An exploration of the life and compositions of four important women composers.  Why are they not better-known?

Series Pass: £35 per device (21/OL87) or £10 per talk

What is the series about?

We will investigate both the lives and the compositions of four important women composers from the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Whilst we will look at their compositional work in general, and take in a variety of their works on the way, we will focus on certain specific pieces: Smyth's opera The Wreckers, Farrenc's Third Symphony, a group of Hensel's songs and Schumann's Piano Trio.  Plenty of musical examples will be played along the way. In the case of Hensel and Schumann we will think about their relationship with their, respectively, better-known brother or husband, and the impact that that had on their own compositions and how those have been viewed.  We will also make comparisons between them and both Smyth and Farrenc, who did not have the 'famous relative' problem to deal with. 

The father of Fanny Hensel - sister of Felix Mendelssohn – once wrote to her: you must school yourself more seriously and eagerly for your true profession, a young woman's only profession, being mistress of the house.  We will consider how it was to be a woman composer in an age when, quite simply, it was not the 'done thing'.

Tutor website: www.peterfender.co.uk

What will we cover?

An introduction to the life of each composer. A look at the range of their compositions.

A more detailed look at one piece (or group of pieces). A consideration of how these pieces fitted into the prevailing musical world.

Looking into how these composers fitted into a male-dominated world.

The importance of their music for today.

What is the schedule?

Ethel Smyth - Friday 8 October 2021, 12.30-14.30 BST (21/OL88)

Louise Farrenc - Friday 15 October 2021, 12.30-14.30 BST (21/OL89)

Fanny Hensel (Mendelssohn) - Friday 22 October 2021, 12.30-14.30 BST (21/OL90)

Clara Schumann - Friday 29 October 2021, 12.30-14.30 BST (21/OL91)

What will we accomplish? By the end of this series you will be able to…

Understand and appreciate their breadth of compositional talent.

Know more about how they struggled, as women, to get their musical 'voices' heard.

Understand why they are still not well-known.

Explain their importance for today.

Do I need any particular skills to participate?

No particular skills are required, just an interest in good classical music!

No musical proficiency will be assumed.

Is there anything I need to bring?


What previous participants said…

“Tutor really knew his stuff. He put the work into context both in terms of the composer's life and genre. There was a wonderfully thorough analysis of the music. The whole course was flavoured with interesting anecdotes and interpolations of related music.”

“A wonderful way to experience the composition from the inside and outside.”

“A good overall survey of the piece with some useful insights.”