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Forgotten Women Composers to be recognised in International Women's Day Concert

 

As part of the the Association of British Orchestra’s Conference in Cardiff today, Alan Davey, Controller of BBC Radio 3, unveiled the exciting news that there will be a special concert on International Women's Day (IWD) on 8 March 2018, which will premiere the works of five forgotten women composers. The musical repertoire was also unveiled.

The station will be broadcasting work by 'forgotten' women composers that were put forwards by the five successful academics selected in a joint venture between the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and BBC Radio 3.

Some of this music will not have been heard for over 100 years.

Dr Graham Griffiths
Dr Graham Griffiths has spent 15 years researching Russian composer, Leokadiya Kashperova, and is delighted that some of her music will be heard for the first time in over 100 years.

“We are looking forward to a big concert,” says Luke Whitlock, Producer, BBC. “But this is only the start! We have identified many other works by 'lost' female composers that we hope to record and broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in the near future.

“These concerts will be an opportunity to bring them back into the foreground. One of the reasons that they were forgotten may have been because of their gender and we hope to correct that injustice.”

Amy Wheel, Production Coordinator at BBC Wales Cymru, says: “It wasn't that these women weren't known in their lifetime; they were often well-liked. But they have been forgotten by history.

“Most people, even those who really like classical music, won't have heard of these composers.”

This remarkable project began as a call to academics, asking them to put forward little-known female composers that they felt were worthy of wider appreciation.

“We don't have unlimited resources for research at the BBC and this was a way for us to benefit from academic expertise,” says Whitlock. “Having people come to us and say who these people were, and why they were important, that was really useful.

“To be able to channel academic knowledge - and ask for information about women composers specifically - was wonderful. We could then decide who to perform, and then again, the experts knew where to find the scores that would enable us to make those performances happen.”

In total five academics were selected with the help of the AHRC. Each put forward a composer for consideration by a Radio 3 panel.

The five academics involved in the project.
The five academics involved in the AHRC/BBC Radio 3 Forgotten Women Composers project (from left to right): Dr Graham Griffiths, Dr Shirley Thompson, Dr Anastasia Belina-Johnson, Professor Jeremy Llewellyn and Dr Carola Darwin

Dr Graham Griffiths, Honorary Research Fellow in Musicology at City, University of London, is one of those chosen.

He has spent the last 15 years studying the work of Leokadiya Kashperova (1872 – 1940), a Russian pedagogue who taught Stravinsky piano; she was also a renowned concert-artist and composer, one of Russia's first and foremost female composers. Her music was performed extensively during her lifetime - in London, Berlin, Leipzig as well as in Moscow and St Petersburg.

Dr Griffiths has tracked down scores and manuscripts of her compositions in countless Russian libraries and historical archives. “Some of these documents are over 100 years old, and one of the greatest challenges is deciding how best to edit and prepare these materials for performance today', he says.

“It was hugely exciting to discover Kashperova's 'lost' symphony, but there appear to be several versions of the slow movement. In Moscow I got my hands on a score that had been used in performance (I don't yet know when or where) and this revealed conductor's markings in blue crayon. The slow movement contained a 'cut' suggesting that this was how Kashperova wanted the music to be played. I later checked this against a piano version of the symphony that she had written and gifted to the great composer Balakirev. I am certain now that this is how Kashperova wanted to adapt the work, and the BBC agree, so that is how it will be performed on 8 March - its first airing in over a century!

“I'm also working on the translation of Kashperova's memoirs, which I managed to track down last year. It has been an enormous thrill to find her scores and put together a body of work on her life.

“The BBC have confirmed that they will be performing her symphony in its entirety and I couldn't be more thrilled - and I know that my colleagues in Russia are also very excited.

“The fact that it will be broadcast nationally is wonderful, because it won't just be for the people who are there to see the performance - it will be available to a much wider audience.”

The 2018 International Women's Day concert is really just the beginning of a much more long-term mission to bring back forgotten - and sidelined - female composers to the Radio 3 audience.

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