I got an email from someone last week that comes to concerts. I don’t think they meant be as rude as they were, but I raised my eyebrows as I read it. I won’t quote from it, but it basically said that I wasn’t doing enough to promote the music of women composers, and I should include at least one piece in every concert.
Now, this got me thinking. Should I be doing what they wrote (not asked. Told. Yep.)? And why? Why should I have to include a piece that I mightn’t like, or want to play, for the sake of supporting women music-makers? (I hear a lot of music by women on the radio. Some of it I like enormously. Some of it underwhelms me.) The good bit about this weird email is it got me thinking about why I program particular things in concerts, and why.
So I got to wondering…. what do I want to get out of every concert? I choose things to perform to challenge me technically, musically or emotionally. I choose to do pieces that I want to play. I might want to feature the music of that particular composer (be it male, female or prefer-not-to-say). I might ask the other artist I’m playing with what they would like to do, and take their recommendations.
I know that female composers have been underrepresented. And if I like something that’s been written by a female, then of course I’ll play it. But will I play something just because it’s been written by a female? No. Would Fanny Mendelssohn want me to play her trio because I love it (which I do), and want to share it, or because it was written by a woman?
Because having to practise something that you don’t like is a drag. And I spend hours practising things before I even start rehearsing them. So I’m not going to feature pieces to appear like I’m ticking some kind of gender-balance box. It might work for others, but not me. I’d like to feature things I love and want to share, regardless of who wrote them.
So, no. I won’t play things because I feel I should, or because I’ve been told I need to. I will play things I want to, and love. I will play them to audiences as best I can. (Because I will have loved practising them, exploring them, making them a part of me.) I don’t really care who wrote them – male, female, old, young, if I would have liked them personally or not. Because for me, that’s not the important bit.