The first American woman to have her orchestral work heard by a professional ensemble, Margaret Ruthven Lang (1867-1972) was a well known and well respected composer in her time. Born and raised in Boston, Lang’s orchestral works where heard by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Arthur Nikisch, as well as at the Columbian Exposition under the baton of Theodore Thomas. Though she reserved a place in the history books for being the first woman to have her works heard by an American orchestra, she destroyed all of her pieces for large ensembles. What remain are almost 200 songs and choral works, as well as piano pieces for children.
She was a fixture in the Boston music elite, thanks in part to her father, conductor and pianist/organist B.J. Lang, and her father’s connections. B.J. was a student of Listz’s, and a friend to Wagner – Dvorak spent time at the Lang home on Brimmer Street in Beacon Hill when he traveled through Boston, and even gave Margaret a lesson on her orchestral writing.
Though she destroyed her orchestral writing and her personal correspondence, she did leave invaluable scrapbooks as part of her family papers which are held at the Boston Public Library. You can also find more about Lang and her family through this website which provides excellent and well researched information.
Several of her songs were tremendously popular in her time, and continue to be published and recorded. In fact, a new recording of some of Lang’s songs has just been released – more information, and samples of her work, is available through the video below: