Women Composers
Here you can find all information about our women composers: biographies, lists of their compositions and photos.


Pauline Viardot geb. Garcia
* 18.07.1821 in Paris
† 18.05.1910 in Paris
Pauline Viardot did not consider herself to be a composer by profession, yet she was a composer of professional ability. She was born into a Spanish family of singers, the Garcias (father: Manuel Garcia, mother: Joachina Sitches, brother: Manuel Garcia II, sister: Maria Malibran), and her musical and dramatic portrayal of the roles she played inspired composers such as Chopin, Berlioz, Meyerbeer, Gounod, Saint-Saens, Liszt, Wagner and Schumann.
She also assisted with the composition of music for the roles that were created specifically for her, for example that of Fid s in Meyerbeerâ The Prophet. In addition, she carried on the Garcia school of singing through her extensive teaching. She was originally trained as a pianist (taught by Meysenberg and Liszt) and composer (taught by Reicha), but she had to step into her famous sister shoes after the latter untimely death in 1836. Their father had already died in 1832, so her mother took over her singing lessons. A year later, when she was not yet 16, she made her but in Brussels at a concert given by her brother-in-law, the Belgian violinist Charles de Bériot, causing a great sensation with her three-octave compass and musical versatility. During her first concert tour through Germany in 1838, together with her brother-in-law, she performed some of her own vocal compositions, accompanying herself on the piano. In Leipzig, she met Clara Wieck and Robert Schumann. Schumann published one of her songs in his 'Neue Zeitschrift für Musik' (New Journal for Music) and later dedicated his Heine Song Cycle op. 24 to her. Like her sister, she made her opera, but as Desdemona in Rossini Otello, first in London (9th May 1839), then in Paris (8th October 1839), and took up her first engagement at the Theatre Italien in Paris, where she demonstrated her dramatic talent in a range of Rossini roles. Alfred de Musset, who said of her, 'Singing is to her as natural as breathing', George Sand, who made her into the heroine of her novel Consuelo (1843), and Hector Berlioz rapidly joined the ranks of her most ardent admirers. In 1840, she married Louis Viardot, an author and the director of the Théâtre Italien. Viardot, who was 21 years her senior, gave up his job and accompanied her on the concert tours which she made throughout Europe in the years that followed. Pauline's first daughter (Louise, born in 1841) was brought up by her grandmother. She sang in London, Berlin, Dresden, Vienna and St. Petersburg, where she was engaged by the Opera from 1843 to 1846, and where she met the Russian author Ivan Turgenev. Turgenev fell in love with her and lived next door to the Viardots until his death. While in St. Petersburg, in addition to the Italian repertoire, she sang works by Glinka and Dargomizhsky in Russian. She only appeared in Paris occasionally, because she was repeatedly exposed to hostility as the wife of Louis Viardot, who was a Republican and a declared opponent of Louis Napoleon. However, the premiere of Meyerbeer s The Prophet (16th April 1849) and her interpretation of the role of Fid s were an astounding triumph. Pauline Viardot sang Fid s over 200 times on all the great European stages. Apart from her portrayal of this character, it was above all as Gluck's Orpheus that she lent dramatic reality to the role through her musical and dramatic artistry. The part had originally been written for a castrato, but Berlioz arranged it for her and, as a result, the forgotten opera made its return to the stage (18th November 1859). The leading female roles in Beethoven's Fidelio, Gluck's Alceste and Verdi's Macbeth were further milestones in her career. In 1863, at the age of 42, she retired from the stage and left France for political reasons. With her husband, her three younger children (Claudine, born 1852, Marianne, born 1854, Paul, born 1857) and Ivan Turgenev, she settled in Baden-Baden, taught female singers from all over the world, and built an art gallery and little opera house in her garden. Here she gave concerts with her pupils and children, and staged her own works in front of a cosmopolitan audience drawn from Baden-Baden society. Ivan Turgenev wrote the librettos. An orchestrated version of one of these pieces, Le dernier sorcier (1869), was also performed in public in Weimar (1869), in Riga and in Karlsruhe (1870). The first performance of Johannes Brahms' Alto Rhapsody (3rd March 1870) also took place during the Baden period. The war between France and Germany, and the fall of Napoleon III, brought Pauline Viardot back to Paris via London (private performance of Le dernier sorcier 11.2.1871), where she continued to teach and compose until her death at the age of 89. Her compositions were mainly 'salon operettas', among them Le conte de F es (1879) and Cendrillon (1904). Until the deaths of her husband and Turgenev in 1883, she held a prominent music salon in the Rue de Douai, then in the Boulevard St. Germain. She published her own singing method, based on the Garcia school of singing, entitled Une heure d tude; a collection of selected songs and arias: cole classique de chant, with comments on phrasing and articulation, and notes on interpretation, etc.; and a critical edition of 50 Schubert songs. Apart from her own compositions and arrangements, these publications are today an important source of information about 19th century performance practices. '[...] she is the most brilliant woman I have ever met.'2 It was not only Clara Schumann, the author of this quotation, who was of this opinion. Pauline Viardot's singing and pianistic ability, her intelligence, and her extraordinary musical versatility, even by the standards of those days, were undisputed. She not only spoke fluent Spanish, French, Italian, English, German and Russian, but also composed in various national styles. Her more than one hundred songs and melodies based on texts by Musset, Tergenev, Pushkin, Gautier, Mörike and Goethe were mostly published during her lifetime.


Drei Lieder auf Texte von Eduard Mörike
Gavotte & Serenade

Ada Gentile
* 26.07.1947 in Avezzano, Abruzzen
Ada Gentile wurde am 26. Juli 1947 in Avezzano in den Abruzzen in eine sehr innig verbundene Großfamilie hineingeboren. Sie ist die Jüngste von zehn Kindern. Sie begann mit dem Klavierstudium am Conservatorio di St. Cecilia in Rom und wechselte dann zu Irma Ravinale zum Studium der Komposition. 1971 legte sie ihr Diplom im Klavierspiel ab, 1974 schloss sie das Kompositionsstudium ab
Sofort danach schrieb sich Gentile an der Accademia di Santa Cecilia für Meisterkurse ein, wo sie das Glück hatte, den letzten Meisterkurs von Goffredo Petrassi vor seiner Pensionierung mitzubekommen, und zwei Jahre später mit einem Diplom abzuschließen. Ihre Kompositionscharakteristika sind eine gründliche Suche nach dem Klang, die den Zuhörerinnen immer neue und überraschende Resultate anbietet: ein reiches, klingendes Kaleidoskop, das durch die Auswahl extremer dynamischer Bereiche entsteht Auftragskompositionen schrieb sie für Rai Radiotelevisione Italiana, die Münchener Biennale und die Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rom. An Auszeichnungen sind zu nennen: der Gaudeamus in Amsterdam 1982 und zwei Mal der ISCM - in Budapest 1986 und in Essen 1995. Die Musiker, die ihr am Nächsten standen waren Aldo Clementi, Francesco Pennisi, und unter den ausländischen die östliche Schule um Györgi Ligeti und György Kurtag, und in Amerika Elliot Carter. 1994 wurde bei der Münchner Biennale ihre Oper La liberazione di Ruggiero dall'isola di Alcina uraufgeführt. Neben der Tätigkeit als Komponistin unterrichtete Ada Gentile am Conservatorio di St. Cecilia. Außerdem war sie künstlerische Leiterin des Goffredo Petrassi Kammerorchesters (1986-88).


Annäherung XII - an sieben Komponistinnen XII

Memorial days

Maria Szymanowska
* 14.12.1789 in Warschau
† 24.07.1831 in Sankt Petersburg
Szymanowska’s childhood in Warsaw was consumed by music-making in the home. Her father, Franciszek Wołowski, a wealthy brewery owner, and her mother, Barbara Lanckorońska Wołowska, a descendant of an ancient Polish aristocratic family, were leading patrons of the arts. Together, they encouraged the young Szymanowska’s interest in music. At the age of eight she began her musical studies in piano with the well-known Warsaw pianist, Antoni Lisowski, and at 15 she pursued studies in theory and composition with the pianist and composer Tomasz Gremm. Szymanowska had ample opportunity to acquaint herself with contemporary performance and compositional styles, and she took advantage of the informal lessons these visiting artists provided to resident musicians.
By the age of twenty-one she was an active participant in public and private concerts in Warsaw and the rest of Europe. In 1810, after presenting a series of concerts in Warsaw and Paris, she married Józef Teofil Szymanowski. Within a period of two years she gave birth to three children. Ten years later, in 1820, the marriage foundered and Józef petitioned for a divorce; Szymanowska retained her maiden name and the custody of their children and resumed her professional career. The publication dates of her works indicate that they were published immediately after she composed them, and illustrate the marketability of her keyboard works as teaching pieces and solo concert works.


Six Romances and Romance à Joséphine
pian é forte. Music for piano

Emilie Zumsteeg
* 09.12.1796 in Stuttgart
† 01.08.1857
Emilie Zumsteeg was the youngest child of the German composer Johann Rudolf Zumsteeg, and she was known as a composer, pianist, singer and one of the most sought after music teachers of her time. Her father died when she was six years old and shortly thereafter her mother opened a music shop, in which young Emilie helped. Her mother recognized her musical talent and Emilie studied piano, theory and singing. Gifted with a fine alto voice she was soon singing and performing on the piano. As an adult, she was in contact with leading musicians and poets of her day and her literary interest is reflected in the “Lied”, her compositional mainstay and the basis of her creative reputation.
She also wrote several piano works (Trois Polonaises) and chamber works. She occupied a central position in the musical life of Stuttgart as a teacher of singing and the piano, as a leading member of the Verein für klassische Kirchenmusik, preparing works such as Handel’s Messiah and Haydn’s Creation with the choir that she had called to life. In the same manner as Luise Reichardt a male colleague conducted the public performance of her work or arrangement. She also founded the “Sonntagsmusiken” the Sunday-Concerts to which artists from other places came and could be heard. Her music was still known in the late 19th century, it includes many simple strophic songs, but occasionally they reveal an Italianate flair and more originality.


Annäherung XII - an sieben Komponistinnen XII
Christmas Carols by Women Composers Vol. 3
Christmas Carols by Women Composers Vol. 4
pian é forte. Music for piano