Woman's Work in Music Part 10

Julie von Baroni-Cavalcabo, who flourished in the last century, was another brilliant pianist, numbering among her teachers one of Mozart's sons. She seems to have won the esteem of Schumann, who dedicated his humoreske to her, and gave high praise to many of her works. According to his reviews, her Second Caprice is "fresh and rhythmical, full of life and vivacity and delicate workmanship;" her fantasie, "Adieu et Retour," has two movements that are "highly original, characteristic, and scarcely offering a weak point for attack;" while her waltzes are spoken of as almost the best that appeared in their time at Vienna.

Besides her many piano pieces, she published some excellent songs.

Adele Kletzinsky has published some violin works and other concerted music, as well as the usual amount of songs and piano pieces. Nathalie Janotha has become familiar to American audiences as a pianist. She was a pupil of Clara Schumann and Woldemar Bargiel, and has won honours and diplomas in many European cities. Her works consist of piano selections and songs. Pauline Fechner is another renowned Polish pianist who has published many pieces for her instrument. The Countess Margit Sztaray has done some work for voice and organ. Thekla Badarczewska, who lived and died at Warsaw, is known widely, if not always favourably, by her "Maiden's Prayer" for piano.

In Russia, the Grand d.u.c.h.ess Alexandra Josephowna has written some ambitious church music, including several psalms for soloists, chorus, and orchestra. She has also produced some piano duets. The Grand d.u.c.h.ess Olga is another royal Russian composer, whose "Parademarsch" for orchestra has been published at Berlin. Another orchestral composer is Theodosia de Tschitscherin, whose Grand Festival March was performed at a coronation anniversary. The Countess Olga Janina, one of Liszt's pupils, is at present a teacher and pianist at Paris, where she has published a considerable amount of piano music. Marie Duport is another Russian piano composer. The Countess Stephanie Komorowska is responsible for several songs, piano sonatas, and other works. Mme. Rudersdorff, well known in later life as a teacher in Boston, was the author of several successful songs. Olga von Radecki is another noted Russian musician, who has made Boston her home, and also a writer of worthy vocal music. Mlle. Alexandrowna, of St. Petersburg, became famous as a singer a few decades ago, and published some excellent songs. Mme. Serov was another Russian woman of great musical talent.

Among the less extensive countries, Switzerland is represented by Anna Cerrini de Monte-Varchi, who is the composer of many pretty piano works, Isabella Angela Colbran, the eminent Spanish contralto, was born at Madrid in 1785. She became the wife of Rossini, and created some important roles in those of his earlier operas which were written for her. Her own compositions consist of songs and other vocal works. A Spanish singer of more recent times is Rosaria Zapater, who was born in 1840. She became famous in literature as well as music, her poems being rated highly, while her libretto to the opera, "Gli Amante di Teruele,"

is ranked as one of the best ever written. She has published a number of songs, besides an excellent vocal method and piano instruction book.

Teresa Carreno, so well known in Europe and America, is a native of Venezuela, being born at Caracas in 1853. Her career has been as varied as it is successful, and her studies, as well as her triumphs, were witnessed by many countries. Her father, at one time Minister of Finance, was himself a musician, and when only fourteen composed a ma.s.s that was given in the cathedral. A skilful violinist, he understood the piano also, and gave his daughter lessons from her seventh year on.

Driven from the country by civil war, he determined to have Teresa turn her musical talents to account.

As an eight-year-old prodigy, she met with an enthusiastic reception in New York, where she aroused the interest and became the pupil of Louis Gottschalk. At twelve she was taken to Paris, where she absorbed the traditions of Chopin from his pupils. There, too, she played for Liszt, who grew deeply interested in her, and wished her for a pupil. As her father's affairs did not permit this, the great teacher left her with the excellent advice to give her own individuality free play, and not become a mere imitator of some other performer. This she certainly followed, for her strong and fiery style of playing has carried away countless audiences, and in later years her combination of poetic feeling with impa.s.sioned power placed her in the front rank of the world's pianists.

