The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: How many living women composers can you name? Which ones have ties to the University of Wisconsin-Madison or will be performed there Wednesday night by The Lincoln Trio at a FREE concert? | April 7, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

Forgive my tardiness: Several weeks ago we celebrated international Women’s Day.

And one curator, compiler and blogger – Rob Deemer — has compied a list of 202 contemporary women composers, assuming that someone might want direction in finding such composers.

I find this list useful also as a check list of the women composers I have heard performed and ones I should watch out for.

For example, I recently heard University of Wisconsin cellist Parry Karp, with UW grad and UW-Oshkosh pianist Eli Kalman, perform a terrify work of “Twenty-Four Preludes and a Postlude” by the young Russian composer and polymath  Lera Auerbach. It was a stunning piece of work, not only for its composition and sound, but also for its virtuosity. And her biography will tell you what a remarkable woman in so many ways.

Then, as I went down the list further, I noticed that one of the composers – Pauline Oliveros – served as a artist-in-residence at the UW-Madison, where she composer and premiered an opera, for semester (or maybe a year).

And then I noticed that current UW composer and professor Laura Schwendinger, who also directs the UW Contemporary Chamber Ensemble ,was listed.

So I will admit it: I personally know the work of only a very few of these women composers – and, yes, the number I know includes Joan Tower, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich and Jennifer Higdon – but there many, many more I do not know.

Some of the work of those women composers, many of whom are featured on Cedille Records‘ series “Notable Women,” will be performed in a FREE upcoming concert on this Wednesday, April 11, at 7:30 p.m. in Morphy Hall at the UW-Madison by the acclaimed guest artists, The Lincoln Trio (below).

Here is a link to the complete list:

And here are some links to reviews of the “Notable Women” CD:

Notable Women is named a January Critics Choice: Naxos

Notable Women is also named one of “hidden gems” by The Guardian:

Notable Women lands on  Audiophile Audition’s Best of the Year Discs round-up for 2011:

So now I turn to you, readers of The Ear.

How many of these women composers do you personally know of or have heard?

Do you have favorite composers or works?

Which ones do you recommend the most and which pieces do you like the best?

And are there others who have been left out?


  1. Abbie Betinis is young, up-and-coming composer to keep in mind. She’s composed some stunningly beautiful choral works. I’m still waiting for her to compose a major work for piano . . .

    Comment by Kathryn Ananda-Owens — April 8, 2012 @ 11:03 am

    • Hi Kathy,
      How great to hear from you!
      Hope all is well with you.
      Thanks for reading and replying with the tip about the up-and-coming composer.
      I will keep her name in mind and look forward to a chance to hear works by her.

      Comment by welltemperedear — April 8, 2012 @ 2:29 pm

  2. BTW, just want to add that The Lincoln Trio rock! I interviewed them last year, Jake, awesome people, and very happy you have them pictured on here! Hope you’re going to the gig!

    Comment by Chris McGovern — April 7, 2012 @ 10:18 am

  3. Zoe Keating, too!

    Comment by Chris McGovern — April 7, 2012 @ 10:16 am

  4. Rob Deemer has a list he also put on New Music Box that we kept adding people to! The list is never complete because there are so many female composers that aren’t necessarily being programmed enough that their names are familiar. I know that people like Dale Trumbore and Jenn Jolley are eventually going to be on a more standard list of well-known composers. I know that Sarah Snider deserves to be there too if she isn’t already.

    Comment by Chris McGovern — April 7, 2012 @ 10:14 am

  5. I have a couple of very interesting recordings by Auerbach, one of which had Mozart’s earliest works (K.1 etc.!). So I knew her first as a pianist. Back in my SoCal days, I had the chance to hear a few works of Joan Tower and Libby Larsen, and interviewed Tower. Loved her Clarinet Concerto with David Shifrin (OK, I’m biased!).

    Comment by Greg Hettmansberger — April 7, 2012 @ 8:18 am

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