Composer Bio

Clara Schumann

Composer, Performer, Mother and Wife

Clara Schumann née Wieck was a complicated woman. She was a composer, a world renowned concert pianist, a mother of 8, and a wife to the troubled composer Robert Schumann. She was born in Leipzig in 1819 to an especially musical family, and was trained in music, languages, composing, and piano from a very early age by her father. Perhaps because of her father’s incredibly strict and even cruel ways, she debuted at the Leipzig Gewandhaus when she was just 11 years old. She continued to practice and perform throughout Germany and abroad (she performed in Paris at the ripe age of 12) under the stern eye of her father. Her father even wrote many of her diary entries! When her younger half-brother died before a performance, her father forced her to travel to Dresden the next day to perform. She became an expert at performing through illness, violence, pain, and despair. There is no question that her father’s intense and authoritarian teaching style paved the way for her to balance motherhood, performing, and taking care of Robert.

In 1828, was she was merely 8 years old, Robert Schumann entered her life as a live-in student of her father’s. By the time she was 13, she was in love with him, and he with her. He simultaneously was a proponent of her composing, and her harshest critic. He never truly believed that she was a “full artistic genius”, but he nonetheless needed her as a musical support. He never believed that she could succeed as an composer on her own, and that she must dedicate herself, both emotionally and musically to him. She followed this idea completely – even going so far as to legally challenge her father for the right to marry Robert in 1840.

After her marriage, it became difficult for her to find the time to compose – even to practice! Robert’s composition was the most important thing to him; Clara was of course responsible for raising their eight children, keeping house and cooking. He was not happy when she went on extended tours to keep the family in the black, but it was unavoidable. He believed that “the creative artist had higher status than the performer” (Sounds and Sweet airs, p 225). Even despite this, she continued to compose, and to perform. She was always a supporter of Robert and his music, even to the detriment of her own piano playing and composing. After his death, she dedicated herself to the interpretation of others’ music and to preserving his legacy, only composing one piece herself.

Clara found it difficult even at the best of times to compose, so perhaps it is no surprise that she did not publish much music. However, as she grew older and the societal view of women’s role in music in Germany became more close-minded, she too came to believe that women should not create music, writing that “a woman must not wish to compose – there never was one able to do it”. In my opinion, this belief that became pervasive in the 19th century was an incredibly destructive one; we have lost so much music because it was never allowed to become an idea, let alone be published. We should celebrate what little music exists today from these women – and I believe Clara Schumann’s music is worth celebrating. I hope you do too! Some of my favorite music of hers is from her 6 Lieder, Op. 13 – here is my recording of Liebeszauber (Love’s Magic), excerpted from our first livestream mini-concert. You can find the whole concert over in the Livestream section of the blog.


Op. 13, Clara Schumann

Lisa Newill-Smith, soprano

David Wishart, pianist

Sources I used for this blog post include Anna Beer’s Sounds and Sweet Airs, and the article on Clara Schumann in Oxford Music Online. Much of her sheet music is available on IMSLP – please go and sing and play as much of it as you can!

Topic Thursday

The Woman Behind Chopsticks

Today’s Topic Thursday is about one of the most well-known piano pieces of all time. No, I’m not talking about Claire de lune or Moonlight Sonata. I’m talking about Chopsticks.

If you ever had a music class in school, you probably tried this easy ditty out, and if you had a piano at home, you likely drove your parents mad by playing it over and over.

But… did you know Chopsticks was written by a woman? Although it was published under a male pseudonym, Euphemia Allen, a Glaswegian, wrote “The Chop Waltz” as a 16-year-old.

Euphemia Allen

Euphemia Amelia Nightingale Allen was born in 1861 in Glasgow to a musical family. Her father was a highly regarded dance instructor and her brother, Mozart Allen, went on to become a music publisher.

In 1877, Euphemia composed “The Chop Waltz”, at the tender age of 16. She published two versions to allow for solo playing or a duet. It earned the title chopsticks because she instructed players to hit the keys with a chopping motion.

