American Women Composers--Midwest | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

American Women Composers--Midwest 

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Only two decades ago a program such as this one, which showcases works by noteworthy women composers through the ages, would not have been likely; a century and a half ago, it would've been well-nigh impossible. One telling indication is that the two 19th-century women represented here are usually granted attention largely because of the fame of close male relatives: Clara Schumann was the wife of Robert (and the better pianist of the two), and Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel was Felix's sister (and just as much of a musical prodigy). Both sublimated their creative drives so as not to disturb the men's. But they did compose--mostly chamber pieces. The sampler of lieder (for mezzo-soprano) in this concert might be a sign that their sacrifice was our loss. Women composers since the 60s, of course, have had much brighter prospects. An unself-conscious yet assertive romantic strain is prevalent in several of the contemporary compositions in this survey (sponsored by Mostly Music and the midwest chapter of American Women Composers): Regina Harris Baiocchi's 1989 songs "How It Feels to Be Colored Me" and "I Am Not Tragically Colored" (based on Zora Neale Hurston's poems) are defiant Kurt Weill-ish social commentaries; On Thin Ice (1988) by Janice Misurell Mitchell has flute and guitar in a deft, graceful pas de deux; and in Shulamit Ran's East Wind (1987), a solo flute with a Middle Eastern twang soars into seductive arabesques. Performers include Diane Ragains, mezzo Bonita Hyman, flutist Caroline Pittman, and guitarist Jeffrey Kust. Tonight, 7:30 PM, auditorium, Northeastern Illinois University, 5500 N. Saint Louis; 536-4181.

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