One wonders why, in this day and age, it is deemed necessary
to include in the title of a CD the words Women Composers.
Surely no company would dream of issuing a CD under the title
Music by Male Composers, would they? When CRI (Composers
Recordings Inc) issued the complementary CDs Lesbian American
Composers and Gay American Composers I think we’d
reached the nadir as far as the naming of CD compilations could
go. This title is merely a backward step, and I am none the
wiser as to understanding why this name is thought to be essential.
I wonder why North/South Recordings didn’t go the whole hog
and employ a female pianist – a real chance to give the sisterhood
The big question is, who are these composers? They are all new
names to me. The second question is, is the music worthwhile,
no matter what the sex of the composer?
First things first. The booklet contains good notes which place
each female composer in musical context, and introduces her
and her work(s) to us. My first impression, on first hearing,
was that whilst all this music is well crafted, and certainly
very well performed, there is a singular lack of an individual
voice at work in any of the pieces. These female composers -
isn’t that annoying? – I’ve written that expression twice and
it really irritates - better, these composers (doesn’t
that feel right?) have certainly created well written pieces,
but that really isn’t enough.
The presence of Hindemith is in evidence throughout. I have
no problem with Hindemith the composer, and certainly, his influence
is great and far reaching, and not just through his pupils,
but when heard in the work of four composers, and all of them
heard together on one disk, the voice becomes tedious.
The best of the bunch seems to me to be Rain Worthington whose
website tells us that she is “… a distinctly unique voice within
the field of contemporary music.” I feel that that statement,
on the strength of what we have here, is pushing things a bit
too far, but I do feel that there is probably a composer of
some stature lurking somewhere in the background.
Overall, I find all these pieces to be far too serious, with
no let-up, or gentle light relief from relentless greyness.
Where is the variety of timbre, melody, metre? It’s all too
much of a muchness. I am sure that Max Lifchitz plays with total
authority and sincerity, but even his advocacy cannot help the
fact that I really don’t care.
One final point. On YouTube you can find a 2 minute excerpt
from Rain Worthington’s orchestral work Shredding Glass.
Here is a work well worth our time. I want to hear much more
of this composer, for she obviously, on the strength of this
work, has a fine aural sense and can create atmosphere and a
sense of time and space. However, I cannot, in my heart of hearts,
welcome this disk. For me, there is insufficient substance in
the music to grip the listener and - this is important - make
them care about the compositions.
This CD is certainly a valiant attempt to introduce us to some
work new to us, but good intentions are simply an insufficient
reason for devoting an entire CD to this work.