Soon after this meeting, she began to devote herself to singing, with such rapid progress that she became able to appear with such an artist as Tietjens. For many years she made this her chief work, but at last her innate love for the piano brought her back to it. In 1885 she was forced to exert her talents in still another direction,--that of conducting. Being given the task of creating a national opera company in Caracas, she engaged her artists in America and Italy, and took them to her native city only to find the revolutionists in the most bitter and active opposition against all government enterprises. Her undertaking was no exception, and her leader, being terrorized by physical threats, gave up his post with a feigned excuse of sickness. Rather than let the matter drop, Carreno herself took the baton, and carried the season to a successful close.

[Ill.u.s.tration: TERESA CARREnO]

Her compositions have given her high rank in still another field. The best work is perhaps a string quartette, which met with a warm welcome at the Leipsic Gewandhaus concerts. This, with an unpublished serenade for strings, gives proof of her ability in fairly large forms. Her hymn for the Bolivar centennial has become the national song of Venezuela.

Her set of little waltzes, written for her daughter, Teresita, show the most delicious grace, while her Venezuelan Dances are full of interest.

Among her other works, all for piano, are waltzes, fantasies, caprices, etudes, a ballade, a scherzo, a reverie and barcarolle, and a song without words. Her long career as pianist has made her so familiar in that light that few think of her as a composer, but her creative work as well as her ability as a performer must win her respect throughout the musical world.



The question of allowing women to compose, if they wish to do so, is hardly one that needs any extended debate. Yet it is only in the last few decades that woman's inalienable right to compose has been fully established. The trials of Carlotta Ferrari in getting her first opera performed are an example in point. The opposition of Mendelssohn to the publication by his sister of even a few minor works is another instance of the att.i.tude formerly taken by even the greatest composers. The life of Chaminade affords still another case of this opposition. When Rubinstein heard a few of her early compositions, upon which he was asked to pa.s.s an opinion, he could not gainsay their excellence, but insisted on adding that he thought women ought not to compose. The time has gone by when men need fear that they will have to do the sewing if their wives devote themselves to higher pursuits. The cases of Clara Schumann, Alice Mary Smith (Mrs. Meadows-White), and Ingeborg von Bronsart afford ample proof, to say nothing of our own Mrs. Beach.

Whether women are in any way handicapped by the const.i.tution of their s.e.x is a point that is still undecided. It would seem that composition demanded no great physical strength, and no one will deny that women often possess the requisite mental breadth. The average sweet girl graduate of the conservatories, who is made up chiefly of sentiment, and hates mathematics, will hardly make a very deep mark in any art. But there are many who do earnest work, and who lead lives of activity and production that afford them equal rank with the men in this respect.

Augusta Holmes may be cited in ill.u.s.tration.

It is often claimed that women study music merely as an accomplishment, with the object of pleasing friends and relatives by their performances.

This horrible accusation the writer can attempt neither to palliate nor to deny. But why should it be denied? If music is to be regarded as one of the feminine accomplishments, why should this debar the more earnest students from doing more earnest work? The very fact that all cultivated women are expected to know something of music ought to result in a better chance for the discovery of woman's talent in composition.

But there are some, even among the women composers themselves, who admit that in many cases the matter of s.e.x is a drawback. Liza Lehmann speaks in very definite terms on this subject. "If I were asked," she says, "in what form of composition women are best fitted to write, I should say that I hope they will win in all forms. But there is this important thing to remember: We have not the muscle and strength that men have to resist fatigue. We do things, but we pay the penalty of nervous strain.

When people say that women are equal to men, I always feel that physically they are not fitted to run the same race. If they accomplish things, they pay up for it. It is sad, but it is true." Yet probably few of the noted women composers will subscribe to this opinion.

