Which of today's composers do these eight conductors find most inspiring?

Gramophone Thu 7th March 2019

Eight leading conductors recommend inspirational music by today's composers

To mark this year's International Women's Day, BBC Radio 3 will be welcoming eight female conductors to their studio throughout the day to talk about their experiences in classical music.

We took the opportunity to ask them each about their musical interests – and which of today's composers do they find most inspiring? 

Marin Alsop

Marin Alsop

(photo: Robert Shiret)

'The music of Helen Grime is right at the front of my mind at the moment; I was so impressed by this percussion concerto she wrote for Colin Currie. Anna Clyne is someone I look to for great music. It's always emotional and driven by her heart, but skilfully composed. Anna has written several pieces for the Baltimore Symphony that we’re recording now; she also wrote a short new piece for me to take with an all-woman orchestra to the World Economic Forum at Davos.'

Stephanie Childress

Stephanie Childress

(photo: Tricia Yourkevich)

'I actually discovered Clara Schumann’s Lieder before Robert Schumann's. Her songs have always touched me in a very different way to her husband's: they're so raw and emotive, about young love and old love... she's the original.

'Tansy Davies - I think her work is so energetic. Everything she does has so much energy. She's really cool - and she's a really nice lady.'

Alice Farnham

Alice Farnham

(photo: Tricia Yourkevich)

'Elizabeth Lutyens - I think she was incredibly versatile, super-intelligent, and absolutely up there with a lot of the people of her era. She was respected in her time, but she quite quickly got forgotten.

'Anna Meredith - She is so fantastic and inventive and exciting – and witty, very witty. She pokes fun at the classical music world, in a way - and her music is cool! And so full of energy.'

Lina Gonzales-Granados

Lina Gonzales-Granados

(photo: Robert Shiret)

'I have been very passionate about advocating the music of Gabriela Lena Frank. She is an American with a huge baggage, culturally: her mum is Peruvian-Chinese, and her father is Lithuanian and Jewish, and she's from California. When she writes, she always tries to answer a question about her identity, and where she belongs. As an immigrant, living in North America, that's always a subject that is on my mind and heart. So when I hear and study her music, it's like she's helping me answer those questions for myself and making me feel that I belong.'

Karin Hendrickson

Karin Hendrickson

(photo: Tricia Yourkevich)

'Everyone should be keeping their eye on Missy Mazzoli. I'm very curious to see how she develops over time: she's been given astonishing opportunities for the next couple of years, and I look forward to seeing how she develops her voice within the orchestral system of repertoire.

'In the past there's Joanna Muller-Hermann - who is an Austrian composer who I think was quite overlooked in her time, which is a shame.'

Rebecca Miller

Rebecca Miller

(photo: Tricia Yourkevich)

'Dorothy Howell was featured at the Proms in the 1920s and 30s; she was a favourite of Henry Wood. She had great success with her tone poem, Lamia: everyone said she was the "English Strauss". 'Then she wrote her Piano Concerto, which didn't go so well in the press and she lost her confidence, in terms of orchestral music. It was almost like everyone was saying it was OK for women to compose tone poems, but when it came to orchestral music suddenly the stakes were higher and the bar was raised. She did write more orchestral music, but not as much. She just didn't think anyone was interested - but it’s beautiful music! It's really interesting, it has a unique voice - it reminds you of this and that, but it has its own style.

'Gabriela Lena Frank is a California-based composer whose music draws primarily draws on her Peruvian roots in her music – but she’s also very influenced by Bartók too. Her orchestration is just phenomenal, and she has the most wonderful titles for her pieces: I love her Concerto Cusquena.'

Valentina Peleggi

Valentina Peleggi

(photo: Tricia Yourkevich)

'Alma Mahler (actually Alma Schindler, but everyone knows her because she was Mahler's wife) was a fantastic artist, composer and writer. Her music is not much performed because she lived at a time when society didn't allow her to be an artist. But her songs are so fantastic; I really encourage people to find out more about her.

'I love Roxanna Panufnik's work. She has found her own voice, and this is very remarkable – to find a composer who listens to herself and speaks with her own language. I'm a great fan of her.'

Yshani Perinpanayagam

Yshani Perinpanayagam

(photo: Tricia Yourkevich)

'I've been listening to more and more Clara Schumann recently. What fascinates me about her music is that, while I was led to believe that it was a bit like Schumann, or Chopin, it actually doesn’t follow those patterns – it’s very much her own language.

'Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s music is varied, but it always has the players at the core. She adores giving parts to people to play that they adore playing, so they can take them and run with them. And that really affects the mood in the room of an orchestra that really wants to find what their sound is. It brings out the best in humans.'

You can hear the BBC Radio 3 interviews with the eight conductors on BBC Sounds following broadcast. 

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