Songs From A Woman's Heart

I am so excited to be presenting this vocal recital in Bristol, London & Singapore in 2022.

I have chosen a selection of songs about love composed by Women composers. This page is the online programme for the recital. Hope you enjoy learning about these fascinating and talented women and come listen to the recital if you are in any of the cities we are performing in.

Do please get in touch if you'd like us to perform this recital in your city or for an event.

We'd love to share this wonderful music with you.

Concert Programme : 

Three Browning Songs

1. The year’s at the spring

2. Ah, Love, but a day!

3. I send my heart up to thee

Amy Marcy Cheney Beach (September 5, 1867 – December 27, 1944) was an American composer and pianist. She was the first successful American female composer of large-scale art music. Despite Beach’s early promise, her domineering mother at first refused to sanction a life as a touring pianist. “Careers for women outside the home were hardly the accepted practice,” Ms. Block writes of the era. “Upper-class women gifted in music were turned from any thought of such a life plan because of the stigma attached to those who appeared as performers on the public stage.” Beach was eventually allowed to make her public debut as a performer. But when her family consulted a prominent conductor about how to further her growth as a composer, he recommended self-study. While American composers of the time typically travelled to Europe for private instruction, women were perceived as intuitive musicians and not capable of intensive training. At 18, she married an eminent doctor, Henry H. A. Beach. Pressured to conform to expectations for an upper-class wife, she curtailed her public recitals. Henry Beach did not want her to take composition lessons, either — he feared, patronizingly, that it might change her creative voice — but he still pressed her to work. “It was he more than any one else who encouraged my interest upon the field of musical composition in the larger forms,” she wrote of her husband. “It was pioneer work, at least for this country, for a woman to do.” Her "Gaelic" Symphony, premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1896, was the first symphony composed and published by an American woman. She was one of the first American composers to succeed without the benefit of European training, and one of the most respected and acclaimed American composers of her era.

The year’s at the spring,

And day’s at the morn;

Morning’s at seven;

The hill-side’s dew-pearl’d;

The lark’s on the wing;

The snail’s on the thorn;

God’s in His heaven–

All’s right with the world!

I send my heart up to thee, all my heart

In this my singing,

For the stars help me, and the sea, and the sea bears part;

The very night is clinging

Closer to Venice’ streets to leave on space

Above me, whence thy face

May light my joyous heart to thee, to thee its dwelling place.

Ah, Love, but a day,

And the world has changed!

The sun’s away,

And the bird estranged;

The wind has dropped,

And the sky’s deranged;

Summer has stopped.

Look in my eyes!

Wilt thou change too?

Should I fear surprise?

Shall I find aught new

In the old and dear,

In the good and true,

With the changing year?

1. Bei dir ist es traut

2. Ich wandle unter Blumen

3. Laue Sommernacht

Alma Maria Mahler Gropius Werfel (born Alma Margaretha Maria Schindler; 31 August 1879 – 11 December 1964) was an Austrian composer, author, editor, and socialite. Born into the dying days of the Habsburg Empire, Alma Mahler was at the epicentre of fin de siècle Vienna's artistic and intellectual life. A talented composer in her own right, she was open, generous, remarkably creative, curious, challenging and zealous in her pursuit of love. Artists, architects, musicians and writers jostled to join her coterie. Gustav Mahler was her first husband; Gustav Klimt her first kiss. At 15, she was mentored by Max Burckhard. Musically active from her early years, she was the composer of nearly fifty songs for voice and piano, and works in other genres as well. Only 17 songs are known to survive.

In her early years, she fell in love with composer and conductor Alexander von Zemlinsky, but their relationship did not last long. She became the wife of composer Gustav Mahler, who insisted (as a condition of their marriage) that she give up composing. Eventually she fell into depression from being artistically stifled. While her marriage was struggling, she had an affair with Walter Gropius. Gustav started to encourage Alma's composing and helped prepare some of her compositions for publication, but died soon after this attempted reconciliation in 1911. The great men who were drawn into Alma's wake would be indelibly touched by her power and brilliance: from her second husband Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus and modernist architecture, to the Expressionist painter Oskar Kokoschka and her last husband, writer Franz Werfel. But her life was inflected by tragedy, and the love, support and inspiration that Alma gave to the men she loved came at the heavy price of her own artistic fulfilment. 

