International Women's Day was first organized and celebrated in 1909 by the Socialist Party of America. It was officially declared in 1910 by the International Women's Conference and was adopted by the United Nations in 1975. Since then, it has been celebrated all over the globe.
This March 8, the women of Classical MPR have gathered together their favorite musical moments created by female classical musicians in celebration of International Women's Day. This feature is dedicated to all the women who have fought and continue to fight for their voices and the voices of other women to be heard in male-dominated industries, particularly the classical music one.
Jennifer Higdon: Exaltation of Larks
The definition of "exaltation" is "an excessively intensified sense of well-being, power, importance; an increase in degree or intensity." It's also the word used to describe a flock of larks, and it's both of these ideas that American composer Jennifer Higdon asks us to consider in this work. Higdon is one of my heroines and sister-in-flute, where she got her start in music. She has won the Pulitzer Prize and, just this past January, her second Grammy for best contemporary classical composition. Alison Young, host
Amy Beach: Gaelic Symphony
When Amy Beach married a prosperous Boston doctor, he put an end to her unladylike performing career, but she was still allowed to compose. Her Gaelic Symphony was the first symphony composed and published by a woman. In it, she created a distinctly "American" sound quoting tunes from Irish immigrants. We call her Amy Beach, but she signed all of her music "Mrs. H.H.A. Beach." We've come a long way, baby, haven't we? A.Y.
Marian Anderson: Deep River
How many brilliant artists have gone unheard because a society wasn't ready to hear them? Once in a while, there is an artist who breaks through despite all the constraints; Marian Anderson is one of those artists. Her concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 made a nation stop and listen. Jodi Gustafson, senior assistant
Marin Alsop: Symphony No. 1, Jeremiah first movement (by Leonard Bernstein)
Marin Alsop is one of the first top-tier female orchestral conductors, the first woman to conduct Last Night at the Proms, music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, conductor of honor of the Sao Paolo State Symphony Orchestra and (as of September 2019) chief conductor of the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra. She was a student of Leonard Bernstein and is one of his finest interpreters, focused on finding the story in the music. She also is regarded as a mentor of young women conductors, having established the Taki Conducting Fellowship in 2002. She was mentored by a great musician and passes along that mentorship to the next generation. J.G.
Alondra de la Parra: Concierto del Sur (by Manuel Ponce)
I'm a big fan of Alondra de la Parra, and I love this piece (Concierto del Sur, by Manuel Ponce). De la Parra is a dynamo. She founded an orchestra, the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas, when she was in her early 30s. Now she focuses on her conducting career, but often speaks on women in leadership. She is the first female music director of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra in Australia, although I hope that we get to see her perform a lot more in the United States. Suzanne Schaffer, senior producer of Performance Today
Jennifer Higdon: Blue Cathedral
Jennifer Higdon is one of the most celebrated American composers. Her music is sophisticated, but she is approachable and friendly. I met her once and got a bit nervous because I couldn't quite articulate how much I like her music. She laughed and said, "I'm excited to meet you, too!" I chose this piece because it is a favorite of orchestras around the world. S.S.
Rachel Barton Pine, violin; Maud Powell, composer
Rachel Barton Pine's No. 1 violin hero is Maud Powell, who has inspired everything Pine has done in her career. Powell was considered the greatest American violinist of either gender, and the greatest woman violinist in the world at the turn of the 20th century. She consciously sought out music by women composers such as Amy Beach, and she was the first white artist of any instrument to actively champion the music of black composers. Just a few years ago, Powell became the first female instrumentalist to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Grammys. Julie Amacher, program director
Clara Schumann: Piano Concerto
Clara Schumann is a woman I admire immensely. Not only was she a devoted mother to many children, she starred in the role of muse and confidante for a couple of the 19th century's best-known musicians: her husband, Robert, and her dear friend, Johannes Brahms. In addition, she was an incredibly gifted pianist so talented, in fact, that her husband and his contemporaries looked at her skills with awe and jealousy. She was a composer, too, one capable of writing incredibly powerful music. She really was a woman who could and did do everything. Elena See, host
Rachel Portman: Emma
I'm a sucker for all things Jane Austen, so I was delighted with the 1996 movie adaptation of Emma. (I won't admit how many times I saw it in the theater.) What made it especially wonderful was the soundtrack the music is so light and delicate and just filled to the brim with good humor. Rachel Portman wrote the music for Emma, and she won an Oscar for it, too the first female composer to win an Academy Award. Since then, she's gone on to score dozens of movies (including The Cider House Rules, Belle and Grey Gardens), and her music always helps to propel the story. E.S.
