One of the most challenging things I found when I started learning about music by women was finding sheet music. I’m one of those people who prefer listening along with the score – especially if I’m considering singing the piece. Unfortunately, it can be hard to get your hands on a lof these scores, especially if they’re from the Baroque or Classical period.
I’ve made a list of the places I go to check for music, but I’m sure I’ve barely scratched the surface. Please leave comments/message me on Instagram if you have other avenues! I’m always looking for new composers to get to know.
This one might be obvious, but there are loads of women composers on IMSLP! Hundreds of Cécil Chaminade and Amy Beach songs are there, plus lots of Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn.
This should definitely be your first stop when looking for scores. Also, each composer’s Wikipedia site usually has a list of pieces composed linked to IMSLP. For a lot of these more popular and well-known composers, the editions are actually quite nice. However, some of the uploads are borderline illegible, including bad scans of original scores. There are also some composers with minimal pieces available, partially due to lost originals.
If you hear a recording and fall in love with the piece, sometimes (if you’re me), you spend hours looking for the sheet music. Although Hildegard Publishing doesn’t have everything, they have a LOT. Every piece they publish was composed by a woman.
My favorite thing about Hildegard is their anthologies. Unlike music in the canon, where we’re more familiar with the composers, many people interested in learning pieces composed by women don’t know where to start. An anthology is perfect because it usually includes works from early Baroque through the Romantic era in multiple languages.
Their newest anthology, a collaboration with A Modern Reveal, is 24 Italian Songs & Arias by Women Composers. It’s ideal for someone interested in learning new pieces or a young singer. All singers are familiar, perhaps too familiar, with the traditional 24 Italian Songs & Arias. However, every single piece in the original is by a man. This anthology features works by Strozzi, Caccini, Colbran, and Viardot – all fantastic composers.
Like Hildegard, Furore Verlag is another publishing company that only produces scores by women composers. This company is invaluable particularly for orchestras, choirs, and opera companies looking to include more diverse composers in their upcoming seasons.
Furore Verlag has hundreds of composers and offers vocal scores and full scores. They also provide a small biography about each composer, in both English and German, and each work has a difficulty rating. Especially if you’re looking for pieces for your youth choir or orchestra, Furor Verlag is a fantastic resource.
They also have multiple Anthologies (I know I keep going on about them, but really – they’re a great way to discover composers).
Archiv Frau und Musik
This is another fantastic resource, based in Frankfurt, Germany. They do amazing research into music by women, have an online category, and have a huge list of online and real-life resources.
Search for any composer you want, to learn about their songs, where you can find their music, and get some information about them. Song Helix has an incredible variety of composers, and you can narrow your search to only include black women composers, or Jewish composers, or LGBT (among other options). You can also search by topic of song instead, which is great for people planning recitals.
If you’re in deep, like me, you’ll notice that some pieces that just haven’t been published yet. About a year ago now, I decided to submit an application for an early music competition consisting entirely of music by women. In my search to find appropriate sheet music, I came across a book series entitled Women Composers: Music Through the Ages. It’s a multi-book series that features composers and includes excerpts of their sheet music.
In Germany, at least, one book in the series was nearly 1200EUR on Amazon, and as a freelance singer, I couldn’t really spring for that. Luckily, the Humboldt Library had the whole series in Berlin. If you want to learn more about unknown composers, this is the series for you, and if you’re lucky, a library near you will have it.
Libraries also have some original scores. The National Austrian Library has digitalized most of Mariana Martines’ original scores and has other composers as well. If you’re interested in a particular composer, Wikipedia often lists where their original scores are kept. Although in COVID times, a library visit may be difficult, it’s worth checking online and calling them to see if they have a copy of the score.
Although it can be frustrating to want a specific score, and not be able to source it, be open to the process. I’ve discovered pieces that I love while searching for something else. If you want recommendations or are having trouble finding a specific piece, shoot me a message, and I’ll do what I can.
If you have other resources you’d like to recommend, please let me know!
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