CELEBRATING WOMEN IN MUSIC
August is Women’s Month! Inspired by a request from Fine Music Radio’s Opus Newsletter, we asked our singers the following question: “If I were to choose a favourite piece of music that celebrates women, it would be…”
Karen Hahne: At the moment I would choose almost any recording by Christina Pluhar. She is a phenomenal musician. Her humble encouragement of musicians performing with her, her experiments with different musical sounds, her ensemble’s vibrant style, her humour and her own compositions inspire me. I love the exuberance of this encore:
Sarah McArthur: Mine is a bit conflicted – I think the piece of music that celebrates women that had a profound influence on me stylistically as a songwriter but also as a woman who celebrates independence, self-sufficiency and strength would be Army of Me by Björk. But a softer side of the me I am now would definitely be Brandi Carlyle and her song The Mother [see below]. As a new(ish) mum of two, I’ve really resonated with the themes of sacrifice, frustration and severe “FOMO” but also unparalleled love and joy. And, as a musician, the folk roots are much closer to the kind of music I like to write and play now:
Lesley Jennings: A piece which brings back a fond memory for me is Debussy’s Three Nocturnes (Nuages, Fêtes and Sirènes). When the late maestro Louis Frémaux first came to Cape Town in the 1970s, this was one of the pieces he chose to perform, and I was asked to liaise between him and the ladies of the St George’s Singers regarding the third movement, Sirènes. I believe that our Thursday night Symphony Concert performance with the orchestra was the first of this work ever to be given in our city, and we simply wallowed not only in the glorious atmosphere of Debussy’s music under a French expert, but got to know the conductor really well, including socially. My preferred recording of the Three Nocturnes is made by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and the Ladies of the LA Master Chorale conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen:
Suzanne Buchanan: I like This Marriage by Eric Whitacre [see below] and Mary, Did You Know? by Pentatonix.
Anthea van Wieringen: From the chauvinistic world of music that dominated until well into the twentieth century, one can find small gems that celebrate women or a woman. My chosen one is Widmung by Schumann, a setting of a poem by F. Rückert, celebrating Clara and given to her on their wedding day. My favourite recording is by Ian Bostridge and Graham Johnson [see below]. If I could have two pieces, then Du Bist die Ruh by Schubert, also a setting of a poem by Rückert, is a much-loved song, probably celebrating the love of a woman. See here for a recording of that piece by Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake.