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Classical Music by Women Composers

The well-known classical composers are almost exclusively men, but throughout the history of Western music there have been women composers whose works often rival those of their better-known male contemporaries. The composers here are only a brief introduction; to explore further, see Historical Women Composers.

Renaissance

Very little is known about Sor Gracia Baptista except that she was a Spanish nun. Her brief setting of the hymn Conditor Alme ("Creator of the Stars of Night"), published in 1577, is the earliest known keyboard work by a woman composer.

Baroque

Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre (c. 1664-1729) was a child prodigy at the keyboard, and is credited by Couperin with helping to form the French harpsichord style. She was godmother and teacher to composer Louis-Claude Daquin.

Classical

Little is known about Anna Bon (c. 1740-after 1767). She was another child keyboard prodigy, and still a teenager when she published a collection of six sonatas.

Romantic and Modern

Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel (1805-1847) was the elder sister of Felix Mendelssohn. She wrote over 250 songs (some of which were published under her brother's name) and dozens of piano pieces, along with chamber and choral music.

Clara Wieck Schumann (1819-1896) composed many songs, pieces for solo piano, and pieces for piano and orchestra. She toured extensively as a concert pianist, and was known for her performances of music by Brahms and her husband, Robert Schumann.

Amy Marcy Cheney Beach, or Mrs. H.H.A. Beach (1867-1944), was the first well-known American woman composer. She wrote in many genres, from piano solo to orchestra, and was a virtuoso pianist as well.


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Updated 12/08/2010.