Composers – Symphony Concerts

Agnes Tyrrell
*1846 Brno; †1883 Brno

Agnes Tyrrell should be considered as a major European composer. She was the daughter of English teacher Henry Tyrrell, but spent her entire life in Brno (today in the Czech Republic). She studied composition with Otto Ritzler and was one of the few women to write a symphony before 1900 – her Symphony in C major. In addition, Agnes Tyrrell wrote 39 piano works, 38 songs or song cycles, 15 choruses, a string quartet, 2 overtures and a “mazurka” for orchestra, the oratorio “Die Könige in Israel” and an opera “Bertran de Born”. Only a few of her works for piano have been published. Practically all of her larger works are still waiting to be premiered.

The frauenkomponiert world premiere of Tyrrell’s Overture to the Oratorio “Die Könige in Israel“ in March 2018, using the new edition produced for frauenkomponiert by Rico Zela and Jessica Horsley, represents a milestone in the reappraisal and recognition of her creative output.

 Alma Deutscher
*February 2005 Oxford, GB

The British composer, pianist and violinist Alma Deutscher started playing the piano when she was two years old and the violin when she was three. Soon afterwards she started improvising simple melodies on the piano. Her attempts at composition started aged four, when she began writing an opera about a pirate called Don Alonzo. She started studying partimento (an instructional bass line with either figured or unfigured bass) and improvisation with Tobias Cramm (Basel) in 2010.

When she was six, Alma composed her first full piano sonata, and at seven she wrote a very short opera called The Sweeper of Dreams. Aged nine, Alma composed a concerto for violin and orchestra, which she premiered in 2015. Her first piece for symphony orchestra, Dance of the Solent Mermaids, was also premiered in 2015. Aged ten, Alma finished a full-length opera, Cinderella. A chamber version of the opera was performed in Israel in 2015 and the full version was premiered in Vienna under the patronage of Zubin Mehta in December 2016, to standing ovations, sold out performances, and international critical acclaim. In July 2017, Alma premiered her first piano concerto. Alma’s talent as a musician has been acknowledged by figures such as Sir Simon Rattle and violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter. Since 2015 she has been mentored by Martin Campbell-White, the man who discovered and promoted Sir Simon. Alma has featured prominently in the international press and broadcast media. Her YouTube channel has more than 4.5 million views. More information:

Heidi Baader-Nobs
*5.12.1940 Delémont, CH

Heidi (Baader-)Nobs trained as a teacher at the Ecole Normale in Delémont and was given at the same time her first piano and violin lessons. Subsequently she studied violin with Rodolfo Felicani at the Basel Musik-Akademie. Due to a chronic inflammation of the right arm, she had to give up her violin studies, thereafter concentrating on composition and music theory with Robert Suter and Jacques Wildberger. After her marriage to Claudius Baader and the birth of their three children Manon (1971), Manuel (1973) and Sébastien (1978), Heidi Baader-Nobs gradually reduced her compositional work to devote herself to her family. “The children are my best works.”

Following on from this long interruption she returned to composing in 1980 at the repeated request of her friends. She distanced herself from the serial system and developed a very personal musical language. Her works are determined above all by graphic forms: they are acoustic realisations of graphic ideas.

Amy Beach
*5.9.1867 Henniker, New Hampshire, US; † 27.12.1944, New York

The pianist and composer, Mrs. H.H.A. Beach née Cheney, was the first American woman composer of large-scale orchestral works. In her time she was famous in the US and Europe. At the age of one, Amy Cheney could already sing 40 melodies. A year later she began to improvise a second voice and taught herself to read at the age of three. As a four-year-old, she once played a piano piece by heart, but a semitone higher, because the piano was out of tune and she wanted to keep the original pitch.

Despite such abilities, her parents did not allow her to become a professional musician. Upon her marriage aged 18 to Henry Harris Aubrey Beach, who was 25 years her senior, she accepted (with some resistance) to perform in public as a pianist henceforth only once a year. Perhaps rather curiously, her husband decided on the career of his wife as a composer – something that can, of course, be done at home – and allowed her to publish some works under her new (i.e. his) name. As her husband did not, however, allow her to take lessons in composition, Beach studied autodidactically: she used Hector Berlioz’s book on instrumentation and orchestration, for example, to learn to negotiate the instruments of the orchestra.

