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Women Composers

Melodious, Energetic and Emotionally Stirring

CPO 999352-2

Ethel Mary Smyth

String Quartet in E minor (41:40)
String Quintet Op. 1 in E Major (26:28)

Joachim Griesheimer, cello
Mannheimer String Quartet
CPO 999352-2

This difficult-to-find disc is certainly worth searching for. Dame Ethyl Smyth was a very outspoken champion of women's rights and women composers. She studied with Herzogenberg and received encouragement from Brahms and Clara Schumann.

Smyth composed this powerful, mature and captivating string quartet in two time periods, the first two movements in 1902 and the rest in 1912. The form is classical; the sound is very Late Romantic, melodious, energetic and emotionally stirring. It is performed with excellence by the members of the Mannheimer String Quartet: Andreas Krecher and Claudia Hohorst, violins; Niklas Schwarz, viola; and Armin Fromm, violoncello.

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[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - ]

Norwegian Piano Miniatures

Arena 7015

Agathe Backer Grøndahl

Complete Piano Music Vol. IV

Natalia Strelehenko, Piano
Arena AR07015

A concert artist, wife, mother, sufragette, and prolific composer, Grøndahl wrote over 190 songs, approximately 120 piano pieces, collections of Norwegian folksongs, some choral works, and some student orchestral works. Grieg was so impressed by her piano playing that he asked her to perform his piano concerto in concert. She was called "another Clara Schumann" … high praise!

This lovely and melodious piano music most reminds me of the Lyric Pieces of Grieg. It is easy to listen to and difficult to forget.

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[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - ]

Graceful String Quartets

CPO 999679

(Maddelena) Laura Lombardini Sirmen:
  String Quartet Op. 3 #2 in B Flat Major
  String Quartet Op. 3 #3 in G minor
Emilie Mayer: String Quartet, Op. 14
Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel: String Quartet in E Flat Major

Erato Quartett Basel
CPO 999679-2 72:23

String quartets by three talented women composers from two different periods are presented on this fine sounding CD by the Erato Quartett Basel (Emilie Haudenschild & Attila Adamka, violins; Heinz Haudenschild, viola; Emeric Kostyak, violoncello). Laura Sirmen's (1745-1818) are the earliest, having elements of both late Baroque and early Classical period. Sirmen's graceful string quartets were published in the same year (1769) as Haydn's Op. 9 string quartets.

Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel (1805-1847) was discouraged from publishing her compositions (under her own name) for most of her adult life, although she often worked in close partnership with her brother. This quartet was written in 1834. The second and fourth movements could not have been written by anyone other than a Mendelssohn! If you like the Felix Mendelssohn octet, you will certainly enjoy these lively movements!

Emilie Meyer (1812-1883; Groves: 1821-1883) was a multi-talented woman. She was not only a very prolific composer, but she was also a respected sculptor. Grove's Dictionary mentions among her compositions nine sonatas for violin and thirteen for cello, eleven piano trios, and seven string quartets. This quartet has the rich texture that inner-voice string players love: there is something interesting for every part. The second movement contains joyous and exciting (Mendelssohnian) motion. The third movement quotes a chorale tune and weaves variations around it, stylistically reminiscent of the finale of Felix Mendelssohn's Piano Trio #2, Op. 66. The Meyer string quartet closes with a pleasing finale and the entire quartet not only provides good listening but it also would be an excellent repertoire addition for string quartet players.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

Rare Quartets for Piano & Strings

MD&G 6431424

Mel Bonis

Piano Quartet #1 in B Flat Major, Op. 69
Soir, Matin Op. 76
Piano Quartet #2 in D Major, Op. 124

Mozart Piano Quartet
Dabringhaus & Grimm MDG6431424-2 56:38

Once again, the performers of the Mozart Piano Quartet (Mark Gothoni, violin; Haartmut Rohde, viola; Peter Hörr, cello; Paul Rivinius, piano) have produced an excellent CD of rarely heard music. Mèlanie Bonis Domange wrote strong, passionate chamber works. They are serious French Post-Romantic compositions, but this CD gives only us a small sample of Bonis' output during her long creative life. The First and Second Piano Quartets are separated by twenty years. Both contain rich harmonies, high emotional content, and classic structure. The last movement of Op. 124 is especially restless and dramatic, keeping that drama high till the very last chords. Highly recommended.

Read the Classical Net Review

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - ]

A Light Touch

AS&V 965

Cécile Chaminade

Trio #1 in G minor, Op. 11 (1881)
Trio #2 in A minor, Op. 34 (1887)
Ritournelle (arr. Marcus)
Sérénade, Op. 29 (arr. Cottin/Marcus)
Pastorale Enfante, Op. 12 (arr. Marcus)
Serenade Espagñole (arr. Kreisler)

Tzigane Piano Trio
Academy Sound & Vision CDDCA965 57:28

Chaminade, as a young girl, was called "a little Mozart" by George Bizet. She was most known for her popular "salon and parlor" pieces which she performed and published. She wrote over 400 compositions, among them a ballet, an opera, songs, concerti, and chamber music, but she was forgotten in her own lifetime, and belittled by contemporary critics because she was a woman, and because she didn't take part in the French musical revolution of the times. A complete catalog of her works was not made until 1988! At last we can enjoy her charming music on CD and much of it is accessible to amateur music-makers.

This CD has a little sampling of her songs (Pastorale Enfantine) and piano pieces, both presented here in arrangements, but the chamber music is the real meat of the recording. Chaminade, in her trios, wrote deceptively simple melodies and close harmonies for the strings while her piano parts sparkle with light scale passages and arpeggios and overall rhythmic interest. The third movement of the first Piano Trio has captured me! I can listen to it over and over. It is reminiscent of the Arensky First Piano Trio, second movement, another ear-worm with amazing sense of movement in the piano part! Chaminade's overall compositional style also evokes another elegant and charming work: the first Piano Trio of Camille Saint-Saëns.

If you enjoy these works, you will no doubt enjoy the numerous recordings of Chaminade's piano works, and I can also highly recommend the Deutsche Grammophon release of Anne Sofie von Otter and Bengt Forsberg presenting Chaminade's songs, three pieces for violin and piano and three two-piano works (DGG 471331-2)

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[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - ]