The F. Bruce Peck Jr. Music Library at Classical Music Indy contains a wealth of classical recordings, many what you would expect – Beethoven, Bach, Brahms. We are also thrilled to house a number of albums that feature works by outstanding women composers like Clara Schumann, Nadia Boulanger, Valerie Coleman, and Jennifer Higdon. See what music is in our library and why we love it!
Women Composers: CDs in our Music Library
Clara Schumann somewhat famously said, “A woman must not desire to compose—there still hasn’t been a female composer, why should I be the first?” That was an extraordinary statement, because the young Ms. Wieck had already composed a great deal of music by then. And she would go on to write even more. In fact, just seven years later, the busy wife and mother was back at her desk, coming up with her masterpiece, the Piano Trio in G minor. And this time around, her prose made a little more sense, too. She wrote: “There is nothing more delightful than to compose something and hear it played afterwards.” Our library contains a Naxos Records album of Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 7 and Piano Trio in G Minor, Op. 17. The performers are Francesco Nicolosi on piano and the Alma Mahler Sinfonietta, led by Stefania Rinaldi. If you would like to buy this CD, you can find it here.
Amy Cheney, later known as Amy Beach, was a child prodigy when she married, at just 18 years old, a man 25 years her senior. She mostly gave up a career as a performer—limiting herself to just one recital per year—to devote her time to her husband and to composing. She wrote everything from large symphonic works, like her Piano Concerto in C-sharp minor and Gaelic Symphony, to musical settings of poetry for voice and piano of nor more than two minutes in length. During her lifetime Amy Beach was celebrated as a brilliant musician and her praise has certainly not waned with time. In our library, we have this wonderful album by the Ambache Chamber Ensemble on the Chandos Records label which features Beach’s Piano Quintet in F-sharp Minor, Op. 67, Piano Trio in A Minor, Op. 150, and Theme and Variations, Op. 80. If you would like to buy this CD, you can find it here.
We feature two living composers in this list, the first being Valerie Coleman, whose trio work Portraits of Langston is not about poet Langston Hughes, but his impression of various people and places he encountered and the poetry they inspired. Coleman explains in her notes on the piece that she was inspired by Hughes’ description of famous people he encountered in 1920s New York, such as Helen Keller, and the Jazz and African-influenced music he must have heard in Harlem. This piece is designed to be performed with or without a reading of Hughes’ poetry, but the McGill / McHale trio decided to include the poetry in their performance of the trio. This Cedille Records album by the McGill / McHale Trio has an eclectic mix of pieces, with Coleman’s Portraits of Langston being a focal point of the album. If you would like to buy this CD, you can find it here.
Jennifer Higdon’s music has been earning accolades for years. Most recently, her Viola Concerto, performed and recorded by the Nashville Symphony and soloist Roberto Diaz, won the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition. Higdon said about the viola: “it sounds great playing long lines,” and she wrote her concerto to accentuate this characteristic. This Naxos Records album is a great addition to our library and features Hidgon’s Oboe Concerto, Viola Concerto, and orchestral piece All Things Majestic. Performers on the album are Roberto Díaz on viola, James Button on oboe, and the Nashville Symphony led by Giancarlo Guerrero. If you would like to buy this CD, you can find it here.
Nadia Boulanger had a long and successful career as a composer and teacher, but in 1908 and 1909 she was passed over for the prestigious Prix de Rome—the top prize in composition—during her time at the Paris Conservatory. Many people thought she was cheated, but progress did not wait very long. Nadia’s younger sister, Lili, captured the Prix de Rome just a few years later. This album by Delos Productions is the first ever album dedicated solely to Nadia Boulanger’s works. It is a collection of Boulanger’s complete works, some of them unpublished. The performers on this album are Alek Shrader (tenor voice), Amit Paled (cello), Edwin Crossley-Mercer (bass-baritone voice), François-Henri Houbart (organ), Lucy Mauro (piano), and Nicole Cabell (soprano voice). If you would like to buy this CD, you can find it here.
The Women’s Philharmonic, which existed from 1981 to 2004, was an orchestra of women performing music written by women. They produced a number of recordings, including one dedicated to the music of Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, and another one featuring American composer Florence Price. While they no longer exist as an orchestra, the Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy organization continues to dedicate itself to “leveling the playing field for women in classical music, especially composers.” We are proud to have this Koch International album of Jo Ann Falletta leading the Women’s Philharmonic that features pieces by Lili Boulanger, Clara Schumann, Germaine Tailleferre, and Fanny Mendelssohn in our library. If you would like to buy this CD, you can find it here.
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