LOUISE FARRENC – FRENCH COMPOSER AND VIRTUOSO PIANIST
Louise Farrenc (1804-75) was a French composer and virtuoso pianist. Highly-acclaimed during her lifetime, she is unquestionably deserving of our continued admiration today. You can hear the classical influence of her teacher in composition, Hummel, in many of her works. Yet like her male contemporaries, she experimented with increasingly complex harmonies and compositional structures throughout her lifetime. Robert Schumann spoke highly of her piano compositions. Today she is particularly respected for her large collection of chamber music.
It’s no secret that many women wrote music prolifically only to be under-recognised or completely forgotten. As with so many things, our musical traditions favoured the repeated performances by a handful of famous men. I am grateful for recent movement to increase diversity in programming classical music concerts. This has led to the rediscovery of many wonderful female composers. Their works are now available again in published sheet music. Increasingly record labels and streaming services such as Spotify have these great musical treasures on line.
Variations brillante sur la cavatina d’Anna Bolena de Donizetti
Variations brillante sur la cavatina d’Anna Bolena de Donizetti (Op. 15) should be the first port of call for any bel canto opera-lovers. In turns charming and virtuosic, you can decide which is more fun, to listen to or to play this set.
Variations brillante sur un theme du Colporteur de George Onslow
Variations brillante sur un theme du Colporteur de George Onslow (Op. 10) bears similarities to Mozart’s Fantasy in C Minor and Beethoven’s 32 Variations in C Minor. This work takes themes from La Colporteur (The Peddler), a forgotten opera by composer George Onslow (1784-53). Following a dramatic overture-style opening, the variations are alternately lyrical and virtuosic.
Etudes (Op. 26) range from the singable melodies of the late Classical period to fugues in the traditional Baroque style to virtuosic showpieces. All are well-crafted musically and fall nicely under the fingers. They are go-to pieces for anyone who enjoys playing Bach fugues and toccatas, Schubert Impromptus, Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words, or Beethoven Sonatas. Download the score.
Valse brillante in E-flat Major
Valse brillante in E-flat Major (Op. 48) sparkles across the keyboard with Chopinesque gaiety. In turns, it is sentimental, in others flamboyant. Download the score.
Nocturne in E-flat Major
Nocturne in E-flat Major (Op. 49) is every bit as charming as any from the famous set of Nocturnes by Chopin, and similarly shows the influence of the Irish composer John Field.
- Wikipedia has a full list of works and more information on Louise’s career.
- To hear selected works by Louise Farrenc, check out this LCSP Spotify playlist: Classical Piano by Woman Composers. We’ll be adding additional composers’ tracks soon.