La Cafamore is in its sixth season of performing chamber works in the Kootenays. The trio consisting of Angela Snyder (violin), Alexis More (viola) and Carolyn Cameron (piano) will perform works exclusively by female composers on May 24 in Crawford Bay.
“Some of my favorite concerts have been those featuring works by women,” said Cameron. “I’m not sure if it’s the thrill of discovering a hidden jewel, promoting the talented underdog or just getting completely involved in amazing works. I’m always surprised that these pieces aren’t performed more often.”
The dissemination of classical music into the popular consciousness involves several steps: talented composers, willing publishers, able performers and a public receptive to the work. If any of these steps is missing, great works can be overlooked. Take the case of Fanny Mendelssohn.
“By all accounts, she was every bit as talented as her younger brother, Felix,” said Cameron, “ but her family and society’s belief that women should not seek careers in music resulted in Felix publishing many of her works under his name.”
One such work became a favorite of Queen Victoria. The queen, upon meeting Felix, asked to play her favorite song to him. Felix sheepishly confessed that the music was, in fact, written by his sister, Fanny. Even to this day, many of Fanny’s over 450 works remain unpublished.
Rebecca Clarke’s works were largely ignored during her lifetime, even though she is considered one of the most important composers from the period between the first and second world wars. She would sometimes use a male alias for some of her works, and received much greater praise for those works than the works performed under her own name. It wasn’t until very late in her life that some interest in her compositions occurred.
Amy Beach, on the other hand, met with acceptance and success during her lifetime. She was a source of local pride in Boston, being the first American to achieve such a high degree of proficiency without the benefit of European training. She had a publisher who was receptive to her work and judged it on merit, rather than on its compliance with society’s accepted views of femininity.
“Critics would say things like, ‘The music sounds very masculine, and inappropriate for a woman,’ ” said Cameron. “Male composers did not face the same type of scrutiny.”
Amy Beach was so incredibly talented both as a performer and composer that the criticisms did not hold her back.
“We hope that our audience will appreciate the works,” said Cameron. “They deserve a prominent place in the classical music repertoire.”
The concert at Crawford Bay’s Harrison Memorial Church begins at 2 p.m. Admission is by donation.