Woman's Work in Music Part 9

Eleanor Smith is another song writer who believes that children should be given the best of music, and not allowed to listen wholly to the popular rag-time tunes of the day. Her position as music teacher in the Cook County Normal School has enabled her to put her ideas in practice, and her songs for boys are delightful bits of worthy music. She, too, has done more ambitious work, such as a Rossetti Christmas Carol, the contralto solo, "The Quest," eight settings of Stevenson's poems, the Wedding Music for eight voices, piano, and organ, and a cantata, "The Golden Asp."

Mrs. C. Merrick, who publishes her works over the name of Edgar Thorn, is another talented woman who displays great gifts in small forms. Her "Amourette," for piano, has often figured on concert programmes. In her two collections, "Forgotten Fairy Tales" and "Six Fancies," many of the numbers show a rare imaginative charm. The same composer has produced several effective male choruses, which have been sung by the Mendelssohn Glee Club and other organizations.

Among other song-writers, Mildred Hill, of Louisville, has been able to preserve the real Southern flavour in some of her works,--a result that is seldom attained, in spite of the countless efforts in this direction.

She, too, has insisted in putting good music into her children's songs.

Mrs. Philip Hale, a resident of Boston, has produced a number of songs and piano works, the latter under the pseudonym of Victor Rene. Stella Prince Stocker is another well-known song-writer. Mrs. Theodore Sutro, a pupil of Dudley Buck, has also composed songs, besides piano works and a four-voiced fugue. Louise Tunison is another song composer well worthy of mention, while Adeline Train has produced some solos of remarkable delicacy. Helen Tretbar, famous as a writer and translator of musical works, has tried her hand at songs also. Another literary song-composer is f.a.n.n.y Raymond Ritter. A prominent figure in the musical world to-day is Josephine Gro, who writes songs and piano pieces, and is the author of many popular dances.



Though not as prolific of women composers as its musical reputation might indicate, Italy has still produced some famous names. The women of the earlier schools of contrapuntal work have already been mentioned.

Francesca Caccini was an exponent of the first growth of opera. After her comes a gap, and we find no women at work during the time of Scarlatti, for example, and few in the era when the early conventional opera saw its palmy days in the hands of Cimarosa and his compeers. A number flourished at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and now that Italy is experiencing a musical regeneration, the women are still present in the field.

One of the foremost of them to-day is the Countess Gilda Ruta. She was born at Naples, and was the daughter of a musician of some note, in fact, he became one of her best teachers. Among others with whom she studied was the opera composer, Mercadante, whose long career extended well into the last century. She became a pianist of great renown, but won her laurels more in the field of composition. Her opera, "The Fire-Worshippers," is a worthy example of its school. Her orchestral ability showed itself also in the form of a concerto for piano, while among her other works are a number of songs and a good deal of instrumental music.

Eva Dell' Aqua is another Italian woman who has won a high position by her works. She did not inherit the taste directly, for her father was not a musician, but a painter. He has made Brussels his home, and there his talented daughter has brought forth her compositions. Her songs are widely known, and show sterling merit. In more ambitious vein is her operetta, "La Bachelette," which was given with unusual success in the Brussels theatres. Another work for the stage is the comic opera, "Tambour Battant."

Carlotta Ferrari is undoubtedly the greatest of the Italian women composers. Born at Lodi in 1837, she soon began her musical studies, completing them with the best masters of the Milan Conservatory. When she tried to enter the lists in dramatic work, she found the theatre managers unwilling to give her any encouragement because of her s.e.x.

Feeling sure of her ability, however, she was brave enough to hire a theatre, and produce her opera, "Ugo," at her own expense. The result justified her hopes, for the work scored an entire success. Since that time she has had no trouble in dealing with the managers, who may well feel ashamed of their early fears. Her later operas, "Sofia" and "Eleonora d'Aborea," were as warmly received as her first attempt.

Her work is by no means limited to the stage. She has produced an excellent ma.s.s, which was written for the cathedral of her native town.

