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“The Women’s Philharmonic”
Fanny Mendelssohn: Ouverture (Ed. J. Falletta)
Clara Schumann: Piano Concerto in A minor, opus 7 [1, 2]
Germaine Tailleferre: Concertino for Harp and Orchestra [3]
Lili Boulanger: D’un soir triste – D’un matin de printemps (Ed. J. Falletta)

Angela Cheng [1] (piano), Nina Flyer [1] (cello), Gillian Benet [3] (harp), The Women’s Philharmonic, JoAnn Falletta (director)
Recording: Sky Walker Sound, Lucas Arts Entertainment, San Rafael, California (1992) – 65’20
Musical Concepts MC 3111 – Booklet in English

The Women’s Philharmonic (TWP) (1981-2004) didn’t exist for a long time, but it made a definite imprint on classical music programming and performance in The United States and, by extension, around the world. The San Francisco-based ensemble was founded to create awareness of women in classical music, as composers, conductors and musicians, in the past as well as the present and to encourage women’s participation in classical music in the years to come.

The Philharmonic released five albums, some of which are available at the still active Women’s Philharmonic Website. One which is currently out of stock, but crossed my desk recently in new packaging, is “The Women’s Philharmonic”, issued under the Musical Concepts label. It features works by Fanny Mendelssohn, Clara Schumann, Germaine Tailleferre and Lili Boulanger, led by JoAnn Falletta, the trail‑blazing music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic who recently celebrated her 25th anniversary year with that ensemble and led TWP from 1986 to 1997. This recording was made in San Rafael, California in 1992.

How did this edition find its way to ConcertoNet? According to the producer, the album went “out of print”, and it was not made available in a digital format, leaving it available only to listeners in the U.S. Musical Concepts acquired the rights, then remastered and re-released it on CD and digital platforms, ensuring international access.

The four works on this album are played with technical precision and emotional warmth, no different than the playing of any other high-quality American orchestra. Sister of the more widely known Felix Mendelssohn, Fanny Mendelssohn composed the Ouverture in this collection in 1830. It is probable that the work had not been performed in the years between its premiere in 1832 to the date of this recording (1992 or 160 years later). The work begins with an engaging sweetness, then bursts into a romantic expression of power and nobility, not unlike some of Beethoven’s overtures. Fanny’s work was often published under her brother’s name, since, after all, it was “unladylike” to be a composer. Queen Victoria once told Felix that his song, Italien was her favorite, only to learn that the song was composed by Fanny and published under Felix’s name and opus number.

Clara (wife of Robert) Schumann is represented by her Piano Concerto in A minor, completed in 1833‑ 1835, just a few years before Robert’s own Piano Concerto in A minor. One wonders here who influenced whom. Pianist Angela Cheng offers heartfelt interpretations of Clara’s writing, full of rich romantic feeling. Performances of this sweeping work have become more common since this album was released.

Moving into the early years of the 20th century, Germaine Tailleferre’s Concertino for Harp and Orchestra has long been a standard part of the harp repertoire, full of fine harp playing (here performed by Gillian Benet) and some stirring trumpet obbligato. Lili Boulanger’s D’un soir triste and D’un matin de printemps, edited by Falletta, provide a mature sound with ample brass, a clarion trumpet and appealingly grating cymbals. Here is music that demands attention and asserts a strong voice. Whether for a lesson in music history or simply to enjoy unfamiliar classical music well played, this album has much to offer and has a quest to inspire.

Linda Holt




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