Judging by the responses on twitter at least, BBC Radio 3’s #WomensDay was a huge success, with the notable exceptions of a few grumblers who just can’t cope with women encroaching onto male turf, the poor dears:
— Clemency Burton-Hill (@clemencybh) March 8, 2015
But thankfully, most of the comments were surprised and delighted with the music by women being played. Many expressed the view that we should be having some music by women on Radio 3 everyday. I hope that will be the case – we’ll have to wait and see.
However, the commentary from Radio 3 staff around this are still somewhat reticent on the topic of female composers from history. See this piece in the Telegraph by Edwina Wolstencroft. Like Sara Mohr-Pietsch’s blog that I profiled in my last post, she is mostly interested in exposing the historic barriers that prevented women becoming composers, and positioning contemporary female composers as the hope to solving the problem of imbalances. Nothing wrong with promoting contemporary composers of course, but this does again read like a defensive reflex: Radio 3 should focus on the fact that they, like the industry as a whole, and like most classical fans – including me – have not done enough to investigate and promote the music of women from history, and that on this front there needs to be a permanent change.
But there are ramifications beyond music written by women. In contrast to Radio 3’s previous big promotions – the whole days of Mozart or Schubert etc. – this was by its very nature a non-canonical exercise, and as such it demonstrated a broader truth: that there is much to be gained in exploring classical music from unfamiliar names, male or female. Effectively, Women’s Day demonstrated the limitations of what we consider the core repertoire, and in light of this it will be interesting to see what Radio 3 choose to give a big push to next.
Anyway, I want to end on a positive note, and what could be more positive than this exuberant and tuneful Piano Trio no.2 by Swedish composer Elfrida Andrée (1841-1929), the first movement of which I leave you with here. I think it’s a delightful piece, and hopefully you’ll agree. If you know someone in a Piano Trio, do point them in its direction.