Women in Music | Female Songwriters | Late Romantic | Classical

The Victorian drawing-room ballad is a much-derided musical genre – perhaps partly due to the way in which it was so successfully and stylishly cultivated by women composers. In fact, in the mid-nineteenth century, some male composers even used female pseudonyms, as, for example, ‘Florence Fare’, pen name of Alfred William Rawlings. Two of the most successful songwriters of this period were Virginia Gabriel (1825–77), whose songs have an appealing Italianate quality, and the immensely popular ‘Claribel’, pseudonym of Charlotte Alington Barnard (1830–69). A later generation of successful songwriters included the American composer Carrie Jacobs-Bond (1861–1946), who reluctantly resorted to singing and publishing her songs when she found herself financially destitute, the French composer ‘Guy d’Hardelot’, pseudonym of Helen Rhodes (1858–1936), and the British composer Amy Woodforde-Finden (1860–1919), whose best-selling Four Indian Love Lyrics (1902) appealed to the Edwardian obsession with the Orient.

British songwriters who produced more subtle and inventive songs included Maude Valerie White (1855–1937) and Liza Lehmann (1862–1918), both of whom left fascinating memoirs. At the peak of their careers, at the turn of the century, these two women were regarded as leading composers of British song, irrespective of gender. White’s songs are characterized by an effective and expansive lyricism while Lehmann was responsible for popularizing the song cycle in Britain. Although her finest work, such as the powerful In Memoriam (Tennyson, 1899) for tenor and piano, is in this genre, she became best known for her lighter songs, such as ‘There are Fairies at the Bottom of our Garden’ (Rose Fylemen, 1917).

Women in Music | The Diva | Late Romantic | Classical


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