Bei dir ist es traut:

Zage Uhren schlagen

wie aus weiten Tagen.

Komm mir ein Liebes sagen -

aber nur nicht laut.

Ein Tor geht irgendwo

draussen im Blütentreiben.

Der Abend horcht an den Scheiben.

Lass uns leise bleiben:

Keiner weiss uns so.

- Rainer Maria Rilke

Ich wandle unter Blumen

Und blühe selber mit;

Ich wandle wie im Traume

Und schwanke bei jedem Schritt.

O, halt mich fest, Geliebte!

Vor Liebestrunkenheit

Fall' ich dir sonst zu Füßen,

Und der Garten ist voller Leut’.

- Heinrich Heine

Laue Sommernacht: am Himmel

Stand kein Stern, im weiten Walde

Suchten wir uns tief im Dunkel,

Und wir fanden uns.

Fanden uns im weiten Walde

In der Nacht, der sternenlosen,

Hielten staunend uns im Arme

In der dunklen Nacht.

War nicht unser ganzes Leben

So ein Tappen, so ein Suchen?

Da: In seine Finsternisse

Liebe, fiel Dein Licht.

-Gustav Falke

With you it is safe:

clocks strike hesitantly,

like they did in distant days.

Say something loving to me -

but not aloud.

A gate opens somewhere

out there in the blossoming flowers

Evening listens at the window-panes.

Let us stay quiet,

no one knows we're here.

 

I wander among flowers

And blossom with them;

I wander as in a dream

And sway with every step.

O, hold me fast, beloved!

Or drunk with love

I’ll fall at your feet –

And the garden is full of people.

Mild summer night: in the sky

Not a star, in the deep forest

We sought each other in the dark

And found one another.

Found one another in the deep wood

In the night, the starless night,

And amazed, we embraced

In the dark night.

Our entire life – was it not

Such a tentative quest?

There: into its darkness,

O Love, fell your light.

1. Mignonne

2. Écrin

3. Mots d’amour

Cécile Louise Stéphanie Chaminade (8 August 1857 – 13 April 1944) was a French composer and pianist.  In 1913, she was awarded the Légion d'Honneur, a first for a female composer. Ambroise Thomas said, "This is not a woman who composes, but a composer who is a woman."

Her first experiments in composition took place in very early days, and in her eighth year she played some of her music to Georges Bizet, who was much impressed with her talents and suggested she enroll in the Paris Conservatoire but her father refused saying 'girls of the bourgeoisie were intended to be wives and mothers'. Nevertheless Bizet saw to it she received a private music education paralleled to that of the Conservatory.  She gave her first concert when she was eighteen, and from that time on her work as a composer gained steadily in favour. She performed throughout Europe and also toured the United States, where her performances  inspired hundreds of women to found eponymous musical societies: “Chaminade Clubs." She performed regularly in England where Queen Victoria was one of her enthusiastic supporters and invited her to Windsor. She was a prolific composer who published more than four hundred pieces over her eighty-six years. She wrote mostly character pieces for piano, and salon songs, which were written off by the critical establishment as a composer of “salon music.”; dismissed for their “femininity,” her concert works  however faced criticism for being fraudulently “masculine,” as in this 1889 review of her Concertstück: “A work that is strong and virile, too virile perhaps, and. . . I almost regretted not having found further those qualities of grace and gentleness that reside in the nature of women.” The following, which ran in the New York Evening Post, moves from sexual aesthetics to blatant sexism in its review of one of Chaminade’s 1908 Carnegie Hall performances: “[Chaminade’s music] has a certain feminine daintiness and grace, but it is amazingly superficial and wanting in variety. . . .  But on the whole this concert confirmed the conviction held by many that while women may some day vote, they will never learn to compose anything worth while. All of them seem superficial when they write music. . . .” 

