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Women Composers & the Men in Their Lives

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WOMEN COMPOSERS & the men in their lives
- a FanFaire/Fleur de Son Classics 2001 Giveaway (Fleur De Son - #57939)
The CD's catchy title can get your imagination running wild. Indeed this CD is about relationships - though not about the amorous fires that burn (or the embers that smolder) between women composers and the men in their lives. But that does not make it less interesting, and certainly is no cause for disappointment.

Leanne Rees is a noted American pianist and composer who finds great excitement in discovering and breathing new life to lesser known but worthy works by composers of her gender.
In this CD, she explores relationships kindled by a common passion for music - between student and teacher (Marianne Martinez and Franz Joseph Haydn), between brother and sister (Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn), between friends (Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms) and, going to contemporary times, between colleagues (Emma Lou Diemer and Ralph Graves). The linkages are evident in the music - listen to the clips below and decide if Felix Mendelssohn's music could have been written by his sister Fanny, or Clara Schumann's by her soul-mate Brahms. While there can be disagreement about who wrote which and about the composers' relationship with each other and with their worlds, there can be none about the moving beauty of the music.

Indeed, Rees at the piano gives an impassionedly expert account of her discoveries. In the process, she provokes vital questions - e.g., about the relative influence of one "partner" on the other and about the osmosis of musical inspirations which (except in the pairing of Diemer and Graves which is demonstrative more of the influences of the modern world on their music than of any musical or personal interactions between them) history has assumed , perhaps wrongfully, to be always unidirectional, i.e. from dominant male to marginal female. (Behind every woman composer is a man. True or false?) But the composers of yore were creatures of their times just as we are of ours; and instead of getting trapped in a debate that will likely elude immediate resolution, surely we can hope that tomorrow's musical history, aided by neuroscience, will right yesterday's wrongs and these questions will then resolve themselves.
In the meantime, let's take in the music and see if we can tell a composer's gender by the sound of her/his music. Below are excerpts from works of the romantic period by four of the composers featured on the CD, two of which are by the women composers with the more famous names. Click on the title of the composition to hear the clip, then click on a button to see if you can tell a woman composer by the sound of her music. You will be alerted if your choice is right or wrong.
(Real Player required to hear music clips. Download now.)
1. "Notturno"

Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel

Johannes Brahms

Felix Mendelssohn

Clara Schumann
2. "Rhapsody"

Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel

Johannes Brahms

Felix Mendelssohn

Clara Schumann
3. "Rondo Capriccioso"

Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel

Johannes Brahms

Felix Mendelssohn

Clara Schumann
4. "Sonata in E minor"

Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel

Johannes Brahms

Felix Mendelssohn

Clara Schumann

And if you care to listen to more, here are excerpts:
from Marianne Martinez's
Sonata # 3 in A major
from Emma Lou Diemer's
Fantasy for Piano
from Leanne Rees'
Funky Tango

Leanne Rees gives a good account of herself as composer as well, wrapping up the CD in the distinct rhythm of her own "Funky Tango", a fitting epilogue to an interesting tract about musical twosomes from the distant and recent past, who perhaps were at times in tango mode: - "locked in their own universe wondering where their steps will lead them." And this we now know and hope - that Rees' steps will take her to ever more exciting discoveries of musical gems.

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