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More recent reviews, listed in the order of their publication date, with the latest review on the top of the page. For reviews by year, follow the menu in the left column.

Venus Unwrapped
In all the years they have been learning instruments or singing in choirs, no female-composed music has ever sat on the music stand either. Music of richness and variety by Marie Bigot, Fanny Hensel, Amy Beach, Bessie Smith, Leokadiya Kashperova, Vitezslava Kapralova, Grazyna Bacewicz, Sofia Gubaidulina, Meredith Monk, Unsuk Chin… all could have been taught, but haven’t been. An all-male canon is lazily perpetuated down the generations. Two major books published this year (Robert Philips’ The Classical Music Lover’s Companion and Anthony Tommasini’s The Indispensable Composers) contain no mention at all of music by women. [...] Yet, too many of the stories of women composers are tragic: the exceptionally gifted Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn were both discouraged from developing their composing talent; Rebecca Clarke wrote powerful music for her instrument, the viola, but gave up after her one ‘whiff of success’. She was doubted and she doubted herself. The extraordinary Lili Boulanger died at twenty-four having written her masterpiece Psalm 33, while Vitezslava Kapralova whose fiery, explosive music reveals a major talent died at twenty-five. The idea that all women composers wrote pale, weak, derivative music couldn’t have persisted so long if works by Boulanger, Kaprálová, Kashperova, Gubaidulina, Galina Ustvolskaya and Elizabeth Maconchy had been regularly performed. But I well remember, as a young woman working in the world of classical music critics, encountering the dismissive sneer, the sigh, the shaking of the head when a woman composer’s name was mentioned...
From a post by Helen Vallace for KnowledgeQuarter, December 18, 2018

In Review: Samantha Ege’s Four Women
Stepping confidently into the minefield of socially corrective art history, British pianist Samantha Ege offered up a touchingly personal and powerfully interpreted collection of works titled Four Women in May of 2018. Ege’s account of her encounters with the music of Florence Price, Margaret Bonds, and Vitezslava Kapralova call to mind the experience of finding home in a place one has never been. She describes immediately connecting to Kapralova’s musical language and Price’s distinctive voice, rich with historical depth and empathy. That feeling is palpable in her playing. ... For Kaprálová, a young Czech composer-pianist-conductor, the piano is liquid orchestra, alternately roaring, destroying, dripping, and flowing within the landscape of a complex emotional life. ... Four Women is truly a gem for pianists, listeners, musicologists, and cultural thinkers alike.
From a review by Cara Search for the Sybaritic Singer, November 20, 2018

Stunning piano music by four neglected female composers. Four Women: Piano music by Price, Kapralova, Bilsland and Bonds. Samantha Ege, pno. Wave Theory digital only release.
Vitezslava Kapralova (1915-1940) carved an impressive path as an acclaimed composer and conductor, rubbing shoulders with Czech musical royalty before tragically dying of tuberculosis at 25. Her Sonata Appassionata (1933) and April Preludes (1937) are captivating, harmonically rich modernist works that, like the rest of this most impressive collection, are performed with virtuosic assurance and deserving of far greater recognition that they have thus far received.
From a review by Lisa MacKinney for the Limelight Magazine, October 2018

