Festival Highlights Female Composers

Independent/Michael Lawrence

The Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival enters its 36th season, with this year’s theme “Winds of Change.” Concerts take place from July 21 through August 18, with music by 13 women highlighted.

“Winds of Change” started as a dedication to the wind instrument. BCMF founder and artistic director Marya Martin, decided to make this year’s festival a dedication to female composers. “We thought we would celebrate women composers through the ages,” Martin said.

With 12 concerts total, there are several works by women, including Louise Farrenc, who was born in 1804. Farrenc tried to go into Conservatoire de Paris in 1819 but at the time the college was only opened to men. Years later, in 1840, she became a professor there, according to Martin. Farrenc’s “Sextet For Wind Quintet and Piano” will be performed as part of the Wednesday, July 31, 6:30 PM program.

“I thought it was the year to celebrate. There are hundreds of wonderful female composers but I wanted to stick to a sort of timeline. I wanted a cross-section of instruments, and I didn’t want it all Europe. The time span is 1804 to 1980, for when the composers were born,” Martin said.

Amy Beach, born 1867, will also be featured. Martin described how Beach’s husband forbid her to compose. She signed all of her original works as H.H.A., Beach’s husband’s initials. Her work will be featured at the Parrish Art Museum concert on Monday, August 5. The concert “Focus on Frankenthaler” features a program of music by six women. There will be also two works by Lili Boulanger for flute and piano, written in 1911 and 1918.

Music written since the turn of this century includes Missy Mazzoli’s “Death Valley Junction” for string quartet (part of the Parrish Art Museum concert) and Victoria Kelly’s “Good Night Kiwi” for solo piano.

“Good Night Kiwi,” which pays tribute to the beginnings of television, hits a note especially close to Martin, a native New Zealander. “I remember so clearly, in the ’60s, when TV just came to New Zealand, it was only one channel that used to stop at 10 PM. It used to be a lovely piece of music. And the announcer would come on and say ‘Good night, New Zealanders.’” The performance will take place Sunday, August 4.

Elizabeth Brown’s work “Liguria” for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and piano, will also be part of the August 4 program. “I see myself as part of a historical continuum which increasingly includes more women and minority composers; hopefully in another generation no special attention or incentive will be needed to level the playing field, thanks to organizations like BCMF,” said Brown. “I’m very grateful to Marya Martin and BCMF for not only programming my music, but also for commissioning and recording ‘Island Nocturnes’ in 2017.”

Reena Esmail’s “Saans (Breath)” for Piano Trio will be performed on Sunday, August 18, the festival’s closing date. Esmail noted, “When women study the history of classical music, we usually study a narrative that has historically excluded us. We’ve studied a story that is only half the truth. And now we have the chance to look forward into a different future — one that values the full creative breadth of our field.”

The concert series has become an integral part of East End culture. It gives audience members a chance to understand classical music of today and yesterday. Martin aims to make this form of music more accessible. “It’s all the different ethnic cultures, who have so much to give. We have so much to learn from everyone,” she said.

For a complete list of concerts and to purchase tickets, visit the festival’s website, www.bcmf.org.

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