Grand Piano has made a significant contribution to the honouring of a number of remarkable women who have left their mark on music history. Our catalogue has a growing segment of titles featuring music by women composers.
Polish pianist/composer Maria Szymanowska (1789–1831) was greatly admired by her contemporaries, who included Beethoven, Cherubini, Field and Tomášek. Her collections of dances, written for salons, are pleasing and light, yet always inventive. Watch pianist Alexander Kostritsa play Szymanowska’s Polonaise in C major, in a performance described as ‘elegant, charming, energetic, and shimmering with delicate fingerwork’ by Fanfare.
The Venezuelan pianist Teresa Carreño (1853–1917) was one of the most virtuosic artists of her age. A child prodigy, she won the admiration of Gottschalk and Anton Rubinstein, and gave sold-out concerts throughout America, Europe and Australasia. ‘German pianist Alexandra Oehler plays these miniatures with dedication and an excellent technique. She always finds a good balance between expressiveness, virtuosity and restraint, so that at the end the motto is: Prima la musica!’ (Supersonic, Pizzicato)
Despite her tragically brief life, Vítezslava Kaprálová (1915–1940) is now considered one of the most important female Czech composers of the 20th century, her prolific output abundant with fresh and bold ideas, passion, tenderness and youthful energy. Giorgio Koukl’s recording of her piano works received a Diapason d’Or as well as a 5-star rating from Ritmo: ‘[Kapralova’s] music moves between neoclassicism and modernism, characteristic of the interwar period, always with an original freshness … Giorgio Koukl presents these pieces with his usual effectiveness.’
The Polish composer Grazyna Bacewicz’s (1909–1969) music has recently enjoyed a renaissance in both live performances and recordings. In her collection of 20th-century music by Polish composers, the young award-winning pianist Anna Szalucka presents the world premiere recording of Bacewicz’s Second Sonata: ‘ … with Grazyna Bacewicz’s Piano Sonata No. 2 there’s more of Polish feel, and a more modernist one, the music becoming more intense, less cultivated and more dramatic. Impressive playing and an interesting album as well, nicely pitched between easy on the ear and difficult.’ (Review Corner)
The Russian composer Galina Ustvolskaya (1919–2006) is well-known as a pupil of Shostakovich, but her compositions are unique and incomparable. Elisabeta Blumina’s recording of Ustvolskaya’s Concerto for Piano, Strings and Timpani with the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra under Thomas Sanderling was well received by American Record Guide: ‘ … listeners familiar with her music may be surprised by its more tonal leanings but will not be surprised by the complex and paradoxical network of musical gestures.’
The Széchényi dynasty stood at the heart of Hungary’s political and musical life in the 19th and 20th centuries and featured several female composers: Franciska (Hungary’s first female composer), Félicie and Gisa composed several pieces for the piano, which have been recorded by award-winning pianists István Kassai and György Lázár.
Duncan Honeybourne’s programme of British piano miniatures features works by Evangeline Livens (1898–1983) (Shadows) and Constance Warren (1905–1984) (Idyll in G-flat major). The WholeNote commented: ‘There is a remarkable degree of originality throughout all these works that makes this disc an engaging listen from start to finish.’
Coming to the present day, Tanya Ekanayaka (b. 1977) is an internationally acclaimed and award-winning Sri Lankan-British composer-pianist who is regarded as one of Sri Lanka’s finest artistes. Although she trained as a pianist, her compositional skills are the result of a purely intuitive and natural development. She has two albums under Grand Piano’s Overtone imprint: first, her Reinventions, a collection of ‘autobiographical’ piano works that blends Sri Lankan melodies with classical styles; and second, the Twelve Piano Prisms, which consists of miniatures corresponding to the twelve primary notes of the keyboard.
‘Melodic fragments of great beauty float through this music’ – International Piano [4 stars]
‘If you want something tonally wistful and lyrically inspired in new piano music, you will most certainly find it here. …we hear an original musical mind at work.’ – Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review
Stay tuned for more exciting music by women composers throughout the ages on Grand Piano!