My musicological interests lie in researching, programming, and interpreting the song and chamber music repertoire of historic women composers, particularly those from the nineteenth century. By challenging gendered historiographical narratives that surround “canon” creation, I wish to question, analyze, and reveal the socio-cultural constructs and biases that continually demean, diminish, and exclude the historic contributions of women creators within the field of classical music.
Through my experiences as a vocalist and concert curator, I find the medium of the song recital to be a nuanced forum that highlights notions of “canonicity.” By exposing performers, collaborators, and our audiences to repertoire by historic women composers, we labor to create a more inclusive and more accurate historical “canon” narrative. To this end, I will focus my Doctoral lecture recital research on the Lieder repertoire, both published and unpublished, of German composer Luise Adolpha Le Beau (1850-1927).
Supported in her musical education by her parents, Luise Adolpha Le Beau (1850-1927) developed a professional career as a composer, pianist, music critic, and pedagogue of female piano teachers, although she identified primarily as a composer. She wrote in large-scale forms, such as symphonies, operas, and choral works, but also embraced smaller-scale Lieder and instrumental chamber music. During the 1870’s and 1880’s in Munich, Le Beau was successful in publishing and seeking performances of her newest works. In the decades that followed, however, she struggled to find further performance opportunities, moving to Wiesbaden, Berlin, and Baden-Baden to seek more fertile collaborative landscapes.
Le Beau’s memoirs, Lebenserinnerungen einer Komponistin (Memoirs of a Woman Composer), published in 1910, detail her frustrations with the sexism and lack of acceptance she faced as a woman composer, which directly contributed to Le Beau’s withdrawal from her public career as a composer in the early 1900’s.
As Le Beau was thwarted in her compositional life, upon her passing, although she meticulously organized and catalogued her manuscripts and personal papers, Le Beau’s music was simply “forgotten.” While more recent scholarship and recordings have highlighted her instrumental chamber music, there is little to no scholarship about her Lieder repertoire (or other parts of her oeuvre), few of her published Lieder scores are available to the public, and to my knowledge, only one recording of several Le Beau Lieder exists.
Archival Research in Germany
With a generous Graduate Award from The Presser Foundation, I traveled to Berlin from mid-March to early June 2022. I mined Le Beau’s public archives at three German state libraries for her unpublished song manuscripts and other primary source material relevant to the compositional and performance practice of her songs. I accessed Le Beau’s personal estate in the public archives of the Berlin State Library, the Bavarian State Library, and the Baden State Library Karlsruhe. Since Le Beau specifically bequeathed her estate to the Berlin State Library, it holds seventy-nice volumes of her manuscripts, the library with the highest likelihood to house Le Beau’s unpublished Lieder manuscripts. Le Beau’s oeuvre contains over sixty works, including eleven song opuses.
Upon my return to the United States (and with the help of various collaborators), I will transcribe her unpublished song manuscripts into working scores, as well as translate her correspondence and personal journals. I plan to incorporate this research into the thesis/lecture recital for my Doctor of Musical Arts degree at Peabody Institute. Presently, I hope to perform a curated concert of Le Beau’s Lieder with an accompanying lecture on her life and music. Future project elements may include presentations of my Le Beau recital at venues throughout the Washington DC/Baltimore area, as well as a recorded album of Le Beau’s song repertoire, making them further accessible to the public.
If I now, at the age of fifty-nine, try to describe my experiences as objectively as possible, it is not done out of vanity or arrogance, but rather, from other motives. Firstly, it was a wish of my dear, blessed father that I would point out the many difficulties that stand in the way of a woman in the field of musical composition, the envy and resentment of my colleagues, as well as the prejudice and misunderstanding in the advice of those who were the most qualified and best situated to nurture a talent, and that I speak the truth loudly without shyness or regard for well-known individuals – however, I was also supported by others, who played a role in my life as an artist, who encouraged me to tell my story…
In his encyclopedia of music history, Herr Ritter compares the making of music in the nineteenth century with a large forest that is covered with all kinds of trees and says, that not only do a few giant trees make up the forest, but rather, the small trees, bushes, grasses, flowers, and mosses are essential to giving it its real character… Whatever gifts I was given, I have nurtured with all my strength; no one can do anything more! I did not disdain even the smallest gifts, but rather, I took delight in all musical works, as long as they were artistically serious and true… Should one or another of my compositions please later generations, I have not written in vain. I have never wished for more recognition than I deserve! Finally, I thank all those who are still living or have already led the way to a better land, all those who have given me the gift of interest and friendly encouragement for my striving!
