Five Female Composers You Should Know About
By Celia Casey
We’ve compiled a list of five female composers we think you should know about even if history has overlooked them.
1. Maria Anna (‘Nannerl’) Mozart
Nannerl and her brother Wolfgang Amadeus were both child prodigies, but when she reached what was deemed as a ‘marriageable age’ she was no longer allowed to tour with her sibling. She composed music described by her famous brother as ‘beautiful’, however her work was overlooked by her father who focused on his son’s output, and none of her compositions survived.
2. Madeleine Dring
Aside from composing, Madeleine Dring was also talented and versatile in the areas of music performance, art, and theatre. At the age of ten she began lessons at the Royal College of Music in the junior department, and received scholarships for both violin and piano at the school. Her output mainly consists of works for solo piano, songs with piano, and chamber music.
3. Lili and Nadia Boulanger
Lili Boulanger (pictured) was a talented French composer and the first woman to win the acclaimed Prix de Rome composition prize at the age of 19 with her enthralling Faust et Hélène (although some say this was only because she was on her deathbed at the time and, as such, didn’t present any real threat to her male cohort). Her older sister, Nadia, was also a talented composer, who wrote works such as the celestial Lux aeterna, and an influential teacher whose extensive list of students ranges from Quincy Jones and Burt Bacharach to Aaron Copland, Elliott Carter, and Philip Glass!
4. Germaine Tailleferre
Germaine Tailleferre was the only female member of Les Six (The Six), a group of French composers including Francis Poulenc and Erik Satie. Despite a lack of support from her father, she wrote many compositions, for example her Pastorale, an evocative setting of the countryside, and continued to compose until just a few weeks before she died.
5. Elena Kats-Chernin AO
In 2019, Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for her outstanding service to the performing arts. Her music has been featured in film, television, sports events (including the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games and the 2003 Rugby World Cup), and can be regularly heard on ABC Classic.