26 March 2005
 



This list of female composers reflects the tradition of Western Art music, and is by no means complete.

View a bibliography or Glossary


 
Up to c. 1450
  • Kassia 810? (Byzantine-Greek)
  • Hildegard of Bingen 1098 - 1179 German Abbess, known for her music, writings, art, poetry, and mystical powers.
  • Countess Beatriz De Dia C.12th (French Troubador)

    During this era much music was preserved by the aural tradition, Gregorian chant in the church and folk or secular songs. Notation was in its developmental stages, and those who did write music often wrote anonymously. Many of the Troubadors were in fact women; perhaps the most reknowned being the Countess Beatriz De Dia! Troubadors wrote music and poetry usually setting their own texts, performing them and accompanying themselves on the lute.


c. 1450 - 1600

  • Marguerite D'Autrice 1480 - 1530 (Western European)
  • Anne Boleyn 1507 - 1536 (English)
  • Maddalena Casulana c. 1540 - 1590 (Italian)

    With notation now developed to a certain extent, more music survives, though little by female composers. Women had a different social status than today. With less freedom, little or no education, their prime role was to raise a family. Those who were taught came from privileged families. Women who did compose were part of a musical family. Families often moved from court to court, providing entertainment.


c. 1600 -1750

  • Francesca Caccini 1587 - 1640 (Italian)
  • Lucrezia Orsina Vizzana 1590 - 1662 (Italian)
  • Chiara Margarita Cozzolani 1602 - 1678 (Italian)
  • Barbara Strozzi 1619 - 1664 or maybe later (Italian)
  • Isabella Leonarda 1620 - 1704 (Italian)
  • Elisabeth Claude Jaquet de la Guerre 1666 - 1729 (French)
  • Maria Perucona b. 1652 - ? (Italian)
  • Maria Margherita Grimani c. 1713 - 1718 (Italian)
  • Anna Amalie (Princess of Prussia) 1723 - 1787 (German)
  • Anna Amalia (Duchess of Saxe-Weimar) 1739 - 1807 (German)

    Female composers in this era were usually from upper or middle classes, having received an education, often being taught privately. Going into a convent sometimes provided an alternative to marriage and nuns developed their musical skills and interests as musicians and composers despite the rules of the church.


c. 1750 - 1800

  • Marianne von Martinez 1744 - 1812 (Austrian)
  • Maddalena Laura Lombardini Sirmen 1745 - 1818 (Italian)
  • Jane Savage 1752/3 - 1824 (English)
  • Maria Theresa von Paradis 1759 - 1824 (Austrian)
  • Maria Szymanowska 1790 - 1832 (Polish)

    Female composers from this time are usually from wealthy, or musical families. Music was not considered to be a suitable profession for a woman, and so many were discouraged, however, those who achieved in a career and recognition were often composers and performers, and gained the respect of their male counterparts.


c. 1800 - 1900

  • Louise Farrenc 1804 - 1875 (French)
  • Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel 1805 - 1847 (German)
  • Lady John (Alicia Ann) Scott 1810 - 1900 (Scottish)
  • Josephine Lang 1815 - 1880 (German)
  • Clara Wieck Schumann 1819 - 1896 (German)
  • Pauline Viardot-Garcia 1821 - 1910 (French)
  • Cecile Chaminade 1857 - 1944 (French)
  • Dame Ethel Smyth 1858 - 1944 (English)
  • Amy Woodforde-Finden 1860 - 1919 (British)
  • Liza Lehmann 1862 - 1918 (English)
  • Amy Beach 1867 - 1944 (American)
  • Alma Mahler 1879 - 1964 (Austrian)

    The salons that were popular during this era increased the opportunity for a female composer to be performed. Many owned their own salons, others performed their own music (or both). However to achieve as a female composer, women had to be part of a musical or wealthy family. Without their family's support, advancement in a career in music was simply impossible for women.

Musical styles are constantly changing developing and striving for something new. Each age is inevitably influenced by the past, but individuals achieve in making a unique stand, a breakthrough in their art. Those composers listed as Experimental or Modernist have done just that. Experimental composers have literally experimented with a new technique, while modernists have developed a new, and therefore, modern language.

Experimental and Modernists

  • Rebecca Clarke 1886 - 1979 (English)
  • Ruth Crawford Seeger 1901 - 1953 (American)
  • Elizabeth Maconchy b. 1907 - 1994 (English)
  • Mina Keal b. 1909 - 2000 (English)
  • Grazyna Bacewicz 1909 - 1969 (Polish)
  • Sofia Gubaidulina b. 1931 (Russian)


c. 1890 - 1950

  • Priaulx Rainier 1903 - 1986
  • Elizabeth Lutyens 1906 - 1983
  • Grace Williams 1906 - 1977 (Welsh)
  • Imogen Holst b. 1907 - 1984
  • Ruth Gipps 1921 - 1999
  • Betty Roe b. 1930

    With more freedom and equal rights, woman now are educated the same as their male counterparts. This explains why there are so many female composers today compared with earlier eras. Many, though born at a similar time to those listed above, are still alive today, and are listed together at the bottom of the timeline. Most are still adding works to their output and creating an international interest in woman composers!


c. 1890 - 1950

  • Undine Smith Moore b. 1905 - 1989
  • Miriam Gideon b. 1906 - 1996 (American)
  • Louise Talma b. 1906 - 1996 (American)
  • Mary Lou Williams b. 1910 - 1981 (African/American)
  • Vivian Fine b. 1913 - 2000 (American)
  • Julia Perry 1924 - 1979


c. 1890 - 1950

  • Nadia Boulanger 1887 - 1979 (French)
  • Germaine Tailleferre 1892 - 1983 (French)
  • Lili Boulanger 1893 - 1918 (French)

  • Alice Parker b. 1925 (American)
  • Margaret Betsy Jolas b. 1926 (French)
  • Ruth Zechlin b. 1926 (German)
  • Emma Lou Diemer b. 1927 (American)
  • Thea Musgrave b. 1928 (Scottish)
  • Gudrum Lund b. 1930 (Danish)
  • Gloria Coates b. 1934 (American)
  • Enid Luff b. 1935 (Welsh)
  • Barbara Heller b. 1936 (German)
  • Abe Keiko b. 1937 (Japanese)
  • Joan Tower b. 1938 (American)
  • Barbara Kolb 1939 (American)
  • Ellen Taafe Zwilich b. 1939 (American)
  • Margaret Lucy Wilkins b. 1939 (English)
  • Kay Gardner b 1941 (American)
  • Gillian Whitehead b. 1941 (New Zealand)
  • Meredith Monk b. 1942 (American)
  • Marta PtaszyÒska b. 1943 (Polish)
  • Tania LeÛn b. 1943 (Cuban-American)
  • Judith Lang Zaimont b. 1945 (American)
  • Nicola Lefanu b. 1947 (British)
  • Hilary Tann (Welsh) b. 1947
  • Joan La Barbara b. 1947 (American)
  • Diana Burrell b. 1948 (English)
  • Eleanor Alberga b. 1949 (British)
  • Alexina Louie b. 1949 (Canadian)
  • Elena Firsova b. 1950 (Russian)
  • Libby Larsen b. 1950 (American)
  • Kaija Saariaho b. 1952 (Finnish)
  • Judith Bingham b. 1952 (British)
  • Violeta Dinescu b. 1953 (Romanian)
  • Adriana Hˆlszky b. 1953 (Romanian)
  • Hope Lee b. 1953 (Canadian/Chinese)
  • Chen Yi b. 1953 (Chinese)
  • Judith Weir b. 1954 (British)
  • Helen Roe b. 1955 (English)
  • Sally Beamish b. 1956 (English)
  • Jean Hasse b. 1958 (American)
  • Errollyn Wallen b. 1958 (British)
  • Pritti Paintal b. 1960 (Indian)
  • Evelyn Glennie b. 1965 (British)
  • Roxanna Panufnik b. 1968 (British/Polish)

    Politics has always influenced every aspect of society, now more so than the church. Early composers, that of the medieval era were restricted by the church; woman were not allowed to take part in the service. Now society does not have such draconian restrictions placed on its inhabitants. This increased freedom can be seen in the above list with composers from the eastern blocks, along with those from Europe and America.



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