.C.H. During the next three decades Coulthard wrote many new works, such as Canada Mosaic, which were intentionally designed to be accessible to the general musical public. A smaller number of works, such as the Octet, String Quartet No.3, and Hymn of Creation, are considerably more abstract and uncompromising.
Katherine Hoover was born in West Virginia and resides in New York where she maintains an active career as composer, conductor, and flutist. She is the recipient of a National Endowment Composer’s Fellowship and many other awards, including an Academy of Arts and Letters Academy Award in Composition. Five of her pieces, including Kokopeli for flute alone, have won the National Flute Association’s Newly Published Music Competition prize. Her music is published by Theodore Presser, Carl Fischer, and Papagena Press. CD’s of her music have been issued on Koch, Delos, Parnassus, Gasparo, Summit, Centaur, Cantilena, Boston, et al.
Ms. Hoover attended the Eastman School of Music, where she graduated with a Bachelor’s in Music Theory and a Performer’s Certificate in flute, and holds a Masters in Music Theory from the Manhattan School, where she taught for years. Her flute study was with Joseph Mariano and William Kincaid. She has given concerto performances at Lincoln Center and performed with ballet and opera companies in New York’s major halls, and has recorded both solo and chamber music repertoire.
Two for Two was written to feature the unique qualities of the alto flute and the bass flute. The first movement, What Goes Around, exploits the alto flute’s dark, resonant tone, and range of colours in the lyrical second theme. The opening sextuplets, portray an almost “Catch me if can!” quality, and showcase the alto flute’s capability for agile passage work. The bass flute is featured in a quirky Tango of shifting metre. This angular version of the Latin Dance allows what Ms. Hoover has referred to as the husky quality of the bass flute to come through.
I am grateful to Ms. Hoover for her kind permission to produce the debut recording of this work, and for her input on the edited tracks pre-production.
French composer and writer, Ambroise Thomas, said of Cecile Chaminade:
“This is not a woman who composes, but a composer who is a woman.”
Born in Paris, Chaminade studied first with her mother, then, despite her father’s disapproval, with Félix Le Couppey, Marie Gabriel Augustin Savard, Martin Pierre Marsick and Benjamin Godard. Chaminade married a music publisher from Marseilles, Louis-Mathieu Carbonel, in 1901, and on account of his advanced age the marriage was rumored to be one of convenience. He died in 1907, and Chaminade did not remarry. Chaminade made extensive concert tours as a pianist, performing regularly in England, including as a welcome guest of Queen Victoria. Many Chaminade Clubs were formed in the USA around 1900, and in 1908 she made a tour of twelve American cities. In 1913, she was awarded the Légion d’Honneur, a first for a female composer.
Chaminade wrote prolifically, and nearly all her approximately 400 compositions were published in her lifetime. Although she wrote orchestral pieces (including the piano Conzertstucke, a symphony and a ballet), of her 171 opus numbers, all but two are for solo piano, include piano, or are the composer’s transcriptions for piano. Chaminade is one of the most published among female composers; many of her piano works were short character pieces, ideal for the drawing room. The music is tuneful and highly accessible, uses clear textures and mildly chromatic harmonies, with a typical French wit and colour.
Later 20th century disparagement of late-Romantic French music meant that Chaminade was relegated to obscurity for the second half of the 20th Century. This period saw her piano pieces and songs mostly forgotten. The Flute Concertino, composed for the 1902 Paris Conservatoire Concours, remains on of her most popular pieces today. The Sérénade aux Étoiles was dedicated to Adolphe Hennebains (1862-1914), principal flute of the Paris Opera and a student of Paul Taffanel. It is typical of her character pieces with clear homophonic texture throughout and chromatic, twisty, but spun-out lines. The bell-like tones and rolled chords in the piano accompanying the main theme add to the shimmering quality illustrative of the work’s title.
Lili Boulanger (1893-1918) and her older sister Nadia (1887-1979) were born into a distinguished family: their father Ernest was a violin professor at the Paris Conservatoire whose parents and grandparents had likewise been important musicians, and their mother was a Russian princess of formidable education who married her singing teacher. Music was second nature for Lili Boulanger; she had perfect pitch and a love of singing as a child.
Both sisters attended the Conservatoire. Lili studied composition with Paul Fidal and Georges Caussade and at the age of nineteen, she was the first woman to be awarded the prestigious Premier Grand Prix de Rome for composition, with her cantata Faust et Hélène—a composition, said the jury, “beyond compare”. (Nadia entered the competition four times, but never got beyond the seond prize.)
Ms. Boulanger was in fragile health all her life, suffering from a variety of conditions we now identify as the hereditary Crohn’s disease. Despite her short life, (she died at age 24) Lili Boulanger composed over 50 pieces, approximately 20 of which have been lost or destroyed. Among the two dozen or so works she left to posterity are songs and lyric scenes, a pair of pieces for solo piano, three psalm settings including the masterpiece Du fond de l’abîme (Psalm 130: “Out of the depths I cry to thee”), and a Pie Jesu she dictated to her sister in her last weeks, probably intended for a full Requiem mass.
Boulanger’s style reflects influences of the Impressionists, however her harmonic vocabulary differs in its use of more pungent dissonances, and more established rhythmic pulse that does not attempt to transcend the barline, as with the music of Debussy and Ravel. The majority of Lili Boulanger’s works include chorus and/or solo voice with orchestral or piano accompaniment.
Her four pieces for solo instrument with accompaniment were composed between 1911 and 1918, and include: Nocturne, Cortège, and D’un Matin de Printemps, for violin or flute with piano, and D’un Soir Triste for cello and piano or string trio. Three of these works have a version for solo instrument with orchestra, created by the composer.
D’un Matin de Printemps was composed between 1917 and 1918. It exits in versions for violin and piano, flute and piano, flute/violin and orchestra and piano trio. All renditions are equal in quality, possibly because Boulanger did not compose the piano and violin version as a predecessor to its orchestral equivalent, but meant for all three versions (including the trio) to stand on their own. The flute part for this work was created by the composer, primarily altering double stops or pizzicato sections to accommodate the flute.
© 2012 Laurel Swinden. All rights reserved