Mignonn', allon voir si la rose

Qui ce matin avoit declose

Sa robe de pourpr' au soleil,

A point perdu, cette vesprée,

Le plis de sa robe pourprée,

Et son teint au vostre pareil.

Las, voyés comm' en peu d'espace, Mignonn', ell' a dessus la place,

Las, las, ses beautés laissé cheoir!

Ô vrayement maratre nature,

Puis qu'une telle fleur ne dure,

Que du matin jusques au soir!

Donc, si vous me croiés, mignonne:

Tandis que vostr' age fleuronne

En sa plus verte nouveauté,

Cueillés, cueillés vostre jeunesse,

Comm' à cette fleur, la viellesse

Fera ternir vostre beauté. - Pierre Ronsard

Écrin

Tes yeux malicieux

Ont la couleur de l'émeraude.

Leurs purs reflets délicieux

Egaient I'humeur la plus grimaude.

Dans leurs filets capricieux

Ils ont pris mon coeur en maraude . . .

Tes yeux malicieux

Ont la couleur de l'émeraude.

Tes lèvres de satin

Sont un nid de chaudes caresses,

Un fruit savoureux qui se teint

De rayonnements de tendresse.

Et ton baiser, commne un lutin,

Verse d'ineffables ivresses . . .

Tes lèvres de satin

Sont un nid de chaudes caresses.

Ton âme est un bijou,

Le diamant de ma couronne;

C'est le plus délicat joujou

De mon amour qu'elle enfleuronne;

C'est le parfum qui me rend fou,

Le doux charme qui m'environne . . .

Ton âme est un bijou,

Le diamant de ma couronne!

- Rene Niverd

Mots d'amour 

Quand je te dis des mots lassés,

C'est leur douleur qui fait leurs charmes!

Ils balbutient, et c'est assez,

Les mots ont des larmes.

Quand je te dis des mots fougueux,

Ils brûlent mon coeur et mes lèvres,

Ton être s'embrase avec eux,

Les mots ont des fièvres.

Mais quels qu'ils soient, les divins mots,

Les seuls mots écoutés des femmes,

Dans leurs soupirs ou leurs sanglots,

Les mots ont des âmes.

- Charles Fuster

Sweetheart, let us see if the rose

that only this morning unfolded

its scarlet dress in the sun

has lost, at vesper-time,

the folds of its scarlet dress

and its colour, so like yours.

Alas! See how rapidly,

Sweetheart, she has let

her beauty fall all over the place!

Nature is truly a cruel stepmother

when such a flower only lasts

from dawn to dusk!

So if you hear me, Sweetheart,

while your age flowers

in its greenest newness,

gather, gather your youth.

Age will tarnish your beauty

as it has faded this flower.

Jewellery Case

Your mischievous eyes

are the colour of emeralds.

Their pure, delicious rays

cheer the gloomiest moods.

In their capricious nets

they have caught my wandering heart.

Your mischievous eyes

are the colour of emeralds.

Your satin lips

are a nest of hot caresses,

a tasty fruit tinted

with rays of tenderness,

and your kiss, like an elf,

pours out ineffable drunkenness.

Your satin lips

are a nest of hot caresses.

Your soul is a jewel,

the diamond in my crown.

It's the most delicate bauble

of my flower scented love.

It's the perfume that drives me mad,

the sweet charm that surrounds me.

Your soul is a jewel,

the diamond in my crown!

Words of Love

When I speak to you with weary words

It is their sadness that gives them charm!

They hesitate and it is enough

The words have tears.

When I speak to you with fiery words,

They burn my heart and lips,

Your being is caught in their blaze,

The words have passion.

