W h o   i s   s h e ? 

A perpetual work in progress, this webpage is designed to be a portal for finding out more about women composers through the ages. It is by no means exhaustive, either in terms of the personages listed or the resources available. Links to webpages that require subscriptions (such as entries in the essential Oxford Music Online/Grove Music Online) have been omitted. The main source of information for the blurbs below is Grove Music Online, with my immense gratitude to the contributors for their expertise and research; please refer to their entries for more information.

More to come soon!

The publisher Furore, dedicated to publishing music by women composers, has an excellent directory, organised in alphabetical order with brief biographies; you can find it here.

*Disclaimer: These links are being provided for the sake of convenience and educational purposes only. They do not reflect an endorsement or an approval by FL of any of the products, services or opinions of the corporation, organisation or individual, nor is FL's website endorsed by these external organisations. FL claims no ownership and bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality or content of the external sites. Please observe all copyright laws.

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Composers are listed in chronological order. Find links to external websites* below:

*See disclaimer above.

Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179)​

(Ian D. Bent, "Hildegard of Bingen," rev. Marianne Pfau, Grove Music Online, September 16, 2010, accessed October 25, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.13016.)

Medieval-era German Benedictine composer, abbess and polymath, who made contributions to the fields of music, science and literature. 

Primarily known for: Plainchant works

Listening sample: Ordo virtutum

Biography: Wikipedia

Sheet music: IMSLP

  

Maddalena Casulana (ca. 1544–ca. 1590)

(Thomas W. Bridges, "Casulana [Mezari], Maddalena," Grove Music Online, January 20, 2001, accessed October 24, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.05155.)

Renaissance-era Italian composer, lutenist and singer. First woman known to have a volume entirely of her own compositions published in print, in 1568.

Primarily known for: Madrigals

Listening sample: Morir non può il mio cuore

Biography: Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers  |  Historical Anthology of Music by Women  |  Wikipedia  

Sheet music: Choral Public Domain Library  |  IMSLP 

  

Francesca Caccini (1587–after June 1641)

(Suzanne G. Cusick, "(2) Francesca Caccini [Francesca Signorini; Francesca Signorini-Malaspina; Francesca Raffaelli; 'La Cecchina']," Grove Music Online, January 20, 2001, accessed June 26, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.40146.)

Baroque-era Italian composer and singer. First woman known to have composed opera. Elder daughter of the composer Giulio Caccini.

Primarily known for: Operas, other vocal works

Listening sample: Lasciatemi qui solo

Biography: Wikipedia

Sheet music: IMSLP

Barbara Strozzi (1619–1677)

(Ellen Rosand and Beth L. Glixon, "Strozzi, Barbara [Valle, Barbara]," Grove Music Online, August 28, 2002, accessed June 26, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.26987.)

Baroque-era Italian composer and singer.

Primarily known for: Cantatas for solo voice and continuo, other vocal works

Listening sample: Lagrime mie

Biography: Wikipedia

Sheet music: IMSLP

Isabella Leonarda (1620–1704)

(Stewart A. Carter, "Isabella Leonarda [Leonardi, Anna Isabella]," Grove Music Online, January 20, 2001, accessed October 24, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.13920.)

Baroque-era Italian composer, music instructor and mother superior in the convent Collegio di S Orsola. First woman known to have instrumental sonatas published, in 1693.

Primarily known for: Sacred vocal works, instrumental sonatas

Listening sample: 'Sonata duodecima'

Biography: Wikipedia

Sheet music: IMSLP

  

Maria Szymanowska (née Wołowska, 1789–1831)

(Zofia Chechlińska, "Szymanowska [née Wołowska], Maria Agata," Grove Music Online, January 20, 2001, accessed October 25, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.27327.)

Late Classical/Romantic-era Polish pianist and composer. Virtuoso and teacher who also ran a musical salon. First Polish composer to set ballads to music.

Primarily known for: Nocturnes, studies and character pieces for piano, songs

Listening sample: Polonaise in F Minor

Biography: Société Maria Symanowska  |  Polish Music Center, USC  |  Wikipedia

Sheet music: IMSLP

Louise Farrenc (née Dumont, 1804–1875)

(Bea Friedland, "(2) (Jeanne-)Louise Farrenc [née Dumont]," Grove Music Online, January 20, 2001, accessed October 25, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.09336.)

Romantic-era French composer, pianist, teacher and scholar. Professor of piano at the Paris Conservatoire from 1842 to 1873. Conducted research on performance practice for 17th- and 18th-century music.

Primarily known for: Chamber music, études and character pieces for piano, orchestral works

Listening sample: Symphony No. 1

Biography: Wikipedia

Sheet music: IMSLP

  

Fanny Hensel (née Mendelssohn Bartholdy, 1805–1847)​

(Angela Mace Christian, "Hensel [née Mendelssohn (-Bartholdy)], Fanny Cäcilie," Grove Music Online, November 28, 2018, accessed October 10, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1093/omo/9781561592630.013.3000000159.)

Romantic-era German composer, pianist and salon hostess. Over 450 completed compositions and drafts, more than half of which are Lieder for voice and piano. Her Sonntagsmusiken (Sunday Musicales) were carefully curated concert series that attracted the elite artists of the day.

Primarily known for: songs, character pieces and sonatas for piano, chamber music

Listening sample: String Quartet

Biography: Wikipedia

Sheet music: IMSLP

  

Clara Schumann (née Wieck, 1819–1896)

(Nancy B. Reich, "Schumann [née Wieck], Clara (Josephine)," Grove Music Online, February 23, 2011, accessed October 24, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.25152.)

Romantic-era German pianist, composer and teacher. One of the foremost piano virtuosos in the 19th century (dubbed Europe's 'Queen of the Piano') and among the first to give solo recitals. Instrumental in promoting her husband's music, and also played an important role in advancing the career of Johannes Brahms. Taught at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt from 1878 until her death.

Primarily known for: songs, character pieces for piano, chamber music, piano concerto

Listening sample: Piano Trio

Biography: Wikipedia

Sheet music: IMSLP

  

Pauline Viardot (née García, 1821–1910)

(Beatrix Borchard, "Viardot [née García], (Michelle Ferdinande) Pauline," Grove Music Online, January 20, 2001, accessed June 26, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.29283.)

Romantic-era French singer, composer and teacher, also proficient in piano and organ. Performed in operas and concerts across Europe, and inspired many well-known composers and collaborated with them on roles written especially for her. Spoke multiple languages fluently and composed in various national styles.

Primarily known for: songs, transcriptions for voice and piano, operettas

Listening sample: Fleur desséchée

Biography: Wikipedia

Sheet music: IMSLP

Elisabeth von Herzogenberg (née von Stockhausen, 1847–1892)

(Antje Ruhbaum, "Von Eisbergen und Unterwasserlandschaften: Elisabeth und Heinrich von Herzogenberg und der Brahmskreis," Herzogenberg und Heiden, accessed January 19, 2021, https://www.herzogenberg.ch/eleisbergen.htm#tit6.)

Romantic-era pianist, singer and composer, daughter of a German diplomat. Performed as a pianist in concerts of the Bachverein Leipzig and contributed greatly to the city's artistic scene through building her social circle and hosting performances at her residence, which was described as the centre of the Leipzig Brahms circleClose relationships with Clara Schumann, Ethel Smyth, and Johannes Brahms, to whom she was a trusted musical adviser.

Primarily known for: character pieces for piano, songs

Listening sample: Allegretto and Andante (Nos. 2 and 6 from Acht Klavierstücke)

Biography: Wikipedia  |  Stadt Leipzig (in German)

Sheet music: IMSLP

  

Amanda Maier (1853–1894)​

Biography: Wikipedia

Sheet music: IMSLP

Article: Library of Congress

  

Teresa Carreño (1853–1917)

(Laura Pita, "Carreño, (María) Teresa," Grove Music Online, May 28, 2015, accessed October 24, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.A2282327.)

