The BSO, led by Marin Alsop, just announced their 2011-2012 concert season which will be celebrating the music and achievements of women. Season highlights include Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc au Bûcher (which will be semi-staged), James Lee III’s piece about Harriet Tubman title “Chuphshah! Harriet’s Drive to Canaan”, Joan Tower’s “Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman”, and Jennifer Higdon’s Percussion Concerto. The ensemble will also feature numerous women as soloists throughout the season.
I give the BSO huge credit for not only directly calling out the problem with standard orchestral repertoire, but also doing something about it. That being said, it would have been very nice to see more tributes to the historic women composers that are all too often forgotten about in today’s programming.
Anne Midgette, of The Washington Post, wrote about the upcoming season summing up a lot in the first sentence of her piece:
The good news is that the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is focusing its 2011-12 season on women. The bad news, which the orchestra is tacitly trying to address with this good season, is that women are still enough of a breed apart in classical music that they count as a theme rather than, well, 50% of the offerings.
Of course, she also received criticism from readers who were glad to point out that:
All the world’s great composers have been men. (Do not ask me why – I have no clue.) Why muddy the waters with mediocre music just because it was written by females?
And, in response to Midgette’s final thought in the piece (that, with the featured works by women, about women, and performed by women, the only thing lacking are female guest conductors), a reader responded clearly :
There already is one too many female conductors at the B(alt)SO.
You can find more information about the upcoming season through the BSO website which includes a great video, as well as order tickets for what will surely be an interesting and enlightening season. I am very curious to see how the bold programming choices for the BSO will impact and educate their audiences and increase the enthusiasm of their patrons, as well as influence the programming choices of other ensembles.