But whatever they may be, the divine words,

The only words that women hear,

In their sighs or in their sobs,

The words have souls

Intermission - 10 mins

1. Er ist gekommen in Sturm und Regan

2. Liebst du um Schonheit

3. Mein Stern 

Clara Schumann née Wieck (1819–1896) was born in Leipzig, Germany, to a talented singer mother and a difficult and domineering father who was nonetheless a piano teacher of high repute who pushed her to become a child prodigy. At 14, she gave the premiere of her own Piano Concerto, with Mendelssohn conducting. By 18, she had become one of the leading virtuosos in Europe; She first met Robert Schumann when he came to study with Mr. Wieck in 1830. In 1840, Clara and Robert married, over Wieck’s strenuous objections. In the early years of their marriage, she did manage to compose some songs and piano pieces, but when the family moved to Düsseldorf in 1853, she became significantly more productive, composing several major works, including her Op. 20 Variations on a theme of Robert Schumann and Six Songs, Op. 23. She had eight children and took charge of many of the household responsibilities. The marriage between Robert and Clara Schumann was unique in musical history. They were attracted to each other not only because of their common love of music and physical attraction, but also because their creative tendencies complemented each other so well. For Robert's 31st birthday, his first birthday during their marriage, Clara was inspired to give him a present that would stay with him forever. She writes music to a poem that had always shown how she felt for him. On June 8th, 1841, she presents her song to to him, Liebst du um Schönheit, with words by Friedrich Rückert: Robert and Clara jointly publish music together, including this song. The title page of the collection, listed as Opus 37/12, gives no indication as to the authorship of each song. Although Robert composed nine of the songs and Clara composed three, they feel that they have composed all of them together. Tragically, Robert suffered a mental collapse in 1854, attempted suicide, and was placed in an asylum, after which she never saw him again. He died there two and a half years later at 46. Clara composed little in the years following Robert’s death, leaving us with just 23 published works.

Er ist gekommen,

in Sturm und Regen 

Ihm schlug beklommen

mein Herz entgegen.

Wie konnt’ ich ahnen,

Dass seine Bahnen

Sich einen sollten meinen Wegen?

Er ist gekommen

In Sturm und Regen,

Er hat genommen

Mein Herz verwegen.

Nahm er das meine?

Nahm ich das seine?

Die beiden kamen sich entgegen.

Er ist gekommen

In Sturm und Regen,

Nun ist gekommen

Des Frühlings Segen.

Der Freund zieht weiter,

Ich seh’ es heiter,

Denn er bleibt mein auf allen Wegen.

- Friedrich Rückert

Liebst du um Schönheit,

O nicht mich liebe!

Liebe die Sonne,

Sie trägt ein goldnes Haar.

Liebst du um Jugend,

O nicht mich liebe!

Liebe den Frühling,

Der jung ist jedes Jahr.

Liebst du um Schätze,

O nicht mich liebe!

Liebe die Meerfrau,

Sie hat viel Perlen klar.

Liebst du um Liebe,

O ja, mich liebe!

Liebe mich immer,

Dich lieb’ ich immerdar.

-Friedrich Rückert

Mein Stern

O du mein Stern,

Schau dich so gern,

Wenn still im Meere die Sonne sinket,

Dein gold’nes Auge so tröstend winket

In meiner Nacht!

O du mein Stern,

Aus weiter Fern’,

Bist du ein Bote mit Liebesgrüßen,

Laß deine Strahlen mich durstig küssen

In banger Nacht.

O du mein Stern,

Verweile gern,

Und lächelnd führ’ auf des Lichts Gefieder

Der Träume Engel dem Freunde wieder

In seine Nacht.

-Friederike Serre

He came

In storm and rain;

My anxious heart

Beat against his.

How could I have known

That his path

Should unite itself with mine?

He came

In storm and rain;

Audaciously

He took my heart.

Did he take mine?

Did I take his?

Both drew near to each other.

He came

In storm and rain.

Now spring’s blessing

Has come.

My friend journeys on,

I watch with good cheer,

For he shall be mine wherever he goes.

If you love for beauty,

O love not me!

Love the sun,

She has golden hair.