As yet there has been no woman composer of the very first rank, comparable to the tonal giants among men. But in explanation of this is the fact that women have not been generally at work in this field until the last century, while men have had considerably more time. And after all, there are not so many really great men among the composers. The tonal giants, the world-famous men, whose music rises above the fashion of their time, and lives through changing epochs and changing tastes, may almost be counted on the fingers of the hands. If no woman has yet become _prima inter pares_, there are many whose work equals that of the lesser men, whose names are remembered as forming the different schools of composition.

Whether woman's work will always be distinctive from men's in character, time alone can decide. The present writer is inclined to believe that the difference will be a permanent one,--that even in the larger forms, woman's work in music will always show more of delicate grace and refinement than man's, and will be to some extent lacking in the broader effects of strong feeling. As an example we may cite the works of Chaminade, which hold the very highest rank in their cla.s.s. Her songs are among the most delightful in the world to-day, yet they charm by delicacy rather than strength, and are different from, if not inferior to, the creations of a Jensen or a Graedener, to say nothing of the more dramatic works of Schumann or Schubert. Of course there will be cases where the two s.e.xes will meet on common ground, and the exquisite beauty of a Franz may some day find its equal in the work of the other s.e.x, but whether women will excel _naturally_ in the more virile vein of Bruch's cantatas, for instance, is open to grave doubt.

Taking the work of women as a whole, there are worthy examples of all the large forms to be found among their compositions. In the field of orchestral work, including symphonies, symphonic poems, overtures, and suites, we find such names as Augusta Holmes, Chaminade, Louisa Lebeau, Emilie Mayer, Mme. Farrenc, Comtesse de Grandval, Elfrida Andree, Edith Chamberlayne, Mrs. Meadows-White, Aline Hundt, Oliveria Prescott, and in our own country Mrs. Beach and Miss Lang; and the list is but a partial one at that. The recent success of "Der Wald," to mention only one case, proves that women may safely attempt the highest form of opera. This work, although it has a drawback in the shape of a confused libretto, is to be retained permanently on the Covent Garden repertoire in London. In oratorio, a worthy place must be accorded to the works of Mme. Grandval, Celanie Carissan, Mrs. Bartholomew, and Rosalind Ellicott. Among women composers of successful ma.s.ses may be reckoned Mrs. Beach, Mme.

Grandval, Mary Carmichael, and Maude Valerie White. In other directions women have more than held their own, and their work shows excellence, in quality as well as quant.i.ty, in cantatas, string quartettes, and other chamber music, violin sonatas, and even in large concertos. The list of women who have written piano music and songs extends to ample proportions.

Who is the greatest woman composer? It is hard to say, for not all have worked in the same direction. In our own country, Mrs. Beach holds the foremost position at present, with Miss Lang a good second. In England, Mrs. Meadows-White is a.s.signed first place,[8] with Ethel Smyth mentioned next in order. Agnes Zimmermann and Dora Bright receive high praise for their chamber music, while Rosalind Ellicott, Amy E.

Horrocks, Edith Swepstone, and Ethel Boyce have been chosen to represent the larger vocal forms. Among song composers are cited Maude Valerie White, Florence Gilbert, Frances Allitsen, Florence Aylward, Liza Lehmann, and Katharine Ramsay. Guy d'Hardelot is probably cla.s.sed with the French writers. Ethel Barns is included because of her excellent violin compositions, as well as her admirable performance on that instrument.

In Germany, the works of Louisa Lebeau would seem to place her in the front rank, but many musicians consider them somewhat artificial. For many years Clara Schumann has been cited as the leader among women, but it is a question if she can hold that position now. Ingeborg von Bronsart is given the very highest praise by those who know her work best. In Italy, Eva dell' Aqua and Gilda Ruta seem leaders, while Carlotta Ferrari must be included in the front rank. In older times, too, Francesca Caccini must not be forgotten. Elfrida Andree, of Sweden, is another composer of high rank. But when all is said and done, it seems at present as if the palm must be awarded to France, with Augusta Holmes and Cecile Chaminade as rival claimants.

