I’m reading about the French, Romantic composer Louise Farrenc. Next month will be playing her Clarinet Trio, Opus 44, with my fellows of the Else Ensemble, in an all-women program. It is the devising of such programs that forces one to admit how far we still are from gender equality. After all, almost all concert programs worldwide are, in fact, all-men-programs, without being regarded as an original concept.
Louise Farrenc was born in Paris, only a few years into the 19th Century (1804). A descendant of a long line of royal artists, she was married to Aristide Farrenc, with whom she established “Éditions Farrenc”, one of France’s leading publishing houses at the time. It is her husband who commissioned most of her works.
She was fairly praised at her life time, as a pianist, as a composer and as a fine teacher. She held the prestigious position of Professor of Piano at the Paris Conservatory, where her successful students provided evident to her pedagogic skills. No, she wasn’t always payed as much as her male colleagues.
At a time when composition classes were closed to women, Farrenc composed music for piano, overtures, symphonies and chamber music. Her Nonet was premiered by the famous Joseph Joachim amongst others, and was then performed time and again, essentially being the work which establish her name.
In an article in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, Robert Schumann admires her Piano Variations Air russe varié:
“As is well known, themes which lend themselves to imitation are most suited for variation and so the composer utilises this for all kinds of delightful games. She even manages to carry off a fugue – with inversions, diminutions, and augmentation – and all this she handles with ease and songfulness.”
In our all-women program we’ll also perform three contemporary composers: The Czech Sylvie Bodorová, the Israeli Shulamit Ran (who in 1990 was the second woman ever to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music), and the Slovenian Nina Šink.
We’ll end with this famous lady and her acclaimed opus 17:
// If you are around Ljubljana in the beginning of July, come listen to us playing at the National Gallery, on July 3, at 20:30. See also here.