Kaija Saariaho: A Primer

Though now hailed as one of the greatest Finnish composers of her generation, Kaija Saariaho readily recalls a time at the Sibelius Academy when male teachers balked at teaching a “pretty girl,” claiming it was a waste of their time. But Saariaho, who as a child would ask her mother to “turn off” the music she perpetually heard in her head so she could sleep at night, stubbornly persevered as the only woman in composition classes. Flash forward some 25 years to the dawn of a new century: The New York Times dubbed her opera’s newest rock star after the triumphant 2000 Salzburg…

Wang Jie on the Fast Track

In a relatively short time Wang Jie has made quite an impression on the classical music establishment. Last June the Orchestra of the League of Composers premiered Wang’s Oboe Concerto for the Genuine Hearts of Sadness, a work it had commissioned with funding in part from the WPA’s 2012 Performance Grants. The New York Times described the piece as a “virtuosic vehicle for the New York Philharmonic’s principal oboist…ventured from primal split tones and ritualistic gestures through a tender soliloquy to a frenetic, percussion-driven finale.” The Times had previously praised Wang’s “clear, lucid and evocative music” in reviewing her 15-minute chamber…

Schneider Crosses Over to Classical–and Wins a Grammy

Maria Schneider has a knack for choosing to work in musical genres where women have traditionally been least represented and recognized—and then flipping the script to win all kinds of renown and accolade. As a jazz composer and big-band leader, Schneider has been voted  Best Composer and Best Arranger for an unprecedented eight consecutive years (2005-2012) by DownBeat magazine’s annual critics’ poll.  Her 2004 album Concert in the Garden won a Grammy for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album, and was also the first fan-funded album sold exclusively on the internet to win a Grammy in any category. But this past…

Sofia Gubaidulina's Offertorium Chosen for Nelsons' First BSO Season

If a work by a female composer is actually programmed by a major metropolitan orchestra, but that city’s most respected and widely-circulated newspaper fails to mention it, do we have progress? The Boston Symphony Orchestra will perform Sofia Gubaidulina’s violin concerto Offertorium in November 2014 as part of conductor Andris Nelsons’ inaugural season. Readers of Boston’s paper of record would not know this, however, because The Boston Globe failed to mention Gubaidulina’s name in a fairly comprehensive article covering the announcement of the BSO’s 2014-15 season. But it did mention Shostakovich (a mentor to her), Sibelius (whose Symphony No. 2…