Women in Music

For International Women’s Day 2021 we created two playlists to celebrate some of the fantastic women in music. For our first playlist, Women Composers on TIDAL, we chose to celebrate women composers in classical music, highlighting a range of composers from 12th century Hildegard von Bingen to 19th century pioneer Louise Farrenc and contemporary composer Dobrinka Tabakova. 

Hildegard composed many liturgical songs along with academic writings, and is one of the first identifiable composers in western music. Here we feature her song O pastor animarum (O shepherd of our souls). 19th century pianist, composer, and teacher Louise Farrenc deserves a special mention as a pioneer of music scholarship and equal pay. Farrenc was the only woman to become a professor at the Paris Conservatory in the 19th century. Until 1870, women could not enroll in composition classes at the conservatory, and Farrenc was only allowed to teach piano, not composition. Despite this, Farrenc persevered with composition, producing a variety of orchestral, chamber, and piano works. Farrenc fought hard for equality, demanding equal pay to her male contemporaries. In her day, Farrenc was more famous for her piano playing than her composing, with her compositions becoming more well-known in the 21st century. Despite the barriers to women working in composition and creative arts, Farrenc received praise by Hector Berlioz and Robert Schumann in her time. In this playlist we feature Farrenc’s lyrical Cello Sonata in B-Flat Major, Op.46 – II. Andante sostenuto

Another French composer to study at the Paris Conservatory was 20th century Lili Boulanger. Boulanger was the first woman to win the Prix de Rome in 1913 for musical composition at the age of 19. She came from a musical family, and her sister Nadia Boulanger was a composer and conductor best known for teaching leading 20th century composers including Quincy Jones, Aaron Copland, and Philip Glass. Lili Boulanger also sang and played piano, violin, cello and harp, and studied with family friend Gabriel Fauré. Her catalogue includes orchestral, chamber, vocal, and choral works. Boulanger’s compositions are noted for the use of harmonies and text setting. In this playlist we feature Nocturne performed by Janine Jansen. 

Another pioneer of women’s rights in music was Amy Beach, an American pianist and composer of the 19th and early 20th centuries who wrote the first symphony composed by an American woman. Beach was a symbol of women’s rights during the suffrage movement, fighting hard for a woman’s place in the musical world. Beach famously expressed that “music is the superlative expression of life experience, and woman by the very nature of her position is denied many of the experiences that colour the life of man.” Another important woman composer of the early 20th century was Croatian countess Dora Pejačević. Pejačević, another composer born into a musical family, was the daughter of singer and pianist Baroness Lilli Vay de Vaya. Pejačević studied in Zagreb, Dresden and Munich and produced a wide catalogue of piano pieces, orchestral works, chamber music and songs.

Other composers included are Pauline Viardot, Clara Schumann, Teresa Carreño, Rebecca Clarke, Florence Price, Chiquinha Gonzaga, Poldowski, Ethyl Smyth, Margaret Bonds, Ruth Gipps, and contemporary composers Anna Clyne, Thea Musgrave, Isobel Waller-Bridge, Dobrinka Tabakova and Meredith Monk.

Our second playlist, Inspiring Women on Qobuz, features a mixture of iconic and contemporary female artists. We feature iconic artists such as Madonna, Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack, Amy Winehouse, Billie Holiday, Carole King, Dolly Parton and Joni Mitchell. Contemporary highlights include the unique sounds of Norwegian jazz bassist and singer Ellen Andrea Wang and London-based jazz saxophonist Nubya Garcia. We feature Garcia’s Stand With Each Other from her pan-global album Source. Contemporary vocal highlights include Ane Brun, Joy Denalane, Kandace Springs, Kimberose, Lianna La Havas, Dominique Fils-Aimé, Celeste, and Jazzmeia Horn.

Sarah works on music editorial and research as part of Roon’s Music Team. Artists pictured from top to bottom: Jazzmeia Horn, Dominique Fils-Aimé.