Paving the Way: Women Composers in Music History
March might not be a month you typically associate with special holidays, but we’re celebrating two special holidays all month long at Learning Without Tears: Women’s History Month and Music in Our Schools Month.
As we honor the contributions of women throughout history and contemporary society, and celebrate the importance and benefits of music education for all children, we invite you to learn more about three women composers who were pioneers in paving the way for women in music.
Clara Schumann (1819–1896)
Clara Schumann was a German musician and composer. With over a 61-year concert career, she is considered one of the most distinguished pianists of the Romantic era. Clara was an innovative performer, shifting the format of the piano recital, influencing the tastes of the listening public, and playing both her works and works from other leading composers, which was not customary at the time. Clara’s creative performance style made her a stronghold in reintroducing eighteenth-century music to the public and in music history.
Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179)
Hildegard von Bingen was a German abbess, writer, composer, and philosopher. She was a polymath and applied her talents to musical efforts, composing many liturgical songs including antiphons, hymns, and sequences. Fusing her own vibrant colorful verses with monophonic melodies, her music offered life-affirming messages inspired by the chants she grew up hearing at Roman Mass. Hiledgard von Bingen’s music provides a rare glimpse into medieval music.
Fanny Mendelssohn (1805–1847)
Fanny Mendelssohn was a German pianist and composer who composed over 460 pieces of music. Although she wrote many piano trios, solo piano pieces, and songs, she faced many restrictions performing and expressing her talent in public. Some of her works were published under her brother’s name, Felix Mendelssohn, who was also a composer. Her Easter Sonata was originally published as her brother’s, but after further examination, it was debuted as hers nearly 140 years after it was written. Despite facing many hardships composing and performing, Fanny Mendelssohn is considered one of the greatest women composers.
Celebrate Women’s History Month and music with us all month long!