FOUR WOMEN: MUSIC FOR SOLO PIANO BY PRICE, KAPRALOVA, BILSLAND, AND BONDS. Price: Sonata in E Minor: I. Andante – Allegro. II. Andante. III. Scherzo. Bilsland: The Birthday Party: I. Friends to Tea. II. Peep-Bo. III. Tin Soldiers. IV. Battledore and Shuttlecock. V. Ring O’Roses. VI. Sleepy Song. Kapralova: Dubnova preludia (April Preludes), Op. 13: I. Allegro ma non trope. II. Andante. III. Andante semplice. IV. Vivo. Sonata appassionata, Op. 6: I. Maestoso. II. Theme and variations. Bonds: Troubled Water / Samantha Ege, pianist / Wave Theory Records WT2018006D.
In an effort to bring a greater number of musical works by women of color—and women composers in general—to public attention, pianist Samantha Ege has completed an insightful recorded performance of a delightfully varied collection of pieces for solo piano. Ege titled the CD herself inspired by the song of Nina Simone, also called “Four Women,” released in 1966. The narrative projected in the selection of works for this recording is a more positive one than portrayed by Simone, however, in that Ege brings to light several nearly forgotten works from a variety of talented women, whose compositions, because of their creators’ gender, historical time, and race or ethnicity, have remained more or less unknown.
The two selections from Vitezslava Kapralova (1915-1940) reveal an unusually high degree of compositional maturity for such a young composer. Sonata appassionata (1933), written when she was eighteen, resulted from her student days at the Brno Conservatory, from which she claimed the distinction of being its first woman graduate. That she lived a mere twenty-five years is one of history’s cruel tragedies. Her story is well known to readers of this journal; her music is likewise becoming more familiar through the scores and CDs released with the aid of the Kapralova Society and artists such as Ege. Kapralova’s compositional style was subject to a variety of influences, from Impressionism to Czech folk tradition to the idiosyncracies of her mentor, Bohuslav Martinu. She was equally at home with the lyricism of her national heritage as with a modernist sound palette energized by Baroque techniques. Written to fulfill a school assignment, Sonata appassionata, Op. 6, represents an ambitious and virtuosic work in two movements lasting approximately twenty minutes. The first movement maestoso is held in place by the expected sonata form. Its slow, chordal introduction begins a series of explorations of the entirety of the keyboard that form the basis of extended harmonies and passages of circuitous motion steered in various directions. Such motion results in segments of momentary stasis in the spirit of Impressionism. What follows in the second movement is a straightforward folk-derived tune and six variations, the last of which is an extended and difficult fugue that occupies almost half the work. The movement displays an overall cyclical purpose when, after introducing a series of thickly textured and pungent dissonances, it resolves by recalling the majestic block chords of the first movement opening. Dubnova preludia (April Preludes), Op. 13, was completed four years later in 1937 and was written for Czech pianist Rudolph Firkušný, who became close friends with both Martinu and Kapralova. Although the title suggests a programmatic basis, Firkušný claimed that it was determined because the idea to compose the preludes had, according to Kapralova, occurred to her in the month of April. The four movements are loosely united by various forms of a five-note melodic motive; each prelude decorates a different formal structure, ranging from ternary to toccata, with a harmonic language that has grown progressively more complex since 1933. In addition, world events and the actions of an increasingly powerful Nazi regime may have left their mark on this work in terms of its moments of harsh dissonance. In the second prelude, for instance, allegedly inspired by the slow movement of Martinu’s Second Piano Concerto, Impressionist-tinged qualities are wiped clean by a sense of determined fatalism. Whereas the second prelude was driven by dissonance, the third (andante semplice) is an exercise in its opposite, more in line, at least in certain passages, with the miniatures of Bilsland than with the preceding two movements. The final prelude (vivo) takes on the character of a grotesque dance—not surprisingly, a quick polka—that accelerates to a forceful conclusion.
Samantha Ege is to be congratulated, not only for her insightful interpretation, particularly in the works of Bilsland and Bonds, but for her goal to bring the music of these composers to greater public awareness. Their works make for an interesting and balanced program, to say the least. The greater benefit of this collection, however, is to bring to life a representation of the diversity of compositional efforts by women composing during the first half of the twentieth century and to recall the political and social environments in which—and in spite of which—they were driven to express their unique artistic identities.
From a review by Judith Mabary for the Kapralova Society Journal, Fall 2018

