HIDDEN COMPOSERS: WOMEN WHO DARED TO COMPOSE IN A MAN’S WORLD
September 29 @ 10:30 am - 12:30 pm
Anna Beer, Sophie Pullen (soprano) and accompanied by Natalie Burch
Part of our new “Opera and the other Arts” Lecture Recital Series
Join Anna Beer, author of a meticulously researched book, honouring eight female composers who defied the odds and thrived in a man’s world.
In our lecture recital, Anna will ask why it is that although both Mendelssohn’s were composers, it is Felix not Fanny who is remembered?
During the course of the morning, Sophie Pullen (soprano) will sing some of Fanny’s charming music together with well loved and less familiar repertoire from Schumann, Schubert, Liszt and Beethoven, accompanied by Natalie Burch (piano).
Anna Beer is an acclaimed biographer with a particular interest in the relationship between literature, politics and history. She combines her writing career with her work as a lecturer at the University of Oxford. She has recently published a long overdue book: “Sounds & Sweet Airs” celebrating the musical legacy and hidden histories of eight remarkable women composers, which we will touch upon this morning. However, the main part of our lecture recital will focus on Fanny Mendelssohn; Felix’s sister, who was brought up in the same hothouse musical environment, both composed continuously, but it was Felix not Fanny who is remembered; propriety, her class and the age meant that her musical ambitions were mostly pursued in private. Her painter husband Wilhelm Hensel encouraged her to publish her music, but Felix most certainly did not, writing that “it runs counter to my views and convictions … Fanny … has neither enthusiasm nor calling for authorship.” Anna will share the powerful story of her struggle to get her music published and discuss how her relationship with Felix is often manifest in her lieder (Op 2 and Op10 for example.) We will hear about her rather glorious journey to Italy. And her death, after which her work was subject to insidiously gendered critiques: it was said to lack “a commanding individual idea” and the “feeling which originates in the depth of the soul”. This morning’s lecture recital reminds us all, composers, musicians, audiences, men, women, society at large, of the importance that we seek out the best and most exciting creative voices, from wherever they may come.
Anna Beer’s book has received nothing but wonderful reviews from The Guardian to the Financial Times to The Wall Street Journal. Publishers Weekly writes: “Absorbing ... [Beer] writes with rich detail and sympathetic insight about [these women’s] ambitious, adventurous battles to overcome barriers to creativity.” There will be an opportunity to purchase a book and have it signed by Anna Beer after the morning’s event.