Women composers and Cello Music

A short back story and delving into women in the cello world.

Not long ago I received an email from a podcast listener who asked if I had ever considered women as a part of my project. I replied that I had. In fact, I got very excited with the discovery of a sonata by Ethel Smyth. (This was about a year prior to getting this email.) Not only that, but one of my all-time favorite pieces is a short, imaginative Sicilienne by Maria Theresia von Paradis who was a composer in the 1700’s.

The resulting next few episodes of my podcast are because of that email. To the nice lady, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

When the book Violoncellisten der Gegenwart: In Wort und Bild came to my attention, the number of cellists featured was fantastically surprising. 100 cellists included and another 14 who did not make it in, for various reasons stated in the book.

Upon further inspection there 5 women included. That doesn’t sound like many and indeed 5 compared to 95 is a small percentage. But when you consider the times I find it quite amazing and encouraging that they found and featured women, back in a time when (as I understood ) the art of music making was predominantly a male occupation.

On to the main point of this blog post.

Although the women featured did not write any music, they most certainly were highly accomplished musicians who played music of the day. Who knows, maybe they even performed music from women composers of their day as well. They undertook concert tours, taught, and organized chamber concerts as well as played in successful groups.

The Five Women featured in the book:

  1. Josefine Donat
  2. Agga Fritsche
  3. Kato van der Hoeven
  4. Lucy Müller-Campbell
  5. Elsa Ruegger

Number 5, Elsa Ruegger, was the most famous and accomplished of the five. She not only has the longest entry, but also is written about in a way that points out her fantastic achievements. (Look for my Podcast Episode 23 to hear the entry in full.)

Not only was she noted to have been a celebrated performer she also made the cut in another collection of the day. Baker’s Dictionary of Musicians features her as well. That seems like quite the honor as not even all the men made it in that book. (Only Elsa Ruegger of the five women made it to any of the dictionary/compendium-like books.)

Women Composers

I have already begun practicing and preparing music by women composers. There are many fantastic pieces that I am excited to play. Blog posts, video uploads, and episodes to come!

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