Euphemia went on to become a piano teacher and a music publisher, but never published another piece of her own.


Chopsticks is probably one of the most widely known piano pieces. I had no idea who it was by, let alone that a woman wrote it, until a few weeks ago. It’s been featured in other composers’ works, movies, TV shows, and pop music. From Sesame Street to Bugs Bunny, Chopsticks is everywhere.

Next time you hear someone say “but if women wrote good music, it’d be well-known” send them a recording of Chopsticks.

Topic Thursday

Resources for Learning About Black Women Composers

Women of color have long been excluded from the classical music world. Much of the current literature focuses on white women. However, there is a wealth of music out there written by women of color across the world. 

As I’m starting to do more research on this subject, I’ve found a few websites and books that I’m really excited to delve into. Since my last Topic Thursday, which included resources for finding sheet music, was pretty popular, I thought people might appreciate a round-up of resources for learning more about black women composers. 

There are tons of incredible pieces out there, and I’ve only skimmed the surface so far. Through these resources, I’ve found many more recordings that I can’t wait to listen to. 

African Diaspora Music Project

This fantastic project, led by Dr. Louise Toppin and Videmus, has compiled a huge list of black composers. They’ve got biographies and a search function to help you find songs appropriate to your voice and concert repertoire. 

Dr. Louise Toppin is a soprano and professor who has specialized in contemporary music and has also spent years promoting the performance and research of music by black composers. Her organization Videmus is dedicated to performing under-represented composers, including composers of color and female composers. 

Music by Black Composers

Music By Black Composers

Music by Black Composers has a massive directory of all known historic black composers and a separate one for living composers. They’ve also published several anthologies (at the moment, for violin, but more works are coming) and a blog that often features biographies of historic black composers.

Women's Philharmonic Advocacy

Women’s Philharmonic Initiative

Although not entirely focused on black composers, the Women’s Philharmonic Initiative is a fantastic organization. They provide grants to orchestras in the US who would like to perform music by women. Past grant winners include the Louisiana Philarhomic Orchestra (2015), San Jose Chamber Orchestra (2012), and the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, 2020 grants are on hold.

If you’re an orchestral ensemble looking to perform music by black women composers, check out their list here. They also have parts available on request, which makes life a lot easier.

African American Composer Initiative (AACI)

Founded in 2009 in San Francisco, the AACI performs a wide variety of music by black composers, including Florence Price and Duke Ellington. They’ve got tons of recordings and performances up on their website and a list of composers performed with links to sheet music.

Chamber Music America

This organization exists to promote chamber music of all types, including classical and jazz, across the United States. They have a Composers Equity Project, which has a massive list of composers of color, women, and gender non-conforming  composers with links to their websites. 

Most of these seem to be living composers, so if you’re looking for composers from previous eras, you might want to check out another site. 

Black Women’s Music Database

This database is dedicated to researching music by black women across genres. They’ve got a huge PDF, which is a fantastic resource whether you’re interested in classical music, jazz, blues, theater, opera – seriously, they have all the art bases covered.

Hildegard Publishing

Often, a significant barrier to programming music by under-represented composers is finding sheet music. Hildegard Publishing has several anthologies focusing on black women composers, including Art Songs and Spirituals by African-American Composers and Black Women Composers: A Century of Piano Music

Enjoy Exploring

This music deserves to be performed just as much as the standard existing canon, and all of these organizations are doing fantastic work getting it out there. Whether you’re a musician looking for new rep, a teacher wanting to include more diverse composers in your materials, or just want to listen to some seriously underappreciated  music, you should check out these websites.

For those wanting to listen, here are a few Spotify playlists:

Black Women Classical

The Vocal Music of Black American Women Classical Composers

Awesome Music by Black Female Composers

Topic Thursday

Finding Scores: How to Get Your Hands On Music By Women

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.

Chaminade, IMSLP


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.

Hildegard Publishing

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.

Furore Verlag

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).  

Martines, La Tempesta, Original Score


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. 

Have Fun!

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! 

If you enjoy my blog, head over to the homepage, and click “Follow.” You’ll get an update whenever I post a new article. Stay tuned for our next livestream concert announcement, which is in the works! 

Topic Thursday

The Shadow of the Courtesan

Today’s Topic Thursday is all about how women who composed and made music were perceived by their contemporaries. Although the specifics varied between eras and countries, one of the unfortunate mainstays was the sexualization of female musicians. In Anna Beer’s Sound and Sweet Airs, she refers to this phenomenon as the “shadow of the courtesan” and shows time and again how it affected women who composed. 

Today I’ll look at why this stereotype followed all women in music to an extent, why it developed, and how it influenced women’s lives.

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When Did This Start? 

Anna Beer argues that the shadow of the courtesan goes all the way back to the Book of Samuel, where it states that “listening to a women’s voice is sexual enticement.” Even today, women are not allowed to sing in Orthodox synagogues, partially due to this line. 

The Catholic Church stayed on the same track. Nuns were only permitted to sing certain types of music, and never in front of men. Even in areas where Lutherism or other Protestant religions replaced the Catholic Church, the story remained the same. Women’s compositions and performances have always been viewed in terms of their sex. Many composers received reviews complimenting their pieces, saying they almost sounded like a man wrote them. 

Reputation Mattered

For much of western history, the reputation of a woman – and the intactness of her virginity – were decisive factors in her ability to function in society. With the increase of distinct noble families and national structures in the Middle Ages and beyond, virginity and purity became a large factor in women’s marriageability status. Marriage was a key instrument in connecting families and making alliances in Europe. To expand their power, influence, or rise in rank, families used tactical marriages. A “spoiled” daughter was of no use to them. 

Aside from the often intrusive examinations and extensive bedding ceremonies, which included a next-morning check for bloody sheets, women could also lose purity through reputation alone. Through the Middle Ages and the Enlightenment, powerful men in nobility and the Church structured society so that it favored them and used the threat of ostracisation to restrict women’s movements. Women couldn’t be alone with a man (what if people talk!), couldn’t use their creativity (what if they enticed a man sexually?!), and above all, couldn’t perform in front of men. In Shakespeare’s time, all the women’s parts onstage were played by men because of this societal restriction. 

Women in music in the 1600 and 1700s suffered from these strict societal rules. Some women were able to participate in music by only performing in private concerts for female royalty. Many princesses and queens, including Princess Anne, in whose court Josina van Boetzelaer worked, asked their ladies-in-waiting to perform for them. (Netflix and chill wasn’t an option for entertainment yet). 

Other women braved the reputation hit and performed in the open royal court for both men and women. However, there were limited options for them. Many performed as young children and were taken under the protective wing of a lady of the court, like Jaquet de la Guerre or Francesca Caccini, and they were rarely if ever, offered the position of court composer. A notable exception to this rule was, in fact, Caccini, who became the highest-paid member of the Medici Court under Maria Magdalena.

Choices for Women

For much of western history, and in some cases, until women received the right to vote, the choice for women has been the convent or marriage. Some talented musicians chose the church, joining particular convents renowned (and often denigrated) for their music writing and singing. If a woman wanted to pursue music outside the Church, she would either have to hope that her husband allowed it or remain unmarried. 

Unfortunately, many of these unmarried singers were pressured into relationships with their benefactors, like Barbara Strozzi. Others chose this route as the best option that allowed them some semblance of independence outside the rigid social structure. In some areas, there was more leeway for courtesans. If a woman gained a noble’s attention, she could become influential, like Madame de Montespan in France. As the mistress of Louis XIV, she had enormous influence over the court. She often influenced his decision when choosing musicians for the court and composers for his official events. 

In the 1800s, the acceptance of courtesans had waned in polite society. Composers like Mariana Martines and Clara Wieck-Schumann had to navigate a new world where music-making was delineated by gender lines. Men wrote symphonies and operas, while women remained in the home concert sphere, writing songs and small chamber pieces.

Even in the 1900s, Amy Beach struggled against society. She wasn’t permitted to study abroad, and her husband forbade her from performing in public more than twice a year (for charity, of course!). It wasn’t until the death of her husband that she was able to travel to Europe. 


Even today, the shadow of the courtesan lingers. Perhaps our reputations aren’t affected by our interactions with men, but singers continue to experience harassment, even on the biggest stages in opera. #MeToo hit the opera world hard. If we haven’t experienced this type of harassment ourselves, we have a friend who has

Why am I talking about singers? Because most women who composed throughout history were singers first. The idea of a composer, and not a performer, is a relatively new one (although that’s a whole other post). 

The Impact

I could write a whole book on this. In fact, Anna Beer has. The shadow of the courtesan has informed women’s decisions throughout history. How many talented women didn’t pursue music because their husbands forbade it? Or wrote fantastic pieces only for small groups of friends without publishing it? 

And how many composers have been forgotten because they were merely courtesans?

Unfortunately, we can’t know the answer to this, but many talented researchers are searching for more composers from every era. The great thing is that we do have many composers who broke the mold and shared their talent with the world. I think we owe it to them to perform it. 

If you want to get updates when I write a new post, head over to the homepage and click on “Follow This Blog“. You’ll get an email when I write something new. You can also follow me on Instagram for updates or leave a comment below.

Topic Thursday

Common Myths

Challenging the Myths About Women Who Composed

Welcome to the first Topic Thursday! I thought I would start with a quick breakdown of all the things I’ve heard from people when I said I’m performing music by women. I’ve heard everything, from “Oh, how interesting” to a confused look followed by “but why?”. There are many misconceptions out there about these composers, their music, and why it’s not more regularly performed.

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1. “There isn’t enough repertoire”

This is one of my biggest pet peeves. When you ask an orchestra or an opera house why they don’t program more music by women, their excuse is often that there just isn’t enough quality repertoire available. This is categorically untrue. Women have composed music since the western classical music tradition began. From Hildegard Bingham and Isabella Leonard in the early 1600s to Maria Teresa Agnesi in the Baroque period, Pauline Viardot in the 19th century, and finally living composers like Libby Larsen, there are examples of women who composed amazing music in every era and every country.

File:RTÉ Concert Orchestra NCH 2.jpg

2. “No one will come”

This is another common refrain that many in the field of new music hear as well. While it’s true that well-known repertoire draws in crowds like nothing else, that doesn’t mean you have to fill your entire season with crowd favorites. Instead of scheduling a fourth Mozart symphony, why not present a piece by Mariana Martines? Or pair an evening of Dvorak with Amy Beach’s Gaelic Symphony?

I’m not saying ditch all the favorites and present a season entirely of new-to-the-audience repertoire. (Well, not that I wouldn’t love that). But, I strongly believe that if orchestras and theaters present this music alongside Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, and Wagner, people will come. And they will love it.

3. “There’s a reason it’s not in the canon”

Well, yes, you’re absolutely right. But the reason isn’t because women are inherently worse composers than men, or that their works aren’t good enough to grace our concert halls. The reason these composers are not in our classical music canon is because they were often discouraged or barred from filling traditional of responsibility and power in the music industry. Men in these positions had their pieces performed regularly and were able to publish their music. And they developed a following who preserved their pieces after death.

As we saw with composers like Martines, C Schumann, and Beach, many of these women gained recognition on a national or international scale while they were performing. However, they were usually the driving force behind their fame, and had to organize their own performances and in some cases, their own publishing outside the traditional institutions that men had access to. Once they passed, they tended to be forgotten.

Another uncomfortable fact for many is that women simply did not have access to the same opportunities as men for most of human history to compose. If a woman wanted to become a singer, often she ran the risk of tarnishing her reputation. Throughout the years, a relative constant has been the association between courtesans and performers. If a woman performed in public, she often developed a ‘reputation.’ In the late 19th century, this problem intensified, creating a situation where there was a stark divide between ‘men’s music’ and ‘women’s music.’ Men belonged on the stage, writing symphonies and operas, while women were sidelined, restricted to house concerts.

