Thursday, August 25, 2016

Chaminade's Concertino for Flute and Piano, Op. 107

Are you familiar with any works by Cecile Chaminade (1857–1944)? Born in the nineteenth century, Chaminade was a gifted pianist and composer who, unlike some of her female contemporaries, did not struggle to make a name for herself during her lifetime. Last time we looked at her life as a musician. Today, let’s listen to one of her compositions.

Chaminade was quite prolific, having over 350 works to her credit including a comic opera, ballet, choral symphony, chamber and orchestral works, songs, and piano pieces. She became popular during her day because many of her pieces were perfect for trendy domestic music-making. Due to this popularity, many of her works were actually published within her lifetime.

Chaminade’s Concertino for Flute and Piano, op. 107 is one popular work that you may hear now and then on 90.9 WGUC. This work was written for the Conservatoire’s annual flute contest in 1902. Today, the piece has made it into the standard flute repertoire. Below, listen to James Galway perform this delightful work.

Next week, we will wrap up this month’s look at women composers by discussing the Boulanger sisters!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Cecile Chaminade: Pianist and Composer

Cecile Chaminade (1857–1944) was a gifted pianist and composer who, unlike some of her female contemporaries, did not struggle to make a name for herself during her lifetime. She began writing for her church at eight. Recognized by Georges Bizet as a true talent, she was encouraged to begin private music studies from prominent musicians of the day. This was in lieu of attending the Conservatoire, which was prohibited because of her gender.

Cecile Chaminade: Courtesy of

At eighteen, Chaminade gave her first public concert and from there, began touring France, Belgium, Britain, and eventually America performing her own works. In 1913, she was the first woman to receive the Legion of Honor from the French government. Despite her success, she went relatively unnoticed by scholars following her death. It wasn’t until the late 20th-century when a newfound interest in women composers developed, that she gained proper attention. 

Curious if you know a piece by Chaminade? Join me next time as we look at one of her works. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Strozzi's Moralita amorosa

Barbara Strozzi (1619–1677) was primarily recognized during her life as a singer, but she also was a talented composer. After writing her First Book of Madrigals in 1644, she feared what the community response would be, since she was a woman. Unfortunately, her first attempt did not establish her in the great musical canon. She did not lose hope, however, writing seven additional volumes, hoping to assert her own voice rather than that of the controlling men in her life. 

Barbara was actually quite talented at composition; the music writer Charles Burney stating 100 years following her death that she may have originated the cantata form in Italy! Below you can listen to “Moralita amorosa” from her opus 3. This piece attacks women who lure men in with their enticing fashion. Note the lovely melisma at the beginning that sounds improvisatory. In reality, Barbara carefully noted every detail!