Women's Philharmonic Advocacy

2014 Cabrillo Festival

by sarah - July 30, 2014

In the latest edition of works by women at a Festival near you, the 2014 Cabrillo Festival will begin this weekend in Santa Cruz, California.  The Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, which was founded in 1962, has been under the baton of Artistic Director Marin Alsop since 1992.  Alsop has helped bring many new works by women to listeners’ ears at the two-week long festival.  This year Cabrillo will feature six works by contemporary women.

Today, July 30, the three students selected for the Conductors/Composers workshop will have their new works heard in a free concert.  One of the students selected for this opportunity and recognition is Emily Cooley, a recent Yale graduate who will continue her studies at the Curtis Institute in the fall.


Emily Cooley


On August 2 the concert will feature two works by women.  Jennifer Higdon’s Concerto 4-3 -  you can listen to clips of the work, read Higdon’s program notes about it, and even order the score for yourself on Higdon’s website.

Jennifer Higdon

Jennifer Higdon


TJ Cole’s Megalopolis will also have its West Coast Premiere.  Have a listen here.

TJ Cole

TJ Cole


August 9 the Festival will host the world premiere of Gabriella Smith’s Tumblebird Contrails, which was commissioned by the Festival.

Gabriella Smith

Gabriella Smith

The final concerts on August 10 will hear Thunderwalker by Stacy Garrop



and Dreamscapes by Clarice Assad.


Have a listen to Assad’s work here:


A great lineup of contemporary women, and some excellent concerts that shouldn’t be missed!




Kaija Saariaho at Marlboro

by sarah - July 26, 2014

We are well into the summer music festival season — with a festival for every taste and genre.  Chamber music enthusiasts look forward in particular to the Marlboro Festival.  Established in 1951 in Vermont, some of the most acclaimed musicians gather every summer to explore chamber music together throughout the summer and then provide open rehearsals and three concerts for their devoted audiences.  This year the composer in residence is Kaija Saariaho.

Photo Credit: Maarit Kytöharju.

Photo Credit: Maarit Kytöharju.

This is the second weekend of performances, and on Sunday (July 27th) the 2:30 concert will feature Saariaho’s Terra Memoria.  

The final weekend will feature two works by Saariaho, Changing Light and Cloud Trio.

2014 BBC Proms

by sarah - July 21, 2014

The 2014 BBC Proms kicked off on Friday, July 18, with another very full roster of concerts carrying through September 13.  This cultural treasure has been a staple of the British musical landscape since 1895, often featuring the works of UK composers, actively commissioning new music, and introducing a diverse audience to innovative programs and new composers and compositions.

A look through the 2014 lineup reveals six works by women composers—which is six more than  most major American orchestras can manage to fit into an entire concert season!

The first concert with a work by a woman was yesterday evening.  The World Orchestra for Peace performed Roxanna Panufnik’s Three Paths to Peace.  You can read a review of the performance in The Guardian, and have a listen for yourself to the concert.  (Forgive the first two minutes or so of the recording, there’s overlap from a previous radio show.)

The rest of the Proms lineup that includes work by women are:

Prom 20 – Friday, August 1
Sally Beamish: Violin Concerto

Prom 31 – Saturday, August 9
Helen Grime: Near Midnight

Prom 41 – Saturday, August 16
Dobrinka TabakovaSpinning a Yarn

Prom 55 – Wednesday August 27
Unsuk ChinŠu

Proms Chamber Music 7: Monday, September 1
Judith WeirDay Break Shadows Flee


Nannerl Mozart, No Longer Forgotten

by Liane Curtis - July 15, 2014
The Other Mozart
Written by Sylvia Milo
Sylvia Milo as Nannerl Mozart
Directed by Isaac Byrne
Review of performance July 8, 2014 at HERE Arts Center in New York City

The Other Mozart tells an archetypical story—of musical brilliance, ambition, dedication and talent—thwarted by oppressive and insurmountable societal factors. This vividly dramatized portrayal of Maria Anna (nicknamed Nannerl) Mozart, is a story of ambition thwarted and talent crushed.  Through Nannerl’s eyes we get a glimpse of what might have been—but wasn’t.  That Nannerl, like her younger brother Wolfgang, was a precocious talent is clear. But she faced limitations from earliest childhood, specifically because she was a girl. That the story is true—as is stated in the theatrical prologue—makes it even more powerful. 

Author and actress Sylvia Milo is the creative force behind the 75-minute play, which has had several prior productions in Europe as well as the US and garnered rave reviews, earning a ‘strikingly beautiful’ from The New York Times. A musician and composer herself, the Polish-born Milo researched primary sources for years and drew heavily upon the Mozart family’s own words, set down in voluminous correspondence that documented their closeness and need for connection to each other, even when separated by travel.

