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.

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.

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

*See bottom of page for disclaimer.

Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179)​

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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: Nocturne in B-flat Major

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

Sheet music: IMSLP

Louise Farrenc (née Dumont, 1804–1875)

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)​

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)

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)

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: Havanaise

Biography: Wikipedia

Sheet music: IMSLP

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

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: Andante (No. 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)

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!

Biography: Wikipedia

Sheet music: IMSLP

  

Mélanie Bonis (1858–1937)

Biography: Wikipedia

Sheet music: IMSLP

 

Ethel Smyth (1858–1944)

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

Sheet music: IMSLP  |  Wise Music Classical 

  

Amy Beach (née Cheney, 1867–1944)

Biography: Wikipedia

Sheet music: IMSLP

 

Alma Mahler (née Schindler, 1879–1964)

Biography: Universal  |  Wikipedia

Sheet music: Universal  |  IMSLP

Article: Classical-music.com

Dora Pejačević (1885–1923)

Biography: Wikipedia

Sheet music: IMSLP

  

Rebecca Clarke (1886–1979)

Website: Rebecca Clarke Society

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

Sheet music: Clarke Society

Florence Price (née Smith, 1887–1953)

Biography: Florence Price platform  |  Wikipedia

Sheet music: IMSLP  |  Wise Music Classical

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

Nadia Boulanger (1887–1979)

Biography: Britannica  |  Wikipedia

Sheet music: IMSLP

  

Germaine Tailleferre (1892–1983)​

Biography: Wikipedia

Sheet music: IMSLP

  

Lili Boulanger (1893–1918)

Biography: Wikipedia

Sheet music: IMSLP

  

Ruth Crawford Seeger (1901–1953)

Biography: Britannica  |  Wikipedia

Sheet music: IMSLP

  

Grażyna Bacewicz (1909–1969)

Biography: Polish Music Center, USC  |  Wikipedia

Sheet music: Schott

Ursula Mamlok (1923–2016)

Website: Mamlok-Stiftung

Biography: Mamlok-Stiftung  |  Wikipedia

Sheet music: Boosey & Hawkes 

Article: NY Times

Thea Musgrave (b. 1928)

Website: Musgrave

Biography: Wikipedia

  

Sofia Gubaidulina (b. 1931)

Biography: Music Sales Classical  |  Britannica  |  Wikipedia

Sheet music: Boosey & Hawkes  |  Music Sales Classical

  

Joan Tower (b. 1938)​

Biography: Music Sales Classical  |  Wikipedia

Sheet music: Music Sales Classical

  

Tania León (b. 1943)​

Website: León

Biography: Wikipedia

Libby Larsen (b. 1950)

Website: Larsen

Biography: Wikipedia

  

Kaija Saariaho (b. 1952)

Website: Saariaho

Biography: Wikipedia

  

Melinda Wagner (b. 1957)

Website: Wagner

Biography: Wikipedia

Jennifer Higdon (b. 1962)

Website: Higdon

Biography: Wikipedia

   

Rebecca Saunders (b. 1967)

Website: Saunders

Biography: Wikipedia

Lera Auerbach (b. 1973)

Website: Auerbach

Biography: Wikipedia

   

Missy Mazzoli (b. 1980)

Website: Mazzoli

Biography: Wikipedia

  

Caroline Shaw (b. 1982)

Website: Shaw

Biography: Wikipedia

  

Denise Lee (b. 1987)

Soundcloud: Lee

  

  

  

Other useful links:

Classic FM article

Wikipedia article on women in music

*Disclaimer: These links are being provided for the sake of convenience and informational 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. FL claims no ownership and bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality or content of the external sites. Please observe all copyright laws.

© 2020 Frances Lee

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