Despite all of this, women continued to compose throughout history, receiving recognition and accolades. In the 19th century, some even received the highest compliment of the time – that their music sounded manly.

So yes, there are reasons it’s not in the canon. Mainly, the patriarchy. Which, in my humble opinion, is a terrible reason to exclude fantastic music from the canon.


While these are just the top 3 things I’ve heard, there are tons of other misconceptions out there. The bottom line is that women have been composing this whole time. They just did it without the recognition that some of their male counterparts received. Instead of rehashing the same Schubert songs, why not throw in some Fanny Hensel pieces? Or if you’re looking for a new piano piece, look at the works of Cécil Chaminade. String quartets could add a Machonchy quartet to their repertoire instead of another Beethoven.

Do you have any burning questions about music by women? Or are you looking for repertoire for your next performance (or something to do in lockdown)? Comment on this page or send me a message on Instagram and I’ll answer them next blog!

Composer Bio

Marianna von Martines

Although the spelling of her name is debated – Marianna/Mariana/Marie Anne, Martines/Martinez – its clear that she was a talented and driven composer. Born in Vienna in 1744 to a wealthy Austrian mother and a Neapolitan father, she grew up with her five surviving siblings in the Michaelerhaus, which sat in the heart of Vienna next to the Michaelerkirche (St. Michael’s Church). Her compositions and her singing quickly became well-known throughout the city; in 1761 one of her masses was performed at the court church of Empress Maria Theresa. Unlike her male contemporaries, Martines was not eligible for any paid musical positions. However, this actually worked in her favor. By her mid-forties, her brother (and by extension the whole family) was raised to nobility status by the Empress for his work as a tutor to the royal children. The now van Martines was not only able to, but expected to, turn her focus towards the arts or entertaining. Of course, Marianna took this to an extreme and worked diligently every day on her compositions and practice. In addition, because the Empress had closed theaters and concert halls, private concerts became popular. Although her music would likely not have been performed publicly, she became a popular composer for these private concerts, even hosting her own concert series which was frequented was the Mozarts.

She quickly gained an international reputation, in part due to an older librettist who also lived in the Michaelerhaus – Metastasio. He had acquired great fame as a librettist and playwright, with composers including Hasse, Pergolesi and Scarlatti setting his words to music. He recognized early on that Marianna had a musical gift and he, along with a teenage Hadyn (who lived in the attic room of the house) and Nicolò Porpora, taught Marianna composition and singing.

Although she received accolades and awards for her compositions (including a mention by the Queen of Naples, and an invitation to the Accademia filarmonica in Bologna, the first woman invited since its founding in 1665), she always erred on the side of caution and conservatism. As an upper-class woman, she thought it would appear improper to travel to Naples or to Bologna, and chose to remain in Vienna, in her world of private concerts. Because of this “propriety”, her invitation was rescinded as the Accademia required the composer to be present for the performance of their work. This conservatism also appears in her works; while they are beautiful and incredibly virtuosic, they rely on older styles and use older instruments (like the harpsichord rather than exploring innovations in piano technology).

During Martines’ lifetime, ideas about women and music were gradually changing – for the worse. By remaining so conservative, she was able to continue to have her music performed, and was respected in the Viennese musical community. Some of her male counterparts like Mozart and Haydn (and later Beethoven) were able to more freely innovate and push musical boundaries. If she had tried to do the same, it is likely that she would have been dismissed and ridiculed. Although she never wrote a symphony or an opera, she still succeeded in her own way by being a brilliant and talented composer, whose works were performed all over Vienna in her lifetime.

Unfortunately, by the 1800s, the musical world was really starting to close its doors to women, as new 19th century stereotypes about gender and music came into play. (See my post on Clara Schumann for more information). Perhaps this is why her music has been slowly forgotten. She died in 1812, only two days after her last sister passed away, with no memorial.

