(Great Barrington, MA) Anonymous may have been a woman composer. Clara Schumann, Fannie Mendelssohn, Maria Theresia von Paradis, Ethel Smyth, Lili Boulanger, Amy Beach, Marianna Martinez, and Augusta Holmes (a precursor to Edith Piaf with 120-some songs!) move from footnotes to forces in the annals of classical music as women gain the vote and their artistic voices. The June 10 gala “Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman” features remarkable composers who stormed the barricades and helped revolutionize the place of women in the arts—playing four-hand piano with Mozart, conducting their works from an English prison, and overcoming the taboo to write but not be heard, especially in public. As this extraordinary evening progresses, works will span the demur and lyrical, the bold, propulsive and cosmic.
In keeping with its mission to connect to the cultural richness of the Berkshire/Upstate New York region, Close Encounters With Music delves into the remarkable chapter of women’s suffrage, which largely originated with figures such as Massachusetts natives Susan B Anthony and Lucy Stone and upstate New Yorker Elizabeth Cady Stanton. With this event and others, CEWM is marking the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in NY state with special programming highlighting women composers—and celebrating its own 25th season in the Berkshires!
The centerpiece of the concert is a newly commissioned “quilt” of miniatures by Thea Musgrave, Tamar Muskal, and Judith Zaimont, musical portraits of suffragettes and other ladies of valor—Ethel Smyth, Emma Lazarus, and Sojourner Truth—who advanced the causes of women and everyone else with their steadfastness, ingenuity and idealism. The Quilt—that quintessential feminine article that represents cooperation (think quilting bees) and resourcefulness, taking disparate scraps and weaving them together to form a thing of beauty—will receive its world premiere by the evening’s performers: violinist Peter Zazofsky; pianists Renana Gutman and Ieva Jokubaviciute; Metropolitan Opera soprano Danielle Talamantes and cellist and artistic director Yehuda Hanani. Additionally, Joan Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 6 and “Remember the Ladies” from Patricia Leonard’s opera My Dearest Friend, based on the correspondence between Abigail Adams and President John Adams, are stitched onto the quilt.
Says artistic director Yehuda Hanani, “The societal obstacles to acquiring the vote reflect the same barriers and cultural biases that women had to overcome to have their works published and performed and that kept them from careers as creators of new music. Since many of the key figures and pivotal events of the suffrage movement took place in or near our home region in the Hudson Valley, we believe this is a fitting time and place to bring attention to the creative achievements of women composers.”
Robert Schumann and Felix Mendelssohn make cameo appearances on the program, which is replete with revelations: songs and sonatas displaying the genius of Fannie, Clara, Amy and Augusta; von Paradis’ shimmering Sicilienne; Piano Sonata in G Major by Martinez, a study in beauty and classicism, plus the Mozart four-hand piano sonata she performed with Amadeus himself. The blending of young, established and historic composers will afford a quilt of its own. To add to the festivities, there will be a fanfare for the occasion of the 90th birthday of Thea Musgrave, one of classical music’s most uncommon women!
All in all, a thrilling, kinetic and illuminating evening, infused with a sense of historic immediacy.
Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman—Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage
Saturday, June 10, 6 PM
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Great Barrington, MA