Biography: Britannica  |  Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers  |  Wikipedia 

Archives/documents: Bibliothèque nationale de France  |  Collection at Vassar College

Sheet music: IMSLP

Recordings: BBC Music 

Article: Independent UK

  

Cécile Chaminade (1857–1944)​

Visit Spotlight on Chaminade for an exclusive Q&A with pianist Mark Viner!

(Marcia J. Citron, "Chaminade, Cécile (Louise Stéphanie)," Grove Music Online, January 20, 2001, accessed October 24, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.05388.)

Biography: Wikipedia

Sheet music: IMSLP

  

Mélanie Bonis (1858–1937)

(Judy Tsou, "Bonis, Mélanie (Hélène) [Mel-Bonis]," Grove Music Online, July 10, 2012, accessed October 25, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.45497.)

Biography: Wikipedia

Sheet music: IMSLP

 

Dame Ethel Smyth (1858–1944)

(Sophie Fuller, "Smyth, Dame Ethel (Mary)," Grove Music Online, January 20, 2001, accessed June 18, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.26038.)

Biography: Wikipedia  |  British Library  |  Wise Music Classical  |  Brooklyn Museum 

Sheet music: IMSLP  |  Wise Music Classical 

  

Amy Beach (née Cheney, 1867–1944)

(Adrienne Fried Block, "Beach [Cheney], Amy Marcy [Mrs H.H.A. Beach]," rev. E. Douglas Bomberger, Grove Music Online, October 16, 2013, accessed October 24, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.A2248268.)

Biography: Wikipedia

Sheet music: IMSLP

 

Alma Mahler (née Schindler, 1879–1964)

(Peter Franklin, "Mahler(-Werfel) [née Schindler], Alma Maria,Grove Music Online, January 20, 2001, accessed June 26, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.43383.)

Biography: Universal  |  Wikipedia

Sheet music: Universal  |  IMSLP

Article: Classical-music.com

Dora Pejačević (1885–1923)

(Koraljka Kos, "Pejačević [Pejacsevich], Dora,Grove Music Online, July 25, 2013, accessed October 25, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.44994.)

Biography: Wikipedia

Sheet music: IMSLP

  

Rebecca Clarke (1886–1979)

(Liane Curtis, "Clarke [Friskin], Rebecca (Thacher) [Helferich],Grove Music Online, January 20, 2001, accessed March 11, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.44728.)

Website: Rebecca Clarke Society

Biography: Clarke Society (reprint of Grove article)  |  Wikipedia

Sheet music: Clarke Society

Florence Price (née Smith, 1887–1953)

(Rae Linda Brown, "Price [Smith], Florence Bea(trice),Grove Music Online, January 31, 2002, accessed May 18, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.48286.)

Biography: Florence Price platform  |  Wikipedia

Sheet music: IMSLP  |  Wise Music Classical

Articles: Classical-music.com  |  The New Yorker  |  NPR 

Nadia Boulanger (1887–1979)

(Caroline Potter, "Boulanger, (Juliette) Nadia,Grove Music Online, January 31, 2002, accessed October 25, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.03705.)

Biography: Britannica  |  Wikipedia

Sheet music: IMSLP

  

Germaine Tailleferre (1892–1983)​

(Robert Orledge, "Tailleferre, Germaine (Marcelle),Grove Music Online, January 20, 2001, accessed October 24, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.27390.)

Biography: Wikipedia

Sheet music: IMSLP

  

Lili Boulanger (1893–1918)

(Annegret Fauser and Robert Orledge, "Boulanger, (Marie-Juliette Olga) Lili,Grove Music Online, January 31, 2002, accessed October 25, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.03704.)

