When discussing Gabriela Lena Frank I mentioned that the time has come for the matriarchal age of classical music. Women have been excluded from classical music since the beginning and it’s getting old.
How extreme was the exclusion? Instead of having women sing in early Western music, both secular and sacred, it was preferable to mutilate the testicles of prepubescent boys in order to create the alto and soprano registers.
...by Amy Beach
Consider that for a moment. Millions of women existed in Europe who were perfectly able to sing but instead of including women, the culture of the day created something false in order to keep women out. To this day, a man’s upper register is still called falsetto.
By the time music progressed to Mozart, women were allowed to sing in opera but boys were still subject to genital mutilation. The practice continued almost until the 20th Century. For example, Enrico Caruso’s father considered turning him into a castrato.
Whereas women have been welcome on the operatic stage for centuries, they have continued to be excluded from orchestras until about 40 years ago when blind auditions became more of a standard practice.
Women in the string and woodwind sections have almost evened out in many orchestras but the brass and percussion sections are lagging. Some would say that this is because of discrimination based on traditional gender roles.
I think blaming all differences between men and women on traditional gender roles is like saying that night would be day if only the earth didn’t rotate. Whatever the case may be, women in the brass and percussion sections are behind the crest of the feminine wave.
Female conductors and composers are even further behind but the sun is rising. We might be tempted to ask why this hasn’t happened sooner or why it isn’t happening faster. The fact is that it is happening.
With this in mind, every now and then we will feature a female composer who has been lost in the patriarchy of the past. There are two women that all classical music lovers know, Hildegard von Bingen and Clara Schumann.
The third woman would be Amy Beach, but beyond that there is only a misty recognition that there were women who wrote orchestral music and operas.
Give this Amy Beach piano concerto a listen and tell me that you wouldn’t want to hear it live. How about this? As a concerto, this piece is superior to Chopin’s piano concerti.
Blasphemy? Nope, just the truth.