EntArteOpera Festival: Violinkoncert und Doppelkonzerte. Ethel Smyth: Concerto for Violin, Horn and Orchestra; Vitezslava Kapralova: Concerto for Violin, Clarinet and Orchestra; Karl Amadeus Hartmann: Concerto ‘funebre’ for Violin and Strings; Bohuslav Martinu: Concerto for Violin, Piano and Orchestra. Thomas Albertus Irnberger, violin, Reinhard Wieser, Clarinet, Milena Viotti, horn, Wiener Concert-Verein, Doron Salomon; Michael Korstick, piano, Israel Chamber Orchestra, Georgishes Kammerorchester Ingolstadt, Martin Sieghart. Gramola CD 99098.
In Vitezslava Kapralova (1915-1940) we encounter a personality whose development was brought to an abrupt end by her early death so that we can only speculate about the important role she might have played in the music of the 20th century. For a long time barely noticed, in recent years a strong interest has developed in her work, most of which, fortunately, has appeared in good editions and has, in part, already been released on CD. In all these efforts the Canadian Kapralova Society, which was founded only in 1998 and is devoted to the composer’s creative work, has played a major role. A particularly interesting aspect of Kapralova’s varied oeuvre is that it was not influenced primarily by French musical life or by her contemporaries in that country. Instead she remained focused on a tonally-centred expressionism, and in this regard is related to those of her immediate Czech and Austrian countrymen who did not employ the twelve-tone system, for example Korngold, Schreker, Zemlinsky or Kornauth. The Concertino for Violin, Clarinet and Orchestra, op. 21 (1939) is without doubt one of her most advanced works in which she takes a highly personal path among the very different stylistic tendencies of the 1920s and 1930s.
From an article by Christian Heindl for Gramola.

Samantha Ege, FOUR WOMEN. Kapralova’s [April] Preludes are wonderfully angular and spiky, and you can hear the pathos in Ege’s playing: This is music that draws you in while simultaneously asserting itself against the listener with its chromaticism and changeable textural landscape. Ege understands these pieces on a fundamental level, and her rapport with the music comes shining through in her playing. I must note here also the high quality of the recording; the production is clean and intimate and perfectly suited to Ege’s nuanced performances. Be sure to check out this album of wonderful and too-often-neglected pieces: they’re in good hands.
From a review by Meghan Wilhoite for Meg’s new music blog, June 15, 2018.

Four Women: Music for Solo Piano by Price, Kapralova, Bilsland, and Bonds. Wave Theory Records MP3 release (May 4, 2018). Looking for sophisticated music for piano? Look no further. This interesting recording is offering much diversity in terms of artist voices, compositional styles and musical genres, ranging from piano miniatures to sonatas. Kapralova is arguably the winner of this album. While her compositions for piano have now been recorded a number of times and by some major labels that include Koch International Classics and Naxos, Samantha Ege discovers tenderness in Kapralova’s music not found on the other discs. The two sonatas featured on the disc (one by Kapralova, the other by Price) alone are worth buying the album but the whole project is certainly worth your time. Wave Theory Records has produced a technically fine recording, with a beautifully spacious sound. Congrats on a project well done!
A review by Karel Dragoun for amazon.com, May 2018.

Dirigentky jsou porad vzacnosti.
Vojenska symfonieta Vitezslavy Kapralove je presne to dilo, ktere ma v roce steho vyroci vzniku republiky zaznit. Je venovana prezidentu Edvardu Benesovi a mlada dvaadvacetileta autorka osobne dirigovala jeji premieru – 26. listopadu 1937 v Lucerne. Pozvat pro tuto skladbu dirigentku, ktera navic Kapralove dilo dobre zna a v roce 2015 ho kompletne uvedla, byla idealni volba. Symfonieta, ve ktere clovek podvedome vzdy slysi neco z Janacka a neco z Martinu, vyznela ve velke symfonicke siri. A Olga Machonova Pavlu vedla orchestr jasnymi a zaroven jemne elegantnimi gesty. Divak se nemohl ubranit dojmu, ze by Kapralova po dvaceti letech dirigovala prave takto.
From a review by Jindrich Balek for OperaPlus, February 8, 2018.

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