The impression made by this work was so favourable that she received two commissions from the Turin authorities, at later times, one for a requiem and the other for a cantata. She is said to be an absolute master of canon, or the imitation of one part by another. Among her smaller works are two sets of these canons for three voices and piano.

One of the earlier composers was Maria Teresa Agnesi, who flourished in the eighteenth century. Like many of her s.e.x, she was a pianist as well as a composer. She worked in the larger forms, and her four operas met with decided success in many cities of her operatic land. Besides operas, she produced several cantatas and other choral works, and a number of concertos, sonatas, and pieces for the piano.

Another eighteenth century celebrity was Maddalena Sirmen, who won fame as one of the great Italian school of violinists. She was a pupil of the renowned Tartini, and held her own with the great performers of her time. Her works contain a number of violin concertos and a set of six trios for two violins and a 'cello, besides many smaller pieces. Most of these were wholly successful in performance.

Maria Andreozzi, Marquise de Bottini, lived in the early part of the nineteenth century. Her works all show great merit, and cover a wide range in the matter of form. They include an opera, a requiem, a Stabat Mater, an orchestral Magnificat, the cantata "St. Cecile," another choral cantata, a number of concertos for piano, several overtures, and various compositions for voice, harp, and piano.

It is only natural to find opera the most popular form for ambitious Italian composers to use in striving for public favour. Where each little town and village had its own opera-house, there was an opportunity for the public to become accustomed to this form, while other works stood less chance of production and brought less revenue to the composer.

As early as 1764 we find the ballet music to the opera "Dario,"

published by Signora Bartalotti. In the next century, Ursula Asperi leads in point of time, her first opera having been given in 1827. She was conductor for a year at one of the Florentine theatres, and filled the post with admirable skill. Carolina Uccelli produced "Saul" in 1830, following it up with "Emma di Resburgo." Teresa Seneke obtained a Roman hearing for her opera, "Le Due Amichi," and published also a quant.i.ty of songs and piano music. Adolfa Galloni composed the opera, "Le Quattra Rustici," besides instrumental and vocal music. Signora Casella was another operatic composer, her "Cristoforo Colombo" having been produced at Nice in 1865. Teresa Guidi is the author of numerous operas of our own day, while the Countess Ida Correr, of Padua, has witnessed frequent performances of her "Gondoliera."

Of the many women working in the smaller forms, Virginia Mariani has won prominence at present, not only by her songs and piano music, but by her cantata, "The Apotheosis of Rossini." Teresa Milanollo, a celebrated violinist of the past century, published a number of compositions for her instrument, besides various works for piano. Among other piano composers in Italy during the nineteenth century may be mentioned Teresa de Blasis, Natalie Bertini, Eugenia Appiani, Bertha Frugoni, Clary Zentner, and Adele Branca Mussini.

Onestina Ricotti has tried her hand at songs, as well as publishing piano works. Teresa Bertinotti, herself a famous singer, was the composer of many popular songs and arias. Angelica Catalani was another example of the combination of singer and composer, while Marietta Brambilla added teaching to her other accomplishments. Maria Rosa Coccia was a celebrity of the preceding century, and won great fame by her youthful accomplishments in counterpoint, besides composing much church music. Mariana Creti gained her renown as a player on the harp and composer for that instrument.

The Netherlands has also its quota of musical women. In the early part of the last century, Mlle. Broes, a native of Amsterdam, won an enviable position as a pianist, and composed a number of pieces for her instrument, including dances, rondos, and variations. In the next generation, Madeleine Graever, of the same place, pursued a similar career. She made many successful tours in the usual European countries, and spent a year in New York at the beginning of the Civil War. On her return from this country, she became court pianist to the Queen of Belgium. Her works include several display pieces for piano. The Baroness van der Lund has also published a number of piano works.

Among the contemporary composers, one of the best is Catherine van Rennes. Her work consists chiefly of songs, a form in which she is eminently successful. Among those she has published are a set of five two-part songs, ent.i.tled "Lentetever," a collection of six two-part songs for children, and a set of solos for the same performers under the t.i.tle of "Jong Holland." She shows a mastery of style, and an ability to get just the effect that she wishes. Her works are attractive and singable without ever becoming overswollen or bombastic.

