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BBC Radio 3 and AHRC to Celebrate Forgotten Female Composers

Date: 08/03/2017

BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) announce today, on International Women’s Day (8th March), the names of five female composers chosen for an ambitious project to bring long-overdue recognition to women whose musical genius has been confined to the pages of history.

The collaborative project between the AHRC and BBC Radio 3 will shine a light on the significant achievements of neglected female composers of the past. The BBC Orchestras and Choirs will record previously unheard work, premiering on BBC Radio 3 on International Women's Day next year (8th March 2018). Many of the compositions have been hidden in archives, libraries or private collections for centuries, unheard since their first performance

Image of an orchestra in a concert hall
The Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien (English: Society of Friends of the Music in Vienna), was founded in 1812, and a key part of the musical hub that was Vienna.

Edwina Wolstencroft, BBC Radio 3 Editor and Diversity Lead, said:

‘Radio 3 is committed to broadcasting remarkable music and culture, and celebrating high quality work. We are therefore very excited to embark on this ground-breaking project to bring incredible works by female composers, forgotten for years, to the large modern-day audiences they deserve. It is a privilege to help celebrate the musical genius of these women in its own right.’



Sarah Burgess, Portfolio Manager for the Arts and Humanities Research Council's Creative Arts and Digital Humanities, said:

'We are really excited to be working with the BBC on this important new project; it will provide a platform for fresh academic research to present the remarkable history and music of these forgotten female composers for rediscovery by today's audiences'.

At a workshop in February, five academics, selected with the help of the AHRC, each put forward a composer for consideration by a Radio 3 panel.

Group photo of the researchers
The Academics, from left to right: Dr Graham Griffiths, Dr Anastasia Belina-Johnson, Dr Shirley Thompson, Dr Carola Darwin, and Professor Jeremy Llewellyn (photo courtesy of BBC Radio 3)

Dr Graham Griffiths presented Leokadiya Kashperova (1872 – 1940), a Russian pedagogue and pianist who taught Stravinsky; Professor Jeremy Llewellyn chose Marianna Martines (1744 – 1813), an Austrian who enjoyed fame throughout Europe in her lifetime; Dr Shirley Thompson put forward Florence B Price (1887 – 1953), an esteemed African American symphonist; Dr Anastasia Belina-Johnson proposed Augusta Holmès (1847 – 1903), a French-Irish writer of large-scale oratorios and operas; and Carola Darwin presented Johanna Müller-Hermann (1868 – 1941), an Austrian whose works range from chamber music to orchestral tone-poems and oratorios.

All five academics have now been invited to choose a major, previously unrecorded work for the BBC Orchestras and Choirs to record for broadcast on Radio 3. In some cases this will involve creating orchestral parts from an original manuscript for the first time ever, and it is likely that some of the music chosen will not have been heard since its first performance, centuries ago.


Press Contacts

Eva Mason at BBC Radio 3 - eva.mason@bbc.co.uk / 020 361 43888

Natasha Stanton at AHRC – n.stanton@ahrc.ac.uk / 01793 41 6021


About the Composers

Leokadiya Kashperova (1872 – 1940) was a Russian pedagogue and pianist who wrote Romantic songs and instrumental music. She performed twice at London’s Aeolian Hall in 1907 and received very good reviews. Kashperova married one of her piano students, a twice-arrested and exiled Bolshevik revolutionary, and the couple was forced to flee to the Caucasus and then to Moscow. Kashperova’s role as a composer is almost completely unknown today, and she is recognised primarily as Stravinsky’s piano teacher.

Marianna Martines (1744 – 1813) was an Austrian composer, singer and pianist from a noble Neapolitan family. The large family house in Vienna where she grew up was also home to artists including the librettist Pietro Metastasio, and Joseph Haydn, then a struggling young composer. Composer and teacher Nicola Porpora was a frequent guest. Martines was a keyboard virtuoso and wrote extensively for her instrument, becoming a prodigy of Metasasio and several visiting composers, and attracting illustrious musicians to her regular salons (Mozart reportedly performed at one). Martines enjoyed fame throughout Europe in her lifetime, but has since had little recognition.

