Female composers in the spotlight as part of BBC plan

Florence Price is among those who will be featured. Picture: BBC/PA
Florence Price is among those who will be featured. Picture: BBC/PA
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Five female composers whose work has been forgotten by history are to have some of their music brought back into the limelight as part of a new BBC initiative.

BBC Radio 3 is to premiere their compositions – some being given their first public airing – with the BBC orchestras and choirs on International Women’s Day, on 8 March.

The news was announced by BBC Radio 3 controller Alan Davey at the Association of British Orchestras conference.

The works chosen include African-American composer Florence Price, who was denied a place on the Music Teachers’ Association because of her skin colour, Augusta Holmes, a French composer of Irish descent and the first woman to have an opera premiered in Paris, and Austrian composer Marianna Martines who enjoyed fame throughout Europe during her lifetime but has had little recognition since.

Davey said: “Research shows that there are around 6,000 forgotten female composers whose work is not currently available for us to explore. We wanted to start putting this right.

“It’s incredibly exciting to think that, in many cases, this is the first time these works will have been heard in 100 years, or even the first time they will ever have been performed.”

The Women’s Day event in March will be followed by a live concert broadcast on Radio 3 where another five works from the five composers will be performed by the BBC concert orchestra.

Mr Davey also told the conference Britain should stop being ashamed of its classical music prestige. He said we are often “too apologetic in this country about what a powerhouse we are”.

“We’re comfortable celebrating our excellence in other areas of culture – even other genres of music – but less so with classical. We get self-conscious, wary of somehow sounding pompous or affected.

“We should never be afraid to shout about what we have to offer.

“But, in doing so, we must always send out a strong message that classical music is for everyone, and that there are no barriers to experiencing or enjoying it,” he said.

Radio 3 also launched a year-long season of programmes across the station in partnership with BBC Four looking back at classical music across the past century.

Our Classical Century will feature four series on BBC Four focusing on a period and highlighting important classical moments while Radio 3 will identify 100 of the most significant events and music over the past century.