Excerpted from “Foreword” | Lebenserinnerungen einer Komponistin (1910) by Luise Adolpha Le Beau Translation by Noelle McMurtry
June 20th, 2022 – I’ve returned from my travels in Germany with a lot of manuscripts and primary source material to examine! I also launched my blog, She is Music, a forum to share research, recordings, and other information about women creators in classical music. For my first blog series, I’ll write about my experiences in Germany as I searched for the song repertoire of Luise Adolpha Le Beau. Be sure to subscribe(it’s free!) to follow my work.
In Portraits and Persons: A Philosophical Inquiry, Cynthia Freeland discusses how the ever-changing nature of portraiture, across locale and era, reflects “what it is to be a person.”  She defines the portrait artist as “an alchemist who seeks to make inert physical material ‘live’ and show us a person, an actual individual whose physical embodiment reveals psychological awareness, consciousness, and an inner emotional life.”  One of the more striking features of a portrait is its ability to capture the “essence” of a person, if only for a specific moment in time. While this momentary “essence” of an individual is elusive and highly susceptible to interpretation, portraiture remains a fascinating portal into the body, mind, and emotional life of another person. Arguably, portraits illuminate some aspect of “the self,” be it us or the self of another.
Along with considering portraiture a representation of some facet of a subject’s “inner life,” Freeland also details another crucial element: “the ability to pose or present oneself to be depicted in a representation.” As a singer, this struck me deeply – the self-awareness of posing both vocally and physically, of putting oneself forward to represent or be represented, of revealing some part of “the self” (either my own self, or an imagined character in a poem or libretto) through sound. It made me wonder – did most of my creative work as a singer involve “painting” portraits with my body, vocal sounds, and words? Often, I have felt the tension of being both the painter and the sitter. While I express interpretive agency through my performance, the audience’s gaze nevertheless maintains my position as an object to be viewed and perceived.
Portraits: The Self Illuminated explores the intersection of these tactile, linguistic, visual, and sonic portraits through the music of Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, Francis Poulenc, Barbara Strozzi, and Lacy Rose and the portraiture of Gwen John, John Duncan, Gustav Klimt, and Bernardo Strozzi. I have consciously paired each musical work with a visual portrait, some of which are known to have directly influenced the musical composition, while others are linked purely through my own imagination. Can they melt into one another to bring “the self” momentarily to the surface, creating that ever-elusive glimpse at the inner life of a human being?
October 2019 Baltimore, MD
NOTES 1. Cynthia, Freeland. Portraits and Persons: A Philosophical Inquiry. New York, Oxford University Press, 2010, 1. 2. Freeland, Portraits and Persons, 74.
Selected Artwork from Portraits: The Self Illuminated
Portraits: The Self Illuminated is in partial fulfillment of the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Vocal Performance at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University.
The Heart wants what it wants – or else it does not care… Not to see what we love, is very terrible – and talking – doesn’t ease it – and nothing does – but just itself.
Emily Dickinson, Letter to a friend (Spring, 1862)
In Head, Heart,works by Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre, Kaija Saariaho, Kate Soper, and John Harbison all share a common theme: the struggle between the head and the heart. While the severity of this struggle and its consequences vary, its underlying tension lingers. As the musical protagonists of these works experience love, loss, death, violence, and ecstatic bliss, they must continually examine what they are willing to sacrifice to achieve their aims.
For de la Guerre’s Esther of the Old Testament, it is a question of ultimate survival: should she risk her own life to save the Jewish people of Persia from annihilation at the hands of Haman? For Harbison’s Mirabai, should she abandon her family, her possessions, her noble status, and everything she has ever known to devote her life to the Hindu deity Krishna? For both Soper and Saariaho, the heart becomes disembodied altogether, adopting its own voice to teach the head about life, counseling the self to be released from its painful burdens, but at what cost?
Ultimately, the inter-play between these parts of ourselves, not the dominance of one over another, truly defines our actions. By exploring these characters, no matter how divided they seem by time, place, and musical style, we encounter a glimpse of our own fragile selves, as we too navigate the ever-complex binary of the head and the heart.
French Canadian flutist Christian Paquette is the Principal Flute of the York Symphony Orchestra and newly appointed Principal Flute of the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra. In September of 2022 he will hold the position of Principal Flute of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra in Canada. He is a doctoral candidate at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University under the tutelage of Marina Piccinini. He has also worked in flute repairs with Adam Workman, founder of Flutistry Boston. He has frequently performed back in his hometown of Ottawa, Canada with the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the Thirteen Strings Ensemble. He was also the President of the Ottawa Flute Association from 2015 to 2017.
