ProMusica presents a piano recital by Italian pianist Orietta Caianello on 30 October 2012, 7 pm at Angels Resort Porvorim Goa (Donation passes available at Furtados Music stores in Panjim and Margao, and at the venue). She discusses her concert in an exclusive interview to the Navhind Times.

Welcome to Goa, Ms. Caianello! Is this your first time in India too?

No, I have been in India briefly as a young girl, but only to Delhi (and Agra), and I have fabulous recollections of the country.

Your concert programme is most unusual, devoted to women composers like Clara Wieck Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel who hardly ever get the limelight. How did this interest develop? Did it stem from the vantage point of your being a female pianist yourself?

My interest in female composers has multiple origins: initially I casually came across some their works, but then reading their fascinating biographies, I started following a fil-rouge (guiding thread) which made me know more and more of them and their music- which I started collecting. Many scholars have written books about gender studies related to music, and devoted to the rediscovery of such female characters, framing them in a sociological and historical context. The questions arising about both their true role in music as well as about a feminine aesthetic are very interesting. Of course, being a woman performer, I have a special empathy towards such brilliant composers and their lives. So, both intellectually and emotionally, I started feeling it as a duty to make their voice and sound heard again, especially since the mainstream music world has shunned them.

The careers of these women composers are quite remarkable, many of them achieving great acclaim during their lives. Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn are better known among the composers on your programme, but it was interesting also to look up the biographies of Auernhammer (pupil of Mozart) and Martinez (briefly a pupil of Haydn, and with quite an impressive list of compositions). What do you think is the reason their music faded from the concert stage? Was it just gender bias?

Most women composers ended their active musical engagement as soon as they married, since their acknowledged social role was that of wives and mothers – other accomplishments were unnecessary, if not biased. Furthermore they did not have access to public musical education before the second half of the 19th century, and also then, composition classes were only for men. Felix (Mendelssohn) prohibited to his sister Fanny the publication of her works; she eventually freed herself from this constraint a year before her death. As a consequence, if it may be said that the whole corpus of their production is not always of first-class value (with some exceptions), and that women were better performers than composers, they ought to still have ranked among the category of ‘minor’ composers and been given their place in history. If that was denied to them, yes, it is because of a male-oriented vision.

One can easily assume that those few who got to public renown did really have exceptional talents, like in the case of Martinez (whose works were unfortunately destroyed in a fire at the Vienna National Library), or of Fanny Mendelssohn.

Are there any definitive recordings of this neglected repertoire? Do you have plans to record them yourself?

You can very easily find recordings of Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn, but so far there are none of Auernhammer and Martinez, and I would really like to record their works on CD myself.

There are more and more women composers in contemporary classical music (Sofia Gubaidulina, Jennifer Higdon spring to mind), so do you think the male bastion in music will eventually fall completely?

The situation changed for women from the end of the 19th century, and nowadays the role of women composers is fully acknowledged. Nevertheless, some of them think that some degree of discrimination still exists.

Goa looks forward very much to your concert, Ms. Caianello! All the very best!

Thank you very much. I am looking forward very much to this concert as well.


(This article appeared in the Navhind Times on October 26, 2012)