Cornelia van Osterzee has won her way to the highest position by her work in the larger forms. Among her best productions are two symphonic poems from the "Idyls of the King," ent.i.tled "Elaine's Death" and "Geraint's Bridal Journey." These were performed with great success at one of the recent Berlin Philharmonic Concerts. Her cantatas show unusual breadth of style, and their largeness of spirit wins them great favour. Mlle. Osterzee has been honoured for her work by receiving the decoration of the Order of Orange-Na.s.sau.

Hendrika van Tussenbroek is another composer who devotes herself chiefly to songs. Like Mlle. van Rennes, she is a native of Utrecht. Her works include many songs and vocal duets, of which "Meidoorn," a collection of children's songs, deserves especial mention. She wrote the words and music for a child's operetta, "Three Little Lute Players," which was performed three times and aroused much enthusiasm.

In Belgium, the Countess de Lannoy won her laurels in the eighteenth century. Her work took the form of ballads and romances, and she wrote also a sonata and a number of other instrumental pieces. Among the Belgian musical women of to-day, Juliette Folville stands in the front rank. Born as late as 1870, at Liege, she became an excellent violinist as well as composer, and in all probability has a long career still before her. Most important among her works is a set of several orchestral suites, while a violin concerto and other pieces are more in line with her efforts as a performer. Her opera, "Atala," met with considerable success when given at Lille in 1892.

In Denmark, Emma Dahl flourished as a singer and composer during the middle of the last century, and published many melodious songs in her own and the Scandinavian countries. Valborg Aulin is a more recent writer of songs, of which she has issued a respectable number. Her choral work is of excellent quality, and has enabled her to carry off more than one prize in musical compet.i.tions. Harriet c.u.man, of Copenhagen, is an excellent pianist, being reckoned as one of the greatest performers of the present. Her works consist chiefly of pieces for her instrument. Sophie Dedekam is a composer of songs, of which several sets have been published. Elizabeth Meyer is another successful song-writer. She does not confine herself to this form, however, but has produced many piano works. Her cantata, for soloists, chorus, and piano, won first prize in a recent Danish compet.i.tion.

Sweden can boast of several women composers, of whom at least two are really famous. Among those working in the smaller forms is Caia Aarup, now residing in America. She is the author of a number of pleasing songs and piano compositions. Amanda Maier, known also under her married name of Rontgen, has composed many worthy pieces for the violin, among them being a sonata and an interesting set of Swedish Dances. Another violin composer is Miss Lago, who has published songs and piano pieces as well as violin works, and has won a prize at Copenhagen with a piano cantata.

Helen Munktell has produced songs and piano pieces, and has entered another field with her one-act opera, "In Florence." Hilda Thegerstrom is responsible for some very melodious songs and piano pieces, published in Germany as well as in her native land.

One of Sweden's most gifted women is Elfrida Andree. Born in 1841, she soon devoted herself to musical studies, and took up the career of organist, so often a thankless one. She plays at present in the cathedral at Gothenburg. Her works include many different forms, even the symphonic. Her organ symphony is especially noteworthy, and all her orchestral works show decided talent. Her orchestral cantata, "Siegfried," is another effective composition. For chamber music she has written a quintette for piano, two violins, viola, and 'cello, also another quintette for strings that won a prize in compet.i.tion. At a recent Brussels musical congress, she took first prize among no less than seventy-eight compet.i.tors. She is the author of many smaller works for organ, voice, and piano.

In Ingeborg von Bronsart is found one of the few really great women composers. Born at St. Petersburg in 1840, she is cla.s.sed as Swedish because her parents were not citizens of Russia, but remained subjects of Sweden. Her mother was a Finn, but her father's native place was Stockholm. Ingeborg's earliest musical impressions came from the violin playing of her mother, done wholly by ear, from her father's flute playing, and from the singing of the touching Swedish folk songs by the housekeeper. When her elder sister began regular study, Ingeborg was considered too young for it, but begged so hard that she was allowed to take lessons too. At the very first one, the teacher noticed her great talent, and in a few months she was far in advance of her sister. A year later, at the age of eight, Ingeborg began to compose little melodies and dances, and her father was moved to seek a good master for her.

