Women's Philharmonic Advocacy

Monday Link Round Up: August 6, 2018

by sarah - August 6th, 2018

News to start your week!

What better way to tackle the new week than a fantastic conversation?  Elizabeth Blair speaks with Emily Doolittle in the most recent episode of Listening to Ladies.  Learn more at the website, with lots of links and music, stream the episode through your favorite podcast app, or in the player below!

Calls for Participation are open for the 2019 Women Composers Festival of Hartford!  There are seeking compositions for the Ensemble-In-Residence, composers & performers for the annual Music Marathon, and presenters & performers for the Women Composers Forum.  Learn more at their website – and spread the word!

In a delightful change of programming, and response to national outcry at their predictable and stogy programming, The Philadelphia Orchestra has altered their plans for the 2018-2019 season to include works by two women composers.  They will perform the US Premiere of Perspectives by Stacey Brown in November, and Masquerade by Anna Clyne in June.  Read more at The Philadelphia Inquirer.  The story was also covered by NPR.

Podcaster (and pianist) Kai Talim let us know about his far-ranging conversation with conductor Mei-Ann Chen in a recent episode of Skip the Repeat.  We interviewed in Maestro Chen in 2013 when she was busy leading performances of music by Florence PriceMei-Ann Chen continues to build her conducting career with Asian and European engagements, as well as continuing as Music Director of the Chicago Sinfonietta. But, as she discusses with Kai Talim, her big professional breakthrough was her appointment as Musical Director of the Portland Youth Philharmonic.


And, from the blogosphere, we ran across Heather Roche’s report on the Royal Philharmonic Society’s conducting workshop for professional women musicians new to conducting.  Roche was pleased to be invited to apply, but taken aback that the workshop included no repertoire by female composers.  Her response was this post of five suggestions of pre-1950 works by women.  We applaud her ideas heartily, but also want to emphasize that all conducting classes — not just ones for women — should include music by women.  OK! Now we’d better get busy sending that message to directors of conducting classes!
We would love to know what you think!  Email at [email protected]

Dora Pejačević — another composer whose time has come?

by Liane Curtis - February 15th, 2018

With two upcoming performances of music by Dora Pejačević taking place in the next few weeks, we wonder if this remarkable but little-known composer, who was writing powerful orchestral works a century ago, is finally ready for rediscovery.  [Wondering how to pronounce Pejačević?] A recipient of our Performance Grant, the Willamette Falls Symphony, will be performing Pejačević’s brilliant Overture for Large Orchestra in d-minor, Op.49, this Sunday Feb. 18.   Performances in the US of Pejačević’s music are rare in the US, but Youtube offers the opportunity to hear the brash, colorful Overture, recorded in the composer’s homeland, Croatia, and also in Japan.

Dora Pejačević (1885-1923)

Pejačević was born in Hungary in 1885 into Croatian nobility (she is often called a Countess), and her upbringing and education were international and cosmopolitan. She studied music in Germany and Austria — all these countries were part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, after all.   The Croatian Music Center has the best information on her; it is worth using Google translate to see the detailed information and also many audio links. Other works with orchestra include the Concert Fantasy (with piano), Piano Concerto, and the great Symphony in F-sharp minor, Op. 41, which she composed in the midst of World War I in 1916-17.  Pejačević  died at age 38 in 1923, from complications of childbirth.

This Symphony will be performed on March 11 and 12 by the Chicago Sinfonietta in a concert that may well be the U.S. premiere by a professional orchestra. The concert will also include music by Florence Price, and two new works, by Jennifer Higdon and Reena Esmail, commissioned by the Sinfonietta as part of ProjectW.

Pejačević’s Symphony was first recorded in 2011 on the adventurous CPO label; a review (here) describes the Symphony as “an effusively romantic affair — a rich tapestry spun from strands of long-breathed chromatically enhanced melody, luxuriant harmony, and opulent orchestration.”  The author references “the very complex cultural cross-pollination of Croatia’s history by Hungarian, Italian, and even Russian influences,” also mentioning Richard Strauss and even Sibelius.  Although composed in 1916-17, the symphony breaths the expansive air of the fin-de-siècle, and reminds us of the many composers who continued to write monumental works in the 20th century that built on the traditions of the 19th.

And considering how many recordings and performances we find of the music by her contemporaries (Mahler, Sibelius, Strauss, Rachmaninoff, etc.), we can agree with the reviewer who is incredulous that Pejačević has been so overlooked, and with still only a single recording of the Symphony, which is “urgently recommended.”

Maestro Mei-Ann Chen

So this is indeed ambitious and even visionary programming by the Chicago Sinfonietta, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary, and the seventh year with Music Director Mei-Ann Chen.  Back in 2013 we talked with Chen about the music of Florence Price, which she was busy conducting with four different orchestras — we are glad to see that she continues her inspired leadership!  We can hope that the Chicago Sinfonietta might record the Pejačević’s Symphony soon!




ROCO Performs Mendelssohn and Higdon

by sarah - September 21st, 2016

11540895_10153370456470675_7708821906835645973_nThere are two chances this weekend to hear the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra (ROCO) of Houston, TX present exactly the kind of diverse program that audiences have been calling for.  It was because of this thoughtful, inclusive, and engaging programming that the ROCO was a recipient of a WPA Performance Grant last  year!  (We are currently accepting applications for the Fall 2016 Grant Cycle.)

