Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Performances attended during 2017; or, where were the women?


Rebecca Saunders

For the past few years, I have tried to count up the composers featured in performances I have attended, and wanted to do likewise for 2017: not the best of years in other respects, but with much for me to rejoice about musically. One review I have still to write, La bohème at the Deutsche Oper (29 December), but that should follow soon. Here, then, is the breakdown, for operas, for concerts, and together. As before, one appearance in a programme is counted once, whether it be for a Webern canon (alas not at all this year: not a single Webern performance) or a Wagner drama; so be it. And I have tended towards a more generous definition of opera, including music theatre, and so on, even including the Staatsoper Unter den Linden’s staging of Schumann’s Scenes from Goethe’s Faust. Wagner’s extraordinary dominance in opera is quite unlike any other year, but there is quite a mix otherwise, including two (I know only two…) women composers, and it is wonderful to see Monteverdi in second place there.

When it comes to concerts: Beethoven-Mozart-Brahms. I am a Viennese classicist, am I not? Boulez’s reappearance, though, is most welcome, with seven concerts: thanks here are due to the opening of the Pierre Boulez Saal, and to the Vienna Konzerthaus’s Boulez festival.

To return, though, to women, and indeed to turn to a subject I should have thought about long ago when making such a list: how is it that, of 96 composers featured, only six are women? (I think I have done my sums correctly; please forgive any slips in that respect, and feel free to tell me!) The problem is certainly not that I have not attended enough contemporary music. Of those 96 composers, 32 are living: one thing, at least, of which I am quite proud. Yet, whilst all six of those women composers are alive, the contemporary scales are still weighted 6:26. Is this partly my fault? Doubtless. I could certainly make more of an effort to attend and to review performances of music by women. (I could also make far more of an effort when it comes to teaching too.) Is it entirely my fault? Clearly not. This is systemic. What, then, are we going to do? We cannot pretend there is no problem here.

Opera/music theatre, etc.
Wagner 15
Monteverdi 4
Strauss 3
Debussy, Mozart 2
Bartók, Benjamin, Berg, Berio, Borodin, Busoni, Cavalli, Humperdinck, Elena Kats-Chernin, Janáček, Ligeti, Menotti, Mussorgsky, Puccini, Ravel, Reimann, Nicola Sani, Rebecca Saunders, Andrea Lorenzo Scartazzini, Schreker, Schumann, Shostakovich, Johann Strauss, Stravinsky, Verdi, Weber, Ryan Wigglesworth 1

Concerts
Beethoven 13
Mozart 10
Brahms 9
Boulez, Schubert 7
Debussy, Schoenberg, Schumann 6
Haydn, Ligeti, Jörg Widmann 5
Berg, Ravel, Stravinsky 4
Bach, Bartók, Dvořák, Mahler 3
CPE Bach, Carter, Chopin, Messiaen, Monteverdi, Rihm, Shostakovich, Strauss, Takemitsu, Tchaikovsky, Isang Yun 2
Mark Andre, Georges Aperghis, Julian Anderson, WF Bach, Vykintas Baltakas, Alessandro Baticci, Benjamin, Birtwistle, Johannes Boris Borowski, Bruch, Busoni, Duparc, Britten, Fodé Lassana Diabaté, Eisler, Grisey, Ivan Fedele, Luca Francesconi, Franck, HK Gruber, Lou Harrison, Hindemith, Ibert, Alexandra Karastoyanova-Hermentin, Kodály, Kurtág, Liza Lim, Liszt, Luca Marenzio, Christian Mason, Mendelssohn, Nono, Helmut Oehring, Eva Reiter, Matthias Pintscher, Erno Poppe, Prokofiev, Roussel, Rzewski, Rebecca Saunders, Iris ter Schiphorst, Johannes Schöllhorn, Marco Stroppa, Telemann, Nicola Vicentino, Walton, Weber, Weill, Gerhard E. Winkler, Wolf, John Zorn 1

Concerts and opera combined
Wagner 15
Beethoven 13
Mozart 12
Brahms 9
Debussy 8
Boulez, Schubert, Schumann 7
Ligeti, Monteverdi, Schoenberg 6
Berg, Haydn, Ravel, Stravinsky, Jörg Widmann 5
Bartók, Strauss 4
Bach, Bartók, Dvořák, Mahler, Shostakovich 3
CPE Bach, Benjamin, Busoni, Carter, Chopin, Messiaen, Rihm, Rebecca Saunders, Takemitsu, Tchaikovsky, Weber, Isang Yun 2
Mark Andre, Georges Aperghis, Julian Anderson, WF Bach, Vykintas Baltakas, Alessandro Baticci, Birtwistle, Borodin, Johannes Boris Borowski, Bruch, Cavalli, Duparc, Britten, Fodé Lassana Diabaté, Eisler, Grisey, Ivan Fedele, Luca Francesconi, Franck, HK Gruber, Lou Harrison, Hindemith, Humperdinck, Ibert, Alexandra Karastoyanova-Hermentin, Janáček, Elena Kats-Chernin, Kodály, Kurtág, Liza Lim, Liszt, Luca Marenzio, Christian Mason, Mendelssohn, Menotti, Mussorgsky, Nono, Puccini, Helmut Oehring, Eva Reiter, Matthias Pintscher, Erno Poppe, Prokofiev, Reimann, Roussel, Rzewski, Nicola Sani, Andrea Lorenzo Scartazzini, Iris ter Schiphorst, Johannes Schöllhorn, Schreker, Johann Strauss, Marco Stroppa, Telemann, Nicola Vicentino, Walton, Weill, Ryan Wigglesworth, Gerhard E. Winkler, Wolf, John Zorn 1


One sign of hope, if hardly of mitigation: the new work that made the strongest impression on me was, I think, Rebecca Saunders’s Yes. New music groups of the world: unite and perform it as soon as you can, please. Audiences of the world: unite and attend.

2 comments:

Mark Berry said...

Michelle Monette, who was unable to leave a comment herself, e-mailed me and asked if I would post this on her behalf:

Maybe I am wrong but I believe part of the problem is that people know much better men composers music than women composers music The number of works by women in new albums is a pety (1 or 2 on 100 albums), and albums critics of recorded women composers works even worst. If people could listen more recorded music of women works (on radio or streaming platforms, or on their own audio system), they would be more open to go to concerts with works by women composers. I have found on Apple Music many albums I would not be aware of if I were only listening to what Apple Music suggest me. That's another problem. Algorithms are not Women friendly.

Michelle Monette
Quebec City

ps: my site is michellemonette.net and If you do not understand French, you can see a page in English about the research I did (and still do) in Apple Music: https://michellemonette.net/women-classical-works-on-apple-music/

Kenny Roberts said...

I made a real effort to discover composers that were new to me... I was able to hear works by Missy Mazzoli, Kaija Saariaho, Vanessa Lann, Mary Jane Leach, Julia Wolfe, Nicole Lizee, Holly Herndon, Laurel Halo, Hildegard Westerkamp and Arlene Sierra, most of them via livecasts or from reading books like 'Music after the Fall: Modern Composition and Culture since 1989' by Tim Rutherford-Johnson and 'Experimental Music Since 1970' by Jennie Gottschalk... discovery is fun...