Flying the Flag for Neglected Female Composers

By Pettitt, Stephen | The Evening Standard (London, England), February 28, 2003 | Go to article overview

Flying the Flag for Neglected Female Composers


Pettitt, Stephen, The Evening Standard (London, England)


Byline: STEPHEN PETTITT

CLASSICAL Ironmonger's Hall, EC2 Stephen Pettitt THE pianist Diana Ambache's two groups, the Ambache Orchestra and the Ambache Ensemble, have a purpose: they exist in order to fly the flag for neglected women composers.

Over the years they've been crucial in shifting perceptions and assumptions with their readings of fine works by the likes of Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn.

But the two (piano-less) works by 20th century American women composers played in last night's concert, the second in a series called Old Masters, New Mistresses, were hardly unjustly unacknowledged masterpieces, though each was well-imagined and craftsmanlike. To be fair, each must have been chosen with due regard to the personnel required for the last piece, Poulenc's spikywarm Piano and Wind Sextet. What we heard might, therefore, not have been truly representative of its composer.

Thus Mary Howe's fourmovement Wind Quintet of 1957 combined a light, though undeniably refined, Romantic manner with a neo-classicism redolent of Hindemith and a gentle angularity that might have come from 1920s Stravinsky. …

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