For years the star cellist and Opus Klassik laureate Raphaela Gromes has taken up the cause of women composers. Three of her albums, acclaimed by critics and listeners alike, have featured music by unknown women composers, and she maintains a long-term working relationship with the “Frau und Musik” Archive in Frankfurt. So it is only natural that her new double album, FEMMES, should lend a voice to outstanding women from nine centuries of music history. No fewer than 23 woman composers found their way onto the double album, from Hildegard of Bingen to Clara Schumann all the way to Lera Auerbach and Billie Eilish, not to mention such famous operatic figures as Susanna from Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro or Bizet’s Carmen.
“What about all the wonderful music we’ve missed over the centuries in a culture that continues, even today, to close its eyes to works by women?” This is the question posed by author Susanne Woszitzka in the accompanying booklet. After all, less than 2 per cent of the works programmed by Germany’s professional orchestras were written by women; and the “Donne – Frauen in der Musik” Foundation, in a study of 111 orchestras from 31 countries, arrived at a figure of only 7.7 per cent. A strange picture, considering that for centuries there have been extremely gifted women composers who left behind a multitude of thrilling compositions.
“A friend of mine suggested that I devote an album entirely to women composers”, Raphaela Gromes explains. “So I plunged into the research and was excited and shocked at once: excited by the incredible number of brilliant women composers at work all over the world since the Middle Ages, and shocked because I’d never heard of most of them.”
The conception of FEMMES was worked out in close cooperation with the “Frau und Musik” Archive, Furore Verlag (a publishing firm that issues only music by women composers) and Sony Classical. It quickly turned out to be a double album containing works by 23 women composers from all over the world. Some are already familiar, such as Clara Schumann, Fanny Hensel or Nadia and Lili Boulanger. Others are genuine discoveries: the music of Princess Maria Antonia Walpurgis of Bavaria, the Jewish-Dutch composer Henriette Bosmans, Laura Netzel from Sweden, the Afro-American composers Dolores White and Florence Price or the contemporary composer Victoria Yagling. Several première recordings can be heard on FEMMES, such as Tre Momenti for cello and string orchestra by the Italian composer Matilde Capuis.
Accompanying Raphaela Gromes on FEMMES are the Festival Strings Lucerne and their artistic director Daniel Dodds, with whom she has maintained a long-standing working relationship, as well as the pianist Julian Riem, who also prepared all the arrangements on the album.
“With FEMMES”, Raphaela Gromes says of her new album, “I can at last make the works and life stories of these wonderful women accessible to a broad audience.” The album will be released by Sony Classical on 3 February.