She became known in musical circles and amongst campaigners for women’s rights as the musical representative of the US at the World Exhibition of 1893 in Chicago. Following the death of her husband in 1910, Beach embarked upon a three-year tour of Europe, during which she gave concerts of her own works. In 1914 she returned to the US and spent some time in the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, before moving to New York in the 1920’s. She worked there until 1940 at St. Bartholomew’s Church, Park Avenue in Manhattan.

Composers – Chamber Music Festival

Isabelle Aboulker

Parallel to studies in composition and piano at the Paris Conservatory, Isabelle Aboulker (*1938) composed for theatre, cinema and television productions. As an accompanist and singing teacher, she concentrated from 1981 on vocal music and opera in her compositional output. Her feeling for prosody reveals her roots in the French song tradition.

 May Aufderheide

Raised in Indianapolis (Indiana), May Aufderheide (1890–1972) is recognised today as one of the best-known and most significant female ragtime composers. In 1908 her first composition, Dusty, was published, and a year later her most successful work, The Thriller. Her father founded his own music publishers in order to publish the works of his daughter and other women ragtime composers.

Antonia Padoani Bembo

Antonia Padoani Bembo (1640–1720) was rooted in two different cities and music cultures: in Venice as an established singer and student of Francesco Cavalli: in Paris as a composer and singer who was valued and supported with a life-long subsidy by Louis XIV. This explains her equal familiarity with Italian and French musical tastes.

Carla Bley

US-American jazz musician, composer, arranger, band leader, pianist and organist Carla Bley (*1938) began to sing and play the organ and the piano in church at the age of four. She made a name for herself in the mid 1960’s as a talented and innovative jazz composer. She wrote for Paul Bley, George Russell and Art Farmer, founded in 1964 with Mike Mantler the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra, and published in 1971 one of the few jazz operas, “Escalator over the Hill”.

Grace M. Bolen

Grace M. Bolen (1884–1976) was born in Kansas City (Missouri). In 1898, the 14-year-old was brought to the attention of the important publisher Carl Hoffmann, who published her first composition in the same year. As with the majority of the most promising female composers of the ragtime era, Bolen’s creative work ended upon her marriage.

Mel Bonis

It seems incomprehensible today that the works of Mel Bonis (1858–1937) were gradually forgotten, for they represent some of the most important chamber music compositions of the French post-Romantic period. Supported by César Franck, Bonis was accepted by the Paris Conservatoire in 1877 and studied there successfully, as several prizes testify, until 1881. In 1883 she married the industrialist Albert Domange. They had four offspring and only when the children had grown up did Bonis’s music regain precedence. Her most important works were composed between 1900 and 1914.

Caroline Charrière

Swiss composer and conductor Caroline Charrière (*1960) was born in Freiburg in Üechtland and studied flute, composition, and later conducting at the Lausanne Conservatory. In 2000 she decided to devote herself primarily to composition.

Emma Lou Diemer

Born in Kansas City, Missouri, composer Emma Lou Diemer (*1927) studied piano and musicology initially in Kansas City and at Yale and subsequently composition in Brussels. She continued her studies with Ernest Toch and Roger Sessions at Tanglewood and in New York (PhD). She lives and works in Santa Barbara, California.

Susanne Doll

Susanne Doll (*1956) has been Organist at St. Leonhard’s church and the Church of St. Paul and artistic director of the “Orgelspiel zum Feierabend” in Basel since 1991. She focuses on compositions for organ and choir; arrangements for organ from Bach via Debussy to Pink Floyd, Santana, Piazzolla, Gershwin, Dvorak, Grieg and Brubeck; working with amateurs; the organ works of Bach, Dupré and Messiaen.

Helena Tulve

Born 1972 in Estonia, Helena Tulve studied composition at the State Conservatory of Tallinn and the Conservatoire de Paris. She writes a flowing, freely developing music, which is created from the simplest impulses and sounds experimental in a natural way. In addition to composition, she has also worked intensively on Gregorian music and various oral vocal traditions.

Louise Farrenc

Born in Paris, Jeanne Louise Dumont, later known as Louise Farrenc (1804–75), was a composer, pianist and musicologist. She was lucky enough to be married to an understanding and supportive music publisher, Aristide Farrenc. She started teaching at the Paris Conservatoire at the age of 38. Her output is voluminous, with symphonies, overtures, vocal and choral works, pieces for solo piano, and chamber music.

Esther Flückiger

Pianist, improviser and composer – also in multimedia contexts – Esther Flückiger (*1959) uses a rich palette for artistic creation, which shows her familiarity with both classical repertoire and jazz idioms. She has performed in Europe, the US, Russia, Asia, and South America and taken part in numerous CD, TV and radio recordings.