Florence B Price (1887 – 1953) was an award-winning symphonist from an affluent African American family. Born in Arkansas, Price had her first music published by age 11. In 1903, she was accepted to the New England Conservatoire of Music, where she achieved a Double First and a piano teaching diploma. She was denied a place on the Music Teachers’ Association, however, because of her skin colour. In 1925 and 1927 Price won the Holstein prize, and her Symphony No. 1 in E minor was performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1932. Price achieved success at a time when restrictive Jim Crow laws were in place in the South, and the ‘Harlem Renaissance’ movement was taking flight.

Augusta Holmès (1847 – 1903) was a French composer of Irish descent. Discouraged by her parents, Holmès had to wait until their deaths to embark on a composing career. She had a large circle of artistic friends and admirers, including Liszt, Rossini, Saint-Saens and Cezar Franck (who she studied with), and had five children with the poet Catulle Mendés. Holmès’ music was premiered at the 1889 Universal Exhibition, and in 1895 she was the first woman to have an opera premiered in Paris. She composed large-scale orchestral and choral works, writing a piece for 1,200 performers for the centenary of the French Revolution. The first recordings of Holmès’s music were made in 1994, but much of her catalogue remains undiscovered.

Johanna Müller-Hermann (1868 – 1941) was an Austrian composer and pedagogue. Originally a primary school teacher, she gave up this career after marriage. She was especially known for her orchestral music, chamber music and songs, and her use of subtle chromatic harmonies. Müller-Hermann studied composition under Alexander Zemlinsky and Josef Foerster, and took over as a theory and composition tutor at the New Vienna Conservatory in 1918 after Foerster left the post. Despite teaching there for more than twenty years, she is relatively unknown today and there are only a handful of recordings of her work, largely due to the suppression of progressive Viennese culture and the closure of the New Vienna Conservatory by the Nazis after 1938.

About the Academics

Dr Graham Griffiths is Honorary Research Fellow (Musicology) at City University London, and Assistant Director of Music at Cumnor House, Sussex

Professor Jeremy Llewellyn is a Visiting Professor and Departmental Lecturer in the Faculty of Music at the University of Oxford

Dr Shirley Thompson is a composer, and a Reader at the University of Westminster

Dr Anastasia Belina-Johnson is a writer, presenter, librettist, and opera director, music historian, and currently Assistant Head of Undergraduate Studies at the Royal College of Music

Dr Carola Darwin is an operatic and concert soprano, and an Academic Professor of Music History at the Royal College of Music

BBC Radio 3

Since it launched in 1946, the Third Programme/ BBC Radio 3 has been a bold pioneer in the cultural world. It is one of the world’s foremost presenters, creators, commissioners and curators across classical, folk, world, jazz and contemporary music as well as drama, philosophy and ideas. The station is also the most significant commissioner of new and contemporary music in the UK, with 35 new works commissioned annually and broadcasts over 600 concerts a year, including live broadcasts from the greatest classical music festival in the world (BBC Proms). Radio 3’s In Concert programme alone reaches the equivalent of 250 packed concert halls a week, and the BBC Orchestras and Choirs give around 400 concerts a year in over 60 UK locations. The station has always nurtured extraordinary artistic talents, provided a platform for important scientific and political debates/announcements, and broadcast ground-breaking experimental drama – always while delivering its core aim of connecting audiences with pioneering music and culture.             www.bbc.co.uk/radio3

Arts and Humanities Research Council

The Arts and Humanities Research Council funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: history, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, languages, design, heritage, area studies, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98 million to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits and contributes to the economic success of the UK but also to the culture and welfare of societies around the globe. You can find out more information via www.ahrc.ac.uk or following us on Twitter at @ahrcpress, on Facebook at Arts and Humanities Research Council, or Instagram at @ahrcpress.

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