Bearing in mind the fact that woman's greatest activity has been limited to the most recent period, it may be well to inquire what the present tendencies are in the world of music. On this point, Robert Franz, in a recent letter, speaks with decided conviction. He believes that the art proceeds in a cycle, and that music began with the smaller forms, and is destined to end with them. In his own compositions, he gave expression to this conviction, for he worked wholly in the _Lied_ form. After Beethoven, he said symphonic form could proceed no higher. While the world would not willingly dispense with the orchestral works of Schumann and Mendelssohn (Wagner's efforts being in a separate field), there seems much truth in the idea thus advanced. Few men of to-day are successful in the largest forms, and the demand for short works in literature seems to have aroused a similar feeling in the musical world.

Yet we may only be pa.s.sing through a period of temporary eclipse, for already the new note of triumph sounds loud and clear from Russia. It may well be that in a more inspired epoch than the immediate present, woman will rise to a higher level than she has already reached.

It would not be fair to take leave of the women without mentioning their work in still another line,--that of musical literature. The list of women who have done work in this direction is fairly extensive, but the number of great names on it is comparatively small. The foremost name is perhaps that of Lina Ramann. In 1858 she began the most important work of her life by opening a normal school for teachers. Her writings have been numerous and valuable. They include several volumes on piano technique and practice, an important "Life of Liszt," a number of works on the musical education of children, many essays, and biographies of Bach and Handel.

Many of the women fall into the bad habit of imbuing all their work with a romantic tinge of exaggerated sentiment. One example of this fault is Elise Polko, some of whose sketches are very pretty reading, but almost wholly misleading to the new student. Even Marie Lipsius, who published a series of excellent biographical sketches under the pseudonym of La Mara, is not entirely free from this defect.

In France, Mme. Audley has written some good biographies, notably the lives of Beethoven and Schubert and some articles on Bellini. Across the Channel, Constance Bach has done some successful work in editing the letters of Liszt and Von Bulow. Two English women, Mrs. F. J. Hughes and Mary Maxwell Campbell, have entered the speculative field by trying to draw a.n.a.logies between harmonies and colours, but this theory can never have any real basis in scientific fact. In America, the work of Helen Tretbar and f.a.n.n.y Raymond Ritter is well known. Mrs. Mary Jones has devoted her energies to a book on the musical education of the blind, but the best work in this direction is that of Caroline Wiseneder in Germany.

In closing, it may not be amiss to express the wish that the compositions of women composers could be heard more frequently than they are at present. There is no doubt that some of our quartette clubs would find much to interest themselves and their audiences among the works of the famous musical women. According to Nero, music unheard is valueless, and all musicians would rejoice to see the fullest possible value thus placed, by frequent performance, upon Woman's Work in Music.




Abrams, Harriet. _Songs_.

Allitsen, Frances. _Songs_.

Ames, Mrs. Henry. _Songs_.

Andrews, Mrs. John H. _Songs_.

Arkwright, Mrs. Robert. _Songs_.

Armstrong, Annie. _Songs_.

Austen, Augusta A. _Songs_.

Aylward, Florence. _Songs_.

Bach, Constance. _Songs_.

Barker, Laura W. _Cantatas_, _Violin_, _Songs_.

Barnard, Mrs. Charles. _Songs_.

Barnett, Emma. _Piano_, _Songs_.

Bartholomew, Ann Shepard. _Oratorio_, _Cantatas_, _Hymns_, _Songs_.

Binfield, Hannah R. _Organ_, _Harp_.

Bisset, Elizabeth Anne. _Harp_.

Borton, Alice. _Orchestra_, _Piano_, _Songs_.

Boyce, Ethel Mary. _Orchestra_, _Cantatas_, _Violin_, _Piano_, _Songs_.

Bright, Dora. _Concertos_, _Piano_, _Quartet_, _Violin_, _Flute_, _Songs_.

Broadwood, Lucy E. _Songs_.

Buckley, Mrs. Olivia. _Piano_, _Harp._

Campbell, Mary M. _Songs_.

Cantello, Annie. _Piano_.

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