Roxanna Panufnick: Kyrie After Byrd
I love choral music, and I'm also interested in music that uses older, established music and musical forms as its source of inspiration. This work, Roxanna Panufnick's Kyrie After Byrd, has all of that and more. There's a wonderful sense of tension and stillness in the music a balance that is quite wonderful to listen to. Andrea Blain, host
The Women's Philharmonic (conducted by JoAnn Falletta): Of a Spring Morning (by Lili Boulanger)
I met conductor JoAnn Falletta on several occasions when she was the music director of the Ulster Orchestra in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where I used to live. The more I learned about her as a musician, the more I admired her. When I discovered that she had once been the conductor of an orchestra entirely made of women, I was even more impressed. This music, by Lili Boulanger, is a poignant reminder of a composer who had tremendous potential but died tragically young, at 24. Of a Spring Morning (performed by a different orchestra in the video above) is one of the last works Boulanger wrote. Her older sister, Nadia Boulanger, taught some of the 20th century's most prominent composers, and always said that Lily had a much bigger talent an example also of how women believe in and support each other's ambitions. A.B.
Traditional Dances From New England and Ireland; arranged by Jeannette Sorrell, harpsichord and conductor; Apollo's Fire Baroque Orchestra
I've always enjoyed the recordings by Apollo's Fire, which was founded by conductor and harpsichordist Jeannette Sorrell in the early 1990s. She and the Cleveland-based ensemble have clearly been making music together for a long time. I wanted to recognize her for her vision in creating the ensemble and leading it in multiple ways so adeptly. And then there's the music: For those of us who are contra-dancers, some of the tunes in this medley are just the kind of thing you'd want to hear on the dance floor! Mindy Ratner, host
Yan Jinxuan: The White-Haired Girl Suite: Greeting the Sun
One unforgettable cultural experience for me came when I went to see the China National Ballet, performing in a hall not too far from where I lived in Beijing in the late '90s. The White-Haired Girl is considered one of the classic Communist ballets, drawn from what was originally an opera first performed in 1945, before the Communist takeover. It isn't exactly subtle in its portrayal of the characters: the young heroine, a victim of sexual assault who is so traumatized that her hair turns white; the mean and greedy landlord and his equally vile son, and the hero, the sweetheart of the Girl who saves the day. It was only fairly recently that I learned that the composer of the ballet score is a woman. Knowing that, along with the fact that the central character is a woman, made it an obvious choice. M.R.
Teresa Carreño: Mazurka de Salon, performed by Clara Rodriguez
Venezuelan pianist María Teresa Carreño García was known as the "Valkyrie of the Piano." She had a reputation as a renowned virtuoso pianist and premiered several compositions by American composer Edward MacDowell, her good friend. Not only was she known to have an extensive and difficult repertoire, she also was a singer having studied with Gioachino Rossini while in Paris and performing in various operas across the globe a conductor, and a composer of more than 75 works for solo piano, voice, choir and orchestra. Carreño was deeply loved in Venezuela, where various buildings, organizations and performance venues have been named after her. Performed in this video by Venezuelan pianist Clara Rodriguez, the Mazurka de Salon is one of her shorter compositions, but it always seemed to me as the most beautiful combination of classical music and the Venezuelan spirit, just like Carreño was. Inés Guanchez, intern