To call this a “one-woman show” seems woefully inadequate and inaccurate, as Milo brings to life with such multi-dimensional physicality an array of characters: the stern Leopold; the dour, guttural mother; the bubbling Wolfgang and his chortling wife, Constanze; even a mention of Haydn. While the HERE Arts Center is an intimate venue, the intensity that Milo creates would carry to a larger setting as well; her presence gives power and momentum to this sweeping drama.

Sylvia Milo as Nannerl Mozart in the 18-foot-wide dress that serves as the play's central metaphor.

Sylvia Milo as Nannerl Mozart in the 18-foot-wide dress that serves as the play’s central metaphor.

The background soundscape for the play has been created by composers Nathan Davis and Phyllis Chen. They draw on a varied palette of percussive sounds—clinking, chiming, clanging—suggesting of clockwork mechanisms, a metaphor for social structures constructed with rigidity and continuing with inflexible inevitability, moving inexorably, immune to human emotions and desires.

That Nannerl wrote music, we know. None of it survives, but she plays a piece, described as her own, on a tiny music box, supportive by additional sounds. It is delicate and melancholy; Chen and Davis evoke a wistfulness, and Nannerl can then bask in the praise, the effusive praise recorded in a letter she receives from her brother: “My dear sister! I am in awe that you can compose so well, in a word, the song you wrote is beautiful.”

The 18-foot wide dress (designed by Magdalena Dabrowska from the National Theater of Poland) is the central prop, and metaphor, of the play. It serves, ultimately, as a restraint. But at first it is the canvas for her life, a back-drop, and multipurpose stage-prop. As young Nannerl, she does not yet wear it. Dressed in modest undergarments, she capers around it, pulls out objects from under and within its elaborate folds, and, jumps over and hides behind the corset frame. It serves as both a landscape and an interior.

At first young Nannerl enjoyed and benefitted from her ancillary status with Wolfgang. Her father taught them both, and they performed together on the harpsichord or piano.  For years, the family toured widely (Paris, London, Vienna, Munich), showing off the talents of both children. But once Nannerl was too old to be a child prodigy, this could not continue. With the family focused on climbing in social status, it was determined that she should be groomed for marriage.

In order to serve as an appropriate spouse, Nannerl was withdrawn from the public stage. Her distress at this loss of the exhilarating life a performer was visceral—months of retching and vomiting—as she was confronted with the end of her touring career. The curtailing of her horizons was a grim, even brutal development.  At home in provincial Salzburg, the sounds of ratcheting gears accompany the gesture of pulling the embroidery needle, in mundane repetitiveness; at the same time Wolfgang is being applauded in the great European capitals and having his operas commissioned and debuted.

The intersection of gender and class is sensitively revealed as a factor silencing Nannerl.  She exuberantly recalls composer Marianne Martines (1744–1812), who had autonomy and success: composing, publishing and performing, and who thus was an inspiration for Nannerl.  But this was possible for Martines only because of her inherited noble status and financial stability.  And Nannerl’s mother viewed Martines as a failure because she never married—her social status was only marginal.  In the background, we hear a piano performance of her work mutating into her grand symphony, showing that Martines had some traction even in the sphere of large-scale orchestral works.

Nannerl might have attained a success like Marianne Martines. But as a woman it is unimaginable that she would have ever reached the same level of success as Mozart. The Other Mozart is a poignant reminder that, for many centuries, and even millennia, one precondition to the status of genius was being male—and we have lost uncounted works of genius by that arbitrary fact.

And for Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy, the corollary realization is that we continue to be denied works by all of Mozart’s “sisters” if we ignore the output of the women who, despite the many obstacles, DID manage to write music and leave a record of their creative legacy. The Other Mozart will help to generate interest in the music of the female contemporaries of Mozart, and, in fact, a complementary pairing of a concert with the play (featuring composers such as Martines, Maria Antonia Walpurgis, Maddelena Sirmen, Maria Theresa Agnesi, Maria Theresa von Paradies, Francesca Le Brun, etc.) would be an exciting artistic offering.

The Other Mozart has now finished its New York City run, and will play in various European locations this summer.

Sylvia Milo introduces the play in several videos, here.


The Other Mozart

by Liane Curtis - July 9, 2014

The Other Mozart – a one-woman play about Wolfgang’s sister Nannerl, is a stunning work in its final week of an off-Broadway run.   It’s amazing and you should get to it if you can.  I’m just back from it and will try to offer a few thoughts on it soon.


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