Did You Know?

Clara Faisst was a composer, pianist, and poet who spent the bulk of her life in Karslbad, Germany. In her twenties she studied music in Berlin, learning composition from the composer Max Bruch and music theory from Clara Schumann’s half-brother Woldemar Bargiel. She settled in Karlsruhe and made her living as a composer, teacher, poet, and a performing pianist. She organized chamber music concerts in her home—particularly after World War II, when much of the infrastructure and cultural life of Karlsruhe was in ruins—and performed her own works as well as works by other composers, above all Bach and Beethoven.

Lili Boulanger had a tragically short life. She died at age twenty-four from intestinal tuberculosis, and spent much of her life in poor health, having contracted pneumonia as a toddler, which compromised her immune system. Still, in those twenty-four years she produced a wide variety of remarkable compositions, including many choral works and songs. The two recordings on this site come from her remarkable cycle of thirteen songs, Clairières dans le ciel (Clearnings in the Sky). Along with her sister Nadia, Lili Boulanger grew up in a musical family and her talents were recognized early. Scholars and performers are now

Florence Price was a composer, pianist, organist, and music teacher who was born in Little Rock, Ark., and spent much of much of her career in Chicago. She is famous for being the first Black woman to have a symphony premiered by a major U.S. orchestra—her Symphony No. 1 in E Minor, which was performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1933. But she was also a prolific composer of piano music and songs, many of which mingle the styles of European classical music, jazz, and African-American spirituals. Price wrote over 300 works, most of which remain unpublished. Thanks to

Composer and pianist Margaret Bonds grew up in a musically rich environment in Chicago—her mother was a gifted organist, and in high school Bonds studied piano and composition with Florence Price. Like Price, Bonds was a pathbreaker. In 1934, she became the first Black soloist to play with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, when she performed Price’s Piano Concerto in D Minor. Yet, like so many Black musicians, she faced significant obstacles. For example, she earned her B.M. and M.M. from Northwestern University but was not allowed to live on campus. Bonds was a gifted song composer and she turned often

Elizabeth Maconchy was a fiercely individual British composer who wrote music that was often highly dissonant, contrapuntal, intense, even disturbing—and far from the more pastoral, lyrical music of fellow Britons such as Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams (who taught her composition at the Royal College of Music and remained a lifelong friend). She was the only musician in her family and thus lacked some of the musical resources that bolstered the talents and ambitions of other women composers. In a wonderful chapter on Maconchy from Sounds and Sweet Airs: The Forgotten Women of Classical Music, Anna Beer writes that

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was an acclaimed British conductor and composer. The son of an Englishwoman and a man from Sierra Leone, he showed great musical talent as a child; he learned violin and piano from his father and started singing in a church choir when he was only ten years old. At fifteen, he entered the Royal College of Music in London (Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams were friends and fellow students).  Coleridge-Taylor’s fame rests largely on Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, a choral cantata that he wrote in 1898 and later joined with two other cantatas into The Song of Hiawatha,

French composer and pianist Cécile Chaminade wrote approximately four hundred works, including 125 songs. Almost all of her works were published in her lifetime—rare for a woman of her day. She toured extensively, especially in England and the United States, performing her pieces for enthusiastic audiences. Her music was so popular in the U.S. that several Chaminade clubs sprang up in the early years of the twentieth century; many of them are still in existence. Despite her international renown, Chaminade encountered many obstacles. Because she didn’t have access to the French musical establishment, her music was generally overlooked in her

Precious little is known about the German composer Marie von Kehler. We have more music by her than documentary information about her. She was born in Nysa, which at the time was part of Prussia and is now a city in southwestern Poland. She died in Lemgo, a small town in northwestern Germany.  Kehler served as a personal assistant to Princess Friederike of Lippe. While working at the castle in Lippe she met Johannes Brahms, who between 1857 and 1859 served as a court pianist, chamber musician, and conductor of the court choir. A letter from Brahms to Kehler survives,

Undine Smith Moore was a composer and educator who left a lasting impact on twentieth-century music. For over forty years she taught music theory, piano, and organ at Virginia State College (later Virginia State University), mentoring many students who went on to become celebrated musicians and composers, including jazz pianist Billy Taylor, conductor Leon Thompson, soprano Camilla Williams, and soprano and scholar Louise Toppin. Moore composed over 100 works of music, of which only a fraction were published in her lifetime. She is most famous for her choral works—including Scenes from the Life of a Martyr, a choral cantata based

Rebecca Clarke was one of most distinguished and gifted British composers in the first half of the 20th century. Born to an American father and a German mother, she learned the violin at a young age, later switching to viola at the suggestion of the composer Charles Villiers Stanford, with whom she studied at the Royal College of Music. Clarke is best known for her chamber works, especially those featuring her primary instrument. Her viola sonata is particularly famous; it earned top honors in an anonymous 1919 competition sponsored by the arts patron Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, along with a piece

Amanda Aldridge was a British singer, pianist, composer, and teacher. Her father, the celebrated Shakespearean actor Ira Aldridge, died when Amanda was a little over a year old, so it was her mother, the Swedish singer Amanda Brandt, who fostered Amanda’s musical talents, as well as those of her two sisters and two brothers.  Aldridge studied voice at the Royal College of Music with the famed Swedish soprano Jenny Lind and went on to have a successful career a contralto—until a severe case of laryngitis irreparably damaged her throat. She turned tragedy into opportunity, devoting her efforts to teaching a composing,

Nadia Boulanger was one of the most renowned composition teachers of the twentieth century—or of any century. Her students are a who’s who of famous musicians, spanning seven decades: Virgil Thomson, Marion Bauer, Aaron Copland, Elliot Carter, Quincy Jones, Thea Musgrave, Philip Glass, and John Eliot Gardiner, to name only a handful. Her list of American students alone numbers 138. Boulanger’s outsize impact as a teacher, however, has tended to obscure her accomplishments as a composer. She entered the Paris Conservatoire at the age of ten, studying alongside students many years older than her, and first came to public attention

Born in Peoria, Illinois, Mary Turner Salter went to high school just across the Mississippi River in Burlington, Iowa, before moving east to study music at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. She was a gifted mezzo-soprano and pianist, and she sang professionally in Boston and New York City and taught voice at Wellesley College from 1879 to 1881.  She stopped teaching after marrying Sumner Salter, organist and director of music at Williams College—but at the same time she began composing. Their partnership was a creative boon for her: she and her husband would play piano duets for

Theodoro Valcárcel was one of the most significant Peruvian composers in the first half of the twentieth century. He published a wide variety of works, including ballets, a violin concerto, a symphonic poem, piano pieces, chamber pieces, and many songs. Valcárcel belongs to a group of Peruvian artists and musicians who, starting around 1920, turned to folklore traditions for inspiration. He was one of the first composers to use indigenous melodies as well as indigenous languages in his compositions. The Tahwa inka’j tak’y-nam (Cuatro canciones inkaicas, Four Inca Songs)—recorded especially for Art Song Augmented by soprano Camille Ortiz, pianist Gustavo