Sofia Gubaidulina

Following on from her studies in piano and composition at the Kasan Conservatory (1949–1954), 
Sofia Gubaidulina (*1931) continued her studies in composition with Nikolai Peiko 
and Vissarion Shebalin in Moscow. Gubaidulina’s Russian heritage is of great importance in her works and the Asiatic influence of her Tatar origins is equally obvious. It is above all though the great spirituality of her works – she understands composing as a religious act – which suffuses her entire output. Gubaidulina works frequently with contrasting elements, for example with “Light and Darkness”, and it is her goal to reconcile contradictory voices.

Elisabeth Claude Jacquet de la Guerre

Elisabeth Claude Jacquet de la Guerre (1665–1729) was the daughter of a harpsichord-maker and as a child she was much prized as a harpsichord virtuoso. At the age of 15 she was taken into the employment of Louis XIV, who supported her and ensured that her compositions were performed.

Fanny Hensel

The older sister of Felix Mendelssohn, Fanny Hensel nèe Mendelssohn, baptised Bartholdy (1805–47) could play substantial parts of Bach’s Well-tempered Clavier from memory at the age of 13. According to the conventions of the time for a woman of her standing, Fanny’s musical activities were limited to chamber music for the private sphere from the age of about 15 – composition was only allowed to be an “ornament” for her, as the famous letter from her father put it. Nonetheless she composed throughout her life around 450 pieces.

Billy Holiday

Billy Holiday (1915–59) is one of the most significant US-American jazz singers. She rose from a desperately poor background to the top, moving her listeners to tears and speaking out against racism. In countless descriptions she is characterised as sunny, energetic, sensitive, successful, naïve, sensual, shy, helpless, friendly, always broke, criminal, drunk, a wreck.

Vítězslava Kaprálová

Vítězslava Kaprálová (1915–40) started composing at the age of nine. When she was 15, she started studying composition and conducting at the conservatory of her hometown, Brno – against the will of her father, who was himself a composer. In 1937, Kaprálová conducted her Military Symphony with the Czech Philharmonic and a year later the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Despite dying very young, she left behind a notable compositional oeuvre.

Alma Mahler

During the time she was active artistically, Alma Mahler née Schindler (1879–1964) composed more than a hundred songs, various instrumental pieces, and the beginnings of an opera. Of her complete output, only 17 songs have survived. When he proposed to Alma, Gustav Mahler made it clear that his wife must give up her music. Alma Mahler was a significant personality of the artistic, musical and literary scene in the first half of the twentieth century. After Mahler’s death, she married the architect Walter Gropius, then the poet Franz Werfel and was the lover of the painter Oskar Kokoschka.

Isabel Mundry

Isabel Mundry (*1963) teaches composition at the Zurich Hochschule der Künste and her compositions are performed worldwide. She studied composition with Frank Michael Beyer and Gösta Neuwirth in Frankfurt, then later with Hans Zender. In addition she studied musicology with Carl Dahlhaus and philosophy and art history in Berlin.

Clara Schumann

Clara Schumann (1819–96) was trained systematically as a piano virtuoso by her father, Friedrich Wilhelm Wieck, from the age of four. Already whilst very young, Clara Wieck’s improvisations and own compositions were received enthusiastically. Although she considered herself primarily a pianist, composition meant a great deal to her.

Johanna Senfter

Considered by Max Reger as his best student, Johanna Senfter (1879–1961) composed more than 134 works, including nine symphonies, 26 orchestral works, chamber music, organ works, choral works, and songs. She completed her studies in theory and composition (Ivan Knorr), violin (Adolf Rebner), piano (Carl Friedberg) and organ (Heinrich Gelhaar) with distinction in July 1909 and was awarded the Arthur Nikisch prize for the best composition student of the previous year.

Barbara Strozzi

As her works demonstrate, Barbara Strozzi (1619–64) was one of the greatest female composers of her time and both her early madrigals and later cantatas are extraordinarily expressive and beautiful. She lived as a courtesan in Venice and was the mother of various children by different men.

Nathalie Laesser Zweifel

Nathalie Laesser Zweifel (*1976) grew up in Aarau and studied piano at the Conservatoire in Lausanne with Christian Favre and in the concert class of Hiroo Sakagami at the Hochschule of Lucerne. She furthered her studies as an accompanist with Edward Rushton and studied jazz piano and composition with Thierry Lang at the jazz school of Montreux. She received important musical stimuli for Bossa Nova and Samba from pianist Leandra Braga in Rio de Janiero.