Saluting composer Amy Beach at 150, and pondering women’s status in music

Posted on: September 6, 2017

“Shortly after Antonin Dvorák arrived in the United States in 1892 … he made a cursory remark to a Boston newspaper,” writes William Robin in Friday’s (9/1) New York Times. “ ‘Here all the ladies play,’ Dvorák said. ‘It is well; it is nice. But I am afraid the ladies … have not the creative power.’ … Ten days later, [composer Amy Beach’s] rebuttal [was published] listing the names of dozens of female composers…. When her ‘Gaelic’ Symphony was given its acclaimed premiere by the Boston Symphony Orchestra four years later, Beach became a national symbol of women’s creative power…. Yet Sept. 5, her 150th birthday, will not be widely celebrated… ‘Historical women composers have a much harder time getting people to take a chance and listen to them,’ the musicologist Liane Curtis said…. As the president of Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy … Curtis has helped organize several Beach commemorations for her anniversary season, including a coming academic conference at the University of New Hampshire as well as the website Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy is also issuing new versions of Beach’s scores…. The question [of women’s status in music] was raised continually in Beach’s lifetime, and it remains unanswered today.”

Posted September 6, 2017