Our livestream featured two works by Marianna – La Tempesta, a cantata set to a Metastasio libretto, and her Sonata in E Major. In La Tempesta, a shepherd boy is desperately in love with Nice, a beautiful shepherdess. He offers to help her protect her sheep from a looming storm, and by the end of the cantata realizes she loves him.

See below for the video of our livestream concert. Enjoy!

The information in this blog comes from Anna Beer’s absolutely wonderful book “Sounds and Sweet Airs”, and the Grove Music Online article about Martines. If you want to perform La Tempesta or the Sonata, Dave has made a lovely edition from the original scores. Just shoot me a message for it!


Martines and Boetzelaer Livestream

Enjoy our livestream concert from 20 June 2020 featuring Josina van Boetzelaer and Marianna Martines! For more information on the composers, visit their bio pages.

Repertoire & Translations

Josina van Boetzelaer
Che non mi disse un di, Op. 4 (1780)
What hasn’t he already said to me? Which gods hasn’t he sworn to? And how, oh God, could he be, how could he still be so lacking in faith! I have lost everything for him; Today I lose it again. My poor feelings! This is what you give back to me, Love, This is your mercy?

Marianna Martines
Sonata in E Major (1762)

La Tempestà (1778)
As a storm approaches, a young shepherd approaches the shepherdess Nice promising that he will not try to court her again. He warns her of the storm and offers to help her guide her flock to safety. When she doesn’t respond, he eventually convinces her to hide from the storm in the caves with him.
While the storm rages outside, the shepherd remarks that Nice is shivering and afraid. He promises once again to not speak of love, and that he will leave once the sky has cleared up. He says he will protect her in the storm, and she clings to him. By her blushes and her eyes, he can see that she does in fact love him. After this realization, he wishes for the storm to never end because it has brought him the greatest joy – that of love.

Interested in the sheet music for the Martines? Send me a message!

Composer Bio

Josina van Boetzelaer

Josina Anna Petronella was born in the Hague in 1733 to the van Aerssens, an old aristocratic family originally from Belgium. She soon became a lady-in-waiting to Princess Anna, and eventually to Princess Anna’s daughter, Princess Caroline. Princess Anna, who came from England, was well-educated in music, having studied with Handel before she arrived in the Netherlands. In court, Josina was surrounded by music, and many famous musicians of the day visited, including a young Mozart and later Beethoven. In addition, the Princess and her daughter hosted private chamber performances where its likely Josina participated as a singer (which is probably why her works for soprano are so fiendishly difficult!).

Interestingly, Josina did not marry until she was thirty-five. When she married Carl van Boetzelaer in 1768, a military man from another old aristocratic family, she was able to remain financially independent due to new inheritance laws. The couple had three children together, although only two survived into adulthood. It wasn’t until after she got married that Josina began to study composing. The records aren’t super clear, but it is likely that she started learning with Francesco Pasquale Ricci after the birth of her youngest daughter in 1775. Through him, she was exposed to the music of Maria Teresa Agnesi and Marianna Martines, contemporaries of hers from Milan and Vienna, respectively. Ricci left the Netherlands in 1780, after dedicating a set of six ariettas to Josina. After his departure, Josina began to publish her works. In 1795, there was political upheaval in the Netherlands, and the family fled to IJsselstein. Josina died there at the age of 64 in 1797.

Unlike other Dutch women composers, Josina published her works, which preserved them. She published four opuses, several of which are for orchestra and voice. Unfortunately Op. 3 has been lost, but 1, 2 and 4 can be found in libraries in Bologna, Zurich and Slovenia. She was also one of the few native Dutch composers of her time – in the eighteenth-century, many famous composers were foreigners who came to the court. In addition, many of her arias are set to Metastasio libretti, which sets them apart as opera seria was not widely written in the Netherlands. She composed for relatively large-scale orchestras (for the time, at least), so it seems she was not restricted by later ideals of “women’s’ music” which shackled Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn to writing smaller scale works. Although it seems that she did not organize performances of her pieces (unlike other aristocratic composers of the time – including Anna Amalia of Prussia), she was acknowledged even by critics of her own time.