If you love for youth,

O love not me!

Love the spring

Which is young each year.

If you love for riches,

O love not me!

Love the mermaid

Who has many shining pearls.

If you love for love,

Ah yes, love me!

Love me always,

I shall love you ever more.

My star

O you my star,

I love to observe you,

When the sun slips quietly into the sea,

And your golden gaze beckons so consolingly

In my night!

O you my star,

From afar

You bring me tidings of love,

Let me passionately kiss your rays

In fearful night.

O you my star,

Linger gladly,

And smilingly on the wings of light

Escort once more the angel of dreams to your friend

In his night.

1. Canción de la Infanta

2. Havanaisee

3. Hai Luli

Pauline Viardot-García, a French mezzosoprano and composer of Spanish descent, was a leading figure in late-19th century musical life throughout Europe. She was born into a famous musical family; her father, Manuel García, was an esteemed vocal pedagogue and her older sister, Maria Malibran, was one of the most adored opera singers of her time. Viardot quickly became a sensation after her operatic debut in London and enjoyed an international career of stardom that she maintained for most of her adult life. She made significant contributions to the operatic stage, music composition and in the world of music salons, which she often held in her home. She also had a tremendous influence on the careers of many of France’s most well known composers including Saint-Saëns, Liszt, Gounod, Berlioz, Meyerbeer and Fauré.

18-years-old, Viardot married Louis Viardot, director of the Théâtre Italien and 21 years her senior in order to support herself. This marriage, while practical, was a great sacrifice for Viardot in her life; she relinquished the opportunity to have a passionate romantic relationship. This circumstance tormented her, especially with regards to Ivan Turgenev, the Russian author with whom she maintained a love affair for most of her adult life. She did not, at any point in her career, allow the traditional responsibilities of wife and mother overshadow her musical pursuits but instead was fiercely dedicated to her art at all costs. While her voice was the instrument through which she achieved her great career and was able to provide guidance to the many French composers that admired her, Viardot’s operatic success only spanned a period of twenty-two years due to the strain she put on her voice and her insistence to sing any music she enjoyed, whether it suited her or not. Her later life was devoted to teaching voice and composing music. As a composer, Viardot was drawn to dramatic texts. She wrote 100 songs in several different languages and styles with the technical abilities of herself and her students in mind. Most of her music was published while she was still alive, a testament to her popularity and to the quality of her compositions. Beyond her song output, Viardot composed four operettas (three with with libretti by Ivan Turgenev), an opera, Cendrillon, chamber music, and several small-scale piano works. Viardot was unafraid to approach art in her own way, even when that meant sacrificing time with her family, the longevity of her voice, and relationships with friends and colleagues. The breadth of her compositions and her insistence on communicating with others by writing music in several languages and styles, speaks to her worldliness and desire to connect and find common ground with her audience.

Canción de la Infanta

Hablando estaba la reina

En su palacio real

Con la infanta de Castilla,

Princesa de Portugal.

Ay! que malas penas!

Ay! que fuerte mal!

Allí vino un caballero

Con grandes lloros llorar:

"Nuevas te traigo, señora,

Dolorosas de contar.

Ay, no son de reyno estraño,

De aquí son, de Portugal.

Vuestro príncipe, señora,

Vuestro príncipe real

Es caído de un caballo,

El alma quiere a Dios dar.

Si le queredes ver vivo,

No queredes detardar.

Alli est´ el Rey su padre,

Que quiere desesperara.

Lloran todas las mujeres

Casadas y por casar.

Havanaise

Vente, niña, conmigo al mar,

Que en la playa tengo un bajel.

Bogaremos a dos en él,

Que allí sólo se sabe amar.

Ay, rubita, si tú supieras!

Dame, dame tu amar.

-Louis Pomey

Hai Luli 

Je suis triste, je m'inquiète,

Je ne sais plus que devenir.

Mon bon ami devait venir,

Et je l'attends ici seulette.

Hai luli, hai luli,

Où peut donc être mