Discovery quest: Atlanta Symphony harpist forms ensemble spotlighting works by women composers

Posted on: August 3, 2021

The Merian Ensemble comprises Atlanta Symphony Orchestra musicians (from left) Jessica Oudin (viola), Marci Gurnow (clarinet), Christina Smith (flute), Elisabeth Remy Johnson (harp), and Emily Brebach (English horn/oboe).

“Several years ago, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra principal harpist Elisabeth Remy Johnson [founded] the Merian Ensemble, a chamber ensemble devoted to performing music from women composers and to commissioning new works from today’s women composers,” writes Mark Thomas Ketterson in Friday’s (7/30) ARTS ATL (Atlanta). “Her amazing new recording Quest … released this summer on Albany Records … takes its title from the disc-opening piece by composer Niloufar Nourbaksh … a stunner. Historical women composers ranging from the relatively well-known to the decidedly obscure are joined by a handful of works from the present day. Much of this music was originally composed for piano. The transcriptions are all Remy Johnson’s…. The Merian Ensemble’s … ‘first concert was more of a historical retrospective, going from Clara Schumann,’ Remy Johnson says…. In May, the ensemble performed and livestreamed American Music for Today and Tomorrow … [in] Atlanta, a program that focused on first-generation and immigrant American women. The ensemble commissioned The Book of Spells by Brazilian-American composer Clarice Assad, which was given an ASO premiere in March. Plans call for a new commission each year…. ‘There is probably another whole album I could make today of women I have not discovered yet,’ Remy Johnson says.”