Biography: Wikipedia

Sheet music: IMSLP

  

Ruth Crawford Seeger (1901–1953)

(Ellie M. Hisama and Judith Tick, "Crawford (Seeger), Ruth (Porter),Grove Music Online, July 10, 2012, accessed October 25, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.A2224168.)

Biography: Britannica  |  Wikipedia

Sheet music: IMSLP

  

Grażyna Bacewicz (1909–1969)

(Adrian Thomas, "Bacewicz, Grażyna,Grove Music Online, January 20, 2001, accessed October 25, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.01669.)

Biography: Polish Music Center, USC  |  Wikipedia

Sheet music: Schott

Ursula Mamlok (1923–2016)

(Barbara A. Petersen, "Mamlok, Ursula,Grove Music Online, January 20, 2001, accessed October 25, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.47480.)

Website: Mamlok-Stiftung

Biography: Mamlok-Stiftung  |  Wikipedia

Sheet music: Boosey & Hawkes 

Article: NY Times

Thea Musgrave (b. 1928)

(Jennifer Barnes, "Musgrave, Thea,Grove Music Online, November 27, 2002, accessed June 26, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.19399.)

Website: Musgrave

Biography: Wikipedia

  

Sofiya Gubaydulina (b. 1931)

(Valentina Kholopova, "Gubaydulina, Sofiya Asgatovna,Grove Music Online, January 31, 2002, accessed October 25, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.11911.)

Biography: Music Sales Classical  |  Britannica  |  Wikipedia

Sheet music: Boosey & Hawkes  |  Music Sales Classical

  

Joan Tower (b. 1938)​

(Ellen K. Grolman, "Tower, Joan,Grove Music Online, January 31, 2014, accessed October 24, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.A2258544.)

Biography: Music Sales Classical  |  Wikipedia

Sheet music: Music Sales Classical

  

Tania León (b. 1943)​

(J. Michele Edwards, "León, Tania (Justina),Grove Music Online, January 20, 2001, accessed June 26, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.42484.)

Website: León

Biography: Wikipedia

Libby Larsen (b. 1950)

(Mary Ann Feldman, "Larsen [Reece], Libby [Elizabeth] (Brown)," rev. Laura Greenwald Strom, Grove Music Online, October 16, 2013, accessed October 25, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.A2250015.)

Website: Larsen

Biography: Wikipedia

  

Kaija Saariaho (b. 1952)

(Kimmo Korhonen and Risto Nieminen, "Saariaho, Kaija (Anneli),Grove Music Online, January 31, 2002, accessed October 25, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.45895.)

Website: Saariaho

Biography: Wikipedia

  

Melinda Wagner (b. 1957)

(Mark Alburger, "Wagner, Melinda,Grove Music Online, January 20, 2016, accessed June 26, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.A2289660.)

Website: Wagner

Biography: Wikipedia

Jennifer Higdon (b. 1962)

(Christina L. Reitz, "Higdon, Jennifer (Elaine),Grove Music Online, February 6, 2012, accessed October 25, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.A2219143.)

Website: Higdon

Biography: Wikipedia

   

Rebecca Saunders (b. 1967)

(Robert Adlington, "Saunders, Rebecca," rev. James Saunders, Grove Music Online, September 9, 2009, accessed June 18, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.52802.)

Website: Saunders

Biography: Wikipedia

Lera Auerbach (b. 1973)

Website: Auerbach

Biography: Wikipedia

   

Missy Mazzoli (b. 1980)

Website: Mazzoli

Biography: Wikipedia

  

Caroline Shaw (b. 1982)

(Meg Wilhoite, "Shaw, Caroline (Adelaide)," Grove Music Online, May 28, 2015, accessed June 26, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.2277536.)

Website: Shaw

Biography: Wikipedia

  

Denise Lee (b. 1987)

Soundcloud: Lee

  

  

  

Other useful links:

Classic FM article

Wikipedia article on women in music