Guest conductor Mei-Ann Chen will lead the ensemble in performances of Fanny Mendelssohn’s Overture and the Texas Premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s Dance Card,  which was co-commissioned by the ensemble.  Take a few minutes to read the conversation with Higdon about her compositional process on the ROCO Blog.  Also on the program are works by Glinka, Kodály, and Shostakovich.

Performances are Friday, September 23 and Saturday September, 24.  For those of us unable to make the trip, ROCO will be streaming the Saturday performance LIVE on their website.  Learn more here.  Be sure to read the program notes online, and have a listen a performance of Fanny Mendelssohn’s Overture by The Women’s Philharmonic as you anticipate this weekend’s concerts.

Monday Link Round Up: March 7, 2016

by sarah - March 7th, 2016

News to start your week!


WQXR profiles seven women conductors in honor of Women’s History Month – including Barbara Hannigan, Xian Zhang, Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla, Joana Carneiro, Elim Chan, Sarah Hicks, and Mei-Ann Chen.  Read more here.


The Oxford University Press blog has an interview with composer David Conte and his experiences working with Nadia Boulanger.  Read the full conversation that Conte had with musicologist Kimberly Francis here.


A new month means another opportunity to win the women composer listening quiz at Into The Light Radio!  Have a listen and submit your guess here.


And NewMusicBox has a conversation with composer Missy Mazzoli.  Read more here, and watch a short video featuring some of Mazzoli’s work below.


What did we miss?  What are you reading?  As always leave a comment and a link to let us know!

NEW DISCOVERIES of Florence Price’s Music revealed in Arkansas Festival!!

by Liane Curtis - February 26th, 2015

The historic importance of Florence Price (1887–1953), as the first African American woman to have a Symphony performed by a major orchestra, has been recognized.  However, while she had some success in her lifetime, after she died very little of her music remained the performing repertoire. A few of her songs were known — after all she was championed by Marian Anderson  — but her orchestral music was unknown until the 2001 recording by The Women’s Philharmonic.

Recently, progress has been made: two of her symphonies have been published, and conductor Mei Ann Chen has taken up Florence Price, performing her with the Chicago Symphony, the Chicago Sinfonietta, the San Diego Symphony, as we noted in 2013, and then last fall with the Alabama Symphony.   And a room was just dedicated to her at the Berklee College of music.

But a major breakthrough has taken place at the University of Arkansas.  Apparently a great deal of Price’s music was simply abandoned after she died, and it was (amazingly) discovered in the Chicago house where she had lived — the house itself was also abandoned.  Fortunately, these materials wound up in the University of Arkansas Special Collections (which already had a major collection of Price materials), and the University just sponsored a significant festival which included many world premieres of this newly found music.  The program for the festival is listed here with a more detailed version in this PDF document.

In 2011 the University of Arkansas’ Special Collections library acquired a number of her scores, photos and other documents that had been lost for decades in the attic of an abandoned home in the Chicago area.  This included music which has either never been performed or has not been performed for at least 60 years.  A number of these newly recovered songs, piano pieces, chamber works, and her first orchestral composition, “Ethiopia’s Shadow in America,” will be performed by guest performers and faculty and students from the University of Arkansas throughout the festival.   

Florence Price, photo courtesy the Univ. of Arkansas, Special Collections

Florence Price, photo courtesy the Univ. of Arkansas, Special Collections

So many works by women have been lost to dumpsters and trash bins, and it is quite miraculous that these works by Florence Price would be recovered all these years after her death.  Here Prof. Rae Linda Brown (Assoc. Provost at Loyola Marymount University) explains what the new discoveries mean for our understanding of Florence Price, and what it meant to be a composer who was a woman, black, and American in the mid-20th century.  Astoundingly, the discovery includes two symphonies and two concertos that were previously believed to be lost (!!!)

“Performance today” — on PRI, Feb. 26, 2015,  features Price and the Arkansas Festival in their second hour, so you get the wonderful opportunity to hear a string quartet by Price, from 1929, in what is believed to be its world premiere.  The performance of the quartet begins at 10:12.  The first movement impresses me as a tone poem: at times evocative, moody, playful, and atmospheric, expressed in a seamless flow.  It is played with great warmth and sensitivity by the Northwest Arkansas String Quartet: Er-Gene Kahng, violin; Ryan Cockerham, violin; Tazonio Anderson, viola; Patrick Bellah, cello.  The second movement is a heartrending spiritual type of melody (Andante moderato) that frames a playful dance section (Allegretto).  You can also watch a video of the last section of the second movement;  it is very beautiful to watch!   And Prof. James Greeson, of the Univ. of Arkansas, has made six other performances from the festival available on his Vimeo Page (thank you!).  These include the Andante from Price’s “Ethiopia’s Shadow in America” with the Univ. of Arkansas Symphony conducted by Dr. Robert Mueller.

I am sorry I missed the Festival, but thank you to the Univ. of Arkansas for organizing it, and for preserving and making available these remarkable discoveries about a composer who we can now begin to appreciate more completely.