Radio 3 remembers forgotten female composers

BBC Radio 3 is to undertake a large-scale recording project to bring the lost works of five historical female composers into the spotlight.

The project, in collaboration with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and administered by BBC Wales, aims to shine a light on the achievements of unjustly neglected female composers of the past, by recording previously unrecorded works with the BBC Orchestras and Choirs and the BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists.

The newly-recorded works – some of which will have been hidden in archives, libraries or private collections for decades, unheard since their first performance – will be premiered on Radio 3 on International Women’s Day next year (8th March 2018).

At a workshop in February, five academics, selected with the help of the AHRC, each put forward a composer for consideration by a Radio 3 panel.

Dr Graham Griffiths presented Leokadiya Kashperova (1872 – 1940), a Russian pedagogue and pianist who taught Stravinsky; Professor Jeremy Llewelyn chose Marianna Martines (1744 – 1813), an Austrian who enjoyed fame throughout Europe in her lifetime; Dr Shirley Thompson put forward Florence B Price (1887 – 1953), an esteemed African-American symphonist; Dr Anastasia Belina-Johnson proposed Augusta Holmès (1847 – 1903), a French-Irish writer of large-scale oratorios and operas; and Carola Darwin presented Johanna Müller-Hermann (1868 – 1941), an Austrian renowned for her songs and chamber music.

All five academics have now been invited to choose a major, previously unrecorded work by their composer for the BBC Orchestras and Choirs to record for broadcast on Radio 3. In some cases this will involve creating orchestral parts from an original manuscript for the first time ever, and it is likely that some of the music chosen will not have been heard since its first performance, centuries ago.

Edwina Wolstencroft, BBC Radio 3 Editor and Diversity Lead, said: “Radio 3 is committed to broadcasting remarkable music and culture, and celebrating high-quality work. We are therefore very excited to embark on this ground-breaking project to bring incredible works by female composers, forgotten for years, to the large modern-day audiences they deserve. It is a privilege to help celebrate the musical genius of these women in its own right”.

Sarah Burgess, Portfolio Manager for the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Creative Arts and Digital Humanities, said: “The Arts and Humanities Research Council is excited to be working with the BBC on this important new project; it will provide a platform for academic research to present the remarkable history and music of these forgotten female composers for rediscovery by today’s audiences”.

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