Christian has performed in the Shriver Hall Concert Series, Music and Beyond Festival, recitals at the National Arts Centre Fourth Stage, Concerto performances with the Peabody Symphony Orchestra (Nielsen) under the baton of Miguel Harth-Bedoya, the University of Ottawa Symphony Orchestra (Ibert and Nielsen), and with the Ottawa Chamber Orchestra (Rodrigo). He is greatly looking forward to his performance of the Reinecke Flute Concerto with the Farnborough Symphony Orchestra in England later in 2022. He is the recipient of numerous competition awards, such as the MPIMC (Marina Piccinini International Master Classes) Concerto Competition, first prize at the Yale Gordon Competition, Canadian Music Competition, the National Music Festival, the NACO Bursary Competition and many others. This past summer he was a fellow in the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble and has been reinvited for the 2022 summer season. Past teachers include Paula Robison, Denis Bluteau, and Camille Churchfield.
Christian is extremely grateful to the Fondation Baxter et Alma Ricard as well as the Sylva Gelber Music Foundation for their generous support in his doctoral studies at the Peabody Institute.
Head, Heart is in partial fulfilment of the Graduate Performance Diploma in Vocal Performance at Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University.
As a performer, I have long been fascinated by the song recital as a medium for questioning notions of “canon,” as well as giving voice to those who have been marginalized in classical music. In doing so, I discover voices that I have never heard before, voices of historic women that are completely unknown to me. In communing with these composers and their music, I pay homage to a tradition of female creation that I wish to claim my place amongst. Through the works of Francesca Caccini, Germaine Tailleferre, Maddalena Casulana, Vittoria Aleotti, Leonora Orsini, and Agathe Backer-Grøndahl, I acknowledge that I exist partly because they existed; in some small way, I stand on their shoulders.
September 2017 Baltimore, MD
To the queen of my heart is in partial fulfilment of the Doctorate in Musical Arts Degree in Vocal Performance at Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University.
What names come to mind when you think of the songs of German Romantic composers? Schumann? Mendelssohn? Schubert? If you imagine Robert, Felix, or Franz, you may want to think again. With the film series “German Romantics,” The Pleiades Project challenges how we define this group of composers by insisting that we not forget the women.
Clara Schumann (1819-1896) was a virtuosic pianist, composer, and piano pedagogue. From the age of eleven, she maintained a sixty-one-year concert career, touring throughout Europe. Her success as a concert artist secured essential income for her family, including her husband, the renowned composer Robert Schumann (1810-1856), and their eight children. She began composing as a child, and her compositions later included solo piano pieces, chamber music, choral works and songs (or Lieder).
For German Romantics: Clara, The Pleiades Project re-conceptualizes the three Lieder of Clara’s Op. 12, originally part of a twelve-song collection jointly published by Clara and Robert to poetry by Friedrich Rückert. In 1841, soon after their marriage, Robert urged his wife to collaborate on a compositional project. Although she was initially ambivalent about composing, Clara began to work on the songs of Op. 12.
While these songs may have marked the beginning of Clara and Robert’s union, the protagonist of German Romantics: Clara navigates Op. 12 as she copes with the end of an important relationship. As she confronts the end of this chapter in her life, her imagination travels to vibrant fantasy worlds of the past. In becoming the heroine of her own story, our protagonist reaches closure and the ability to move forward.
In German Romantics: Clara, I made my film debut and served as dramaturg. For more information about Clara Schumann and Op. 12, check out my research and writing!
German Romantics was made possible by the generous support and in collaboration with Washington-DC based opera company, IN Series.
German Romantics was conceived to be watched on INVision: The Logan Opera House Without Walls. Created in response to performance restrictions imposed by COVID-19 and embracing the opportunity to collaborate broadly and reach worldwide audiences, INVision is IN Series’ first-of-its kind multi-venue digital performing arts center dedicated to disseminating new, transformative works of operatic theater free of charge.
German Romantics: Clara was created from September to October 2020 on location in Washington DC. While making a short film during the COVID-19 pandemic was challenging, we relied upon testing, masking, virtual recording, and lip-synching to safely achieve our creative goals. By delving deeply into the Lieder of Clara Schumann, we took inspiration from her courage, artistry, and pioneering spirit. We ultimately believe that the legacy of Clara Schumann and her fellow Romantic-era women composers shape our voices as contemporary women in classical music.
Click here for more information from The Pleiades Project on series’ installments: German Romantics: Louise and German Romantics: Fanny.