The aria that I’ve chosen is called Che non mi disse un di and is from her Op. 4. The libretto is from Metastasio’s L’Olimpiade, and the entire opus is in fact dedicated to him. The aria is not only incredibly beautiful, but extremely virtuosic. The anger with which the singer describes her lover’s betrayal is contrasted with her sadness at losing him again. It was part of the livestream mini-concert on June 20, and you can watch it below. I hope you enjoy the performance, and if you’re interested in learning the piece you can find music at Hildegard Publishing.

It was difficult to find much information about Josina – this article owes a lot of thanks to “Women Composers: Music through the Ages”, and to the Oxford Music Online. Helen Metzlaar has also written a biography about the composer, “An Unknown 18th-Century Dutch Woman Composer: Josina Boetzelaer (1733-1797)”.


Amy Beach Mini-concert

Lisa Newill-Smith, soprano
David Wishart, pianist

Performed in Stralsund on 23 May 2020

Shakespeare Songs (1897)
1. O Mistress Mine
2. Take, O take those lips away
3. Fairy Lullaby

Nocturne for solo piano Op. 107 (1924)

3 Browning Songs (1900)
1. The Year’s at the Spring
2. Ah, Love but a day!
3. I send my heart up to thee!


Clara Schumann livestream

Mini-Concert of Clara Schumann’ Op. 13 and Amy Beach’s Ye banks and braes (Robert Burns) on 14 April 2020

Lisa Newill-Smith, soprano and David Wishart pianist

English Translation by David Wishart

Six songs op.13

1. I stood in dark dreams (Heinrich Heine)

I stood in dark dreams and gazed at her portrait,
and that beloved face furtively came alive.

Around her lips a wonderful smile appeared
and as if from melancholy tears her two eyes gleamed.

My tears also flowed down from my cheeks, and ah, I can’t believe,
that I have lost you!

2. They loved one another (Heinrich Heine)

They both loved one another, but neither
would confess it to the other.
They glared at each other so coldly,
yet wanted to die of love.

They finally separated and saw each other
only occasionally in their dreams.
They were already long dead
and hardly even knew it.

3. Love’s Spell (Emanuel Geibel)

Love sat like a nightingale
in the rose bush and sang;
the wondrous sweet sound flew
all across the green forest.

And as it sounded, there rose in a circle
perfume from a thousand flowers,
and all the treetops rustled softly,
and the air went even more quietly;

the brooks were silent, they hardly
rippled down from the heights
the little deer stood as if in a dream
and listened to the sound.

And bright and ever brighter flowed
the sun’s brilliance,
around flowers, forest and canyon
a golden red glow poured.

I however was walking along the path
and heard the sound too.
Alas! From that hour on what I sang
was just its echo.

4. the moon comes silently (Emanuel Geibel)

The moon comes silently
with its golden shine,
meanwhile in beautiful splendor
the tired earth sleeps.

And on the skies sway
from many a faithful mind
many thousand thoughts of love
over the sleepers.

And down in the valley
the windows of my beloved’s house sparkle;
I however am in the dark
silently staring out into the world.

5. I have seen in your eyes (Friedrich Rückert)

I have seen in your eyes
the shine of eternal love,
I saw on your cheeks
the roses of heaven blooming.

And though the shine in your eyes is extinguished
and though the roses are scattered,
their reflection, eternally refreshed,
has stayed in my heart,

And never will I look at your cheeks
and never gaze in your eyes,
without the roses blooming on them
without them sending the shine to me.

6. The silent lotus flower (Emanuel Geibel)

The silent lotus flower
rises from the blue lake,
the leaves flicker and flash,
the cup is white as snow.

On it the moon pours from the sky
all its golden shine,
it pours all its rays
into the flower’s bosom.

In the water around the flower
a white swan circles,
it sings so sweetly, so softly
and looks at the flower.

It sings so sweetly, so softly
and wants to perish in singing.
O flower, white flower,
can you understand the song?