Monday, February 27, 2017
Concert of Music for Viola and Piano by Women
John David Moore and I play two concerts a year. One has music written by women and one has music written by men. We can honestly say that we play as much music written by women as we do music written by men. Or we could say that we play as much music written by men as we play music written by women.
Our program for this March has two transcriptions and two pieces originally written for viola and piano. Mel Bonis’s Sonata for Cello and Piano works very well on the viola. I believe my transcription, which I just uploaded into the IMSLP, is the first viola transcription (though I would be very happy to learn that I am not alone in my viola adventure with the piece). The original was published in 1905 with a dedication to Maurice Demaison, a Paris art critic.
Mel (Mélanie) Bonis (1858–1937) entered the Paris Conservatory at the age of sixteen, where she studied organ with César Franck and Auguste Bazille, and harmony with Ernest Guiraud. Her more than 300 works include nine volumes of music for solo piano and piano four hands, music for organ, vocal music, orchestral music, and chamber music.
The other transcription is from the Dutch composer Henriette Bosmans (1895-1952), considered to be one of the most important Dutch composers of the early twentieth century.
Bosmans wrote her Impressions for Cello and Piano for the French cellist Gérard Hekking, the principal cellist of the Concertgebouw Orchestra from 1903 through 1914. Like much of her cello music, these pieces were written for the upper register of the cello, so they can, for the most part, be played on the viola in the intended octave.
The rest of the program has works written for viola and piano by the British composers Elizabeth Maconchy (1907-1994) and Kalitha Dorothy Fox (1894-1934).
Maconchy spent her childhood in Ireland. She studied composition with Charles Wood and Ralph Vaughan Williams at the Royal College of Music. Dame Elizabeth (thanks Lisa) was a prolific and highly decorated composer. She wrote her Viola Sonata in 1937, but it remained unpublished until 2015.
K. Dorothy Fox is one of the sixty-three women with entries in Corbett’s Cyclopedic Survey of Chamber Music, and was a member of the Society of Women Musicians (SWM), which was affiliated with the Royal College of Music. We know about her death (a suicide reported in the minutes of the SWM), but nothing of her life. Fox’s Sonata for Viola and Piano (which is in the IMSLP), one of ten pieces in her catalog, was published in 1925 with a dedication to G.H.B. Fox. There are mentions in various periodical publications of a G.H.B. Fox who played chess and cricket, but it is unclear whether he was a musician or how he may have been related to the composer. We do know that this Sonata was once broadcast on the radio from Bournemouth, and that it was part of a concert on July 12, 1931 concert celebrating the twentieth anniversary concert of the SWM. That concert also also included a piece by Elizabeth Maconchy.