Faculty Concert Examines Roles of Female Composers for Women’s History Month

Following a string of rapid high notes on the flute, the piano echoed the sound with several trills. As the song slowed, the pair played a series of notes in unison, pausing between each sound and leading to a long high note on the flute.

This performance of the duet “Sounds of the Forest,” composed by Sofia Gubaidulina, was part of the Flute & Piano Recital held this past Friday in the Timken Room of Graves Hall. The concert featured Meghan Jacoby, Adjunct Instructor in Music, on the flute and pianist Svetlana Krasnova. The concert, entitled She Persists: Music by Female Composers, was held in honor of Women’s History Month. 

“We knew we wanted to do a recital, and we had a date set for March, and then I remember thinking ‘Oh, March is Women’s History month,’ and we thought maybe it would be interesting if we could find pieces that would fit this [theme of women’s history]. And we kept searching for things and put this program together that spanned 250 years, by women composers,” said Jacoby.

Before each piece, Jacoby and Krasnova introduced its composer, including her life story and achievements. Composers included Gubaidulina, Princess Anna Amalia of Prussia, Amy Beach, Katherine Hoover, and Lili Boulanger.

“I was really intrigued by this concert because it sheds lights on women composers and work that [they] create. If you just listen to a piece, you’re not going to know [the gender of the] composer, and I think that’s a great thing. No matter who you are, what gender or sex you are, the music you create is just as wonderful,” said audience member Angelreana Choi ’19.

Many of these women faced challenges while pursuing music because of their gender and perceived roles in society at the time.

“In the nineteenth century, we wouldn’t even talk about [gender roles]. All these women who reached something in music, it’s not because of their favorable circumstances but rather against all the circumstances because they possessed — aside from talent — very strong will,” said Krasnova. 

In one of her introductions, Krasnova used a quote from the father of famous composer Felix Mendelssohn, Abraham Mendelssohn, to his daughter Fanny: “Music will perhaps become his [Felix’s] profession, but for you it can and must only be an ornament, never the root of your being and doing.”

“The quote shows very well the position of women in society [in the 19th century]. Mendelssohn was a very famous composer, and his sister Fanny Mendelssohn was also an extremely talented musician, maybe not less than he was. But she was told that maybe for Felix [Mendelssohn], music will become a profession, but for [her] it always shall remain an ornament. Women in society couldn’t be a professional. It wasn’t only about music — if you paint, if you are a writer, anything,” said Krasnova.