[Ill.u.s.tration: INGEBORG VON BRONSART]

He made a fortunate choice in the famous amateur, Nicholas von Martinoff, for Ingeborg became not only his pupil but a welcome guest at the house of his family. With them she was able to hear the best of the operas and other music afforded by the imperial city, and the summers pa.s.sed by her at their estate enabled her to grow strong by riding, swimming, and other outdoor exercise.

When eleven years old, Ingeborg began harmony with the composer Decker.

She progressed quickly, and in her first concert, given a year later, was able to present creditable work of her own. Her success was decisive, and critics and public united in foretelling her great future.

From that time on she gave annual concerts with orchestra, meeting growing favour. Meanwhile her composition was not neglected; beginning by publishing three etudes, a tarantelle, and a nocturne for piano, she continued with sonatas, fugues, and songs. She won the interest of the musical circles, including Rubinstein, and through Von Martinoff she became the pet of the Russian aristocracy. When that protector was called away by the Crimean War, he left her in the care of Adolf Henselt, and after two years with the new master, she was sent by him to finish her studies under Liszt, then long famous as leader of the gifted musical circle of Weimar.

When she came to him, an eighteen-year-old girl, endowed with all the fair beauty of her northern land, she gave him as proof of her proficiency some of her piano fugues. The experienced master rather doubted if the charming apparition before him could produce such an intricate work as a fugue without receiving aid, so he gave her a new theme and requested her to write another fugue upon it. Nothing daunted, she started at once, and, in a short while, she handed him the ma.n.u.script. He played it through, and acknowledged its merit with the remark, "Well, you don't look at all like it." Instantly came the reply, "I am very glad I don't look like a fugue." Ingeborg became one of his few chosen favourites, and soon all Weimar worshipped her as St.

Petersburg had done before.

With Liszt she remained two years, devoting herself chiefly to piano, and composing a sonata only as a diversion. She speaks warmly in praise of the great tone-poet's influence. "His guidance," she says, "prevented me from being one-sided in art, and the example of his wonderful nature taught me to seek and absorb the beautiful in music everywhere, no matter what school its composer belonged to." While under Liszt's care, she appeared at court, and made successful debuts in Dresden, Paris, and the Leipsic Gewandhaus. Under Liszt also was Hans von Bronsart, who had known Ingeborg in St. Petersburg, and who now was fortunate enough to win her love and become her husband.

The next few years were devoted to performing, and numerous tours brought equally numerous triumphs. Composition was not neglected, and a piano concerto of fair success was the result of this period. At this time her dramatic efforts began, and the three-act opera, "Die Gottin von Sais," was the first result. The music of this work was excellent, but the libretto lacked action, and no stage performance was ever given.

Composing soon became her life-work, for her husband was appointed Intendant of the Hanover Court Theatre, and wives of Prussian officials were forbidden to appear in public, except on especial occasions. Her works began to multiply; German and Russian songs, piano pieces and violin works, followed one another in quick succession. The return of the troops from the Franco-Prussian War, with her husband as officer among them, brought forth three patriotic songs, two male choruses, and the Kaiser Wilhelm March for orchestra, performed at a court festival of rejoicing.

Her second operatic attempt was a setting of Goethe's "Jery und Bately,"

which met with deserved success. The music is of choice quality throughout, according to the criticism of Richard Pohl, and the dramatic climax is excellently worked up by the fact that each successive number is purposely made more effective than the one preceding it. The same power and beauty of expression shows itself in her later songs, written mostly for the poems of Bodenstedt. These are in many cases well able to stand the test of comparison with the best of the German _Lieder_. A number of pieces for 'cello and piano are of equal value, as are also her violin works. Her last opera, "Konig Hiarne," suffers again from a weak libretto, but is made of worthy musical material. It was rated as a successful work, but some of the wiser critics doubt if its power of melodic expression can wholly atone for the lack of certain essentially dramatic qualities.

In 1887 the Hanover post was exchanged for a similar one at Weimar.

There her husband performed excellent service in keeping alive the traditions of Liszt and his followers. After eight years of work, Von Bronsart retired from public duty. A short period of travel followed, after which the musical pair settled down to a life of quiet at Munich.

There, too, lives the daughter of the family, who is said to have inherited a full share of the musical ability shown by her parents.

Among the composers of Norway, Mme. Betty Holmberg has devoted herself to the violin, publishing an excellent suite and other compositions for it. Magda Bugge, who has made America her home, is the author of many piano pieces and songs. The most famous Norwegian woman composer, however, is Agathe Backer-Grondahl. Born in 1847, she received a thorough musical training, counting among her teachers Kjerulf, Kullak, Von Bulow, and Liszt. Her work has won her many honours, including the royal gold medal of Sweden. Her compositions are not many in number, but all of them show the most delightful freshness and originality. Like her great fellow countryman, Grieg, she aims to give her music a distinctive style of its own, and not make it a mere imitation of the usual models.

Her andante for piano and orchestra and her orchestral scherzo are excellent works, which meet with frequent performance, while her suite is another example of striking beauty. Her piano works, which include etudes, fantasies, sketches, and humoreskes, are full of the same characteristic charm, while her songs display exquisite poetic feeling.

Bohemia and Hungary, though politically parts of the Germanic nations, may well be cla.s.sed as separate from them in matters of art. Their peoples are different racially, and their national music, especially in the latter case, has a distinctive character of its own. Smetana and Dvorak are the most famous types of the German dependency, while the music of the Austrian province partakes of the wild gipsy flavour that is so well reflected in some of Schubert's works.

One of the earliest Bohemian women composers was Veronica Cianchettini.

She came of a musical family, for she was one of the sisters of Dussek, whose wife and daughter have already been mentioned in connection with England's composers. Like her brother, she became a pianist of high rank, and settled in London. Her works include a number of piano concertos, sonatas, and other lesser pieces.

Elise Barth was a famous Bohemian pianist of the last century. She, too, published many piano compositions. Another celebrated performer was Auguste Auspitz, one of Smetana's best pupils. She produced many songs and piano works, and would have done greater work but for her death at the age of thirty-five. Mathilde Ringelsberg devoted herself to lighter compositions, and wrote many popular dances. Wilhelmine Clausz, besides being one of the best women pianists of to-day, has composed a few pieces for her instrument, and has done much excellent editing and arranging. Anna Schimon, who studied with Halevy, won renown as a singer and teacher. She has published many vocal works, and has two operas in ma.n.u.script. Rosa Bleitner, a teacher at the Prague Conservatory, has published several sets of songs, also a very effective funeral march.

Among Hungarian composers, Ludmilla Gizycka, now living at Vienna, has published a number of successful songs and piano pieces, among them an interesting set of Polish melodies. Marie de Kohary, another pianist-composer, has written a set of sonatas and various other piano works. Mme. D'Hovorst has published a sonata for two pianos and various other works. Henrietta Vorwerk has received much praise for her piano pieces and songs, while Anna Zichy Stubenberg is another prolific worker in the same field.

Poland, though divided among the nations, can boast a few women composers. In the eighteenth century, the Countess Clementine Grabowska wrote a number of piano pieces, among them a set of effective polonaises. Marie Szymanowska, born in 1790, was a pupil of John Field, and became one of the leading pianists of her time. Her fame was largely increased by the poet Goethe, who made her one of the many idols of his vagrant affections. He spoke of her playing in the highest terms, placing her above Hummel. But the verdict of Mendelssohn is probably more accurate: "Those who rate her so high," he says, "think more of her pretty face than of her not pretty playing." Her works consist chiefly of display pieces for the piano, a set of twelve concert etudes receiving high praise from Schumann.

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