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Composers You Should Know: Louise Farrenc

by sarah - May 31st, 2017.
Filed under: important dates, women composers. Tagged as: , , .

Today (May 31) is the 213th birthday of composer, educator, and virtuosic pianist Louise Farrenc (1804-1875).

A celebrated composer in her time, she was the student of Muzio Clementi and Anton Reicha.  She had tremendous support of her family, which led to an extensive touring career, an appointment of Professor of Piano at the Paris Conservatory (where she taught for an outstanding 30 years), and many publications in her lifetime.  Among her works are many pieces for piano, three symphonies, two overtures, and several celebrated pieces for chamber ensembles.  Her compositions were known during her lifetime, and received the praise of many critics – including Robert Schumann.

Interest in Farrenc was renewed in the 1980’s after the publication of her biography by musicologist Bea Friedland, which is still the most comprehensive chronicle of Farrenc’s life.  In more recent years, Farrenc’s works have again found their way into the spotlight.  Tom Service of The Guardian included Farrenc’s Third Symphony in his list of the 50 Greatest Symphonies of all time.  And Barney Sherman of Iowa Public Radio discusses the role that gender played – and continues to play – in classical music.  Sherman explores what opportunities and restrictions Farrenc faced in her lifetime that lead to not only so many great works, but also being relegated to obscurity upon her death.  He also likens a passage from Farrenc’s Piano Quintet No. 2 to a rather famous National Public Radio theme song.  (Read on and hear the comparison here.)

There has also been continued scholarly interest – notably this article by Taeko Nishizaka published in the Journal for the International Association of Women in Music.  But there is, arguably, still more work to be done in exploring her life and works.  And, certainly, many opportunities for audiences to become familiar with Farrenc’s chamber works as well as her orchestral writing.  The great advantage in discussing the works of Farrenc is that they are not only all still extant, but readily available.  Farrenc’s three symphonies are published though Florian Noetzel Verlag, and several of her chamber works are available in the public domain in the Petrucci Music Library as well as published though Hildegard Publishing Company.

We invite you to become more familiar with Farrenc’s works through our Spotify Playlist.  Listen, enjoy, and share widely!  A truly outstanding composer, it is long overdue for the work of Farrenc to be given time in the spotlight – and on more concert stages!

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