Camille Pepin (29 years old) became this year the first composer awarded at the “Victoires de la musique classique”.
August 2, 2020 7h53
A site dedicated to women composers, to discover the “matrimoine musical”
PARIS — Francesca Caccini in the 17th century to be Camille Pepin in the 21st : a digital platform lists the works of more than 700 composers to discover artists for a long time overshadowed.
Called “Ask Clara,” in reference to Clara Schumann — a brilliant pianist, composer and wife of the famous composer — this free database was launched in June by a team led by Claire Bodin, director of the festival “female Presences”, devoted to composers of the past and present.
“Since our early childhood, we don’t hear music of women composers, or so rarely that we don’t keep the memory,” says Mrs. Bodin to the AFP.
“For us musicians, no matrimoine was passed; it was biberonné to the idea of the genius of the great composer, always a man, without ever questioning the repertoire of women composers”.
This tool, funded by the cultural action of the Sacem, has listed no less than 4662 works 770 composers of 60 nationalities, from 1618 to 2020.
The site plans to add 4000 more artworks in the autumn, including those of Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), saint of the catholic Church and one of the first composers known.
The search is done by name, title, instrument, country or time period. Among the most ancient, the Italian Francesca Caccini — who would be the first woman to have composed an opera, Isabella Leonarda and Barbara Strozzi, one of the first composers professional, yet the French Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre.
And the platform has a lot of composers from anglo-saxon countries are “much more advanced in this area,” says Mrs. Bodin.
Enrich, and not to rewrite
A work of long-term research that began in 2006 and which is not launched “because it is a trendy topic”.
“This is not a question of rewriting History, but to enrich the repertoire,” says Mrs. Bodin. “We don’t just need the program because they are women and to give oneself a good conscience, but because he has a real artistic interest”.
For the harpsichordist who has set aside her career to devote herself to these projects, the non-programming of women composers, remains a major obstacle to the dissemination of their works.
For the past ten years, she regularly gives lectures on the subject, and few among the audience are those who can give names beyond the “top 5” composers, like Clara Schumann, Fanny Mendelssohn, Lili Boulanger, or the contemporary work of Betsy Jolas and Kaija Saariaho.
“To the concert halls, there is the stress of filling” which is usually based on the big names like Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, or Bach.
“We only see the top of the iceberg, because even in men there are a bunch of composers who deserve to be put in before,” recalls Ms. Bodin.
“It is important that the world starts to program of women composers, as artists, if they are not assured that other rooms do, will be reluctant to play these partitions.”
In march, the festival “female Presences” was postponed in October (12 to 20). Since its creation, the seven works of women composers have been commissioned, including one by the young Camille Pepin (29 years old), became this year the first composer awarded at the “Victoires de la musique classique”.
For its issue of 2021, the festival has launched a call for projects for the creation of a musical tale for young people. Cécile Buchet took on 15 women composers.
For Ms. Bodin, the valuation of the composers must also be conducted at the level of conservatories.
Interviewed by the AFP in 2019, Camille Pepin had indicated that she was the only girl in the classes of composition at the Paris Conservatoire. “But today, the teachers that I meet and the young musicians want to move it; there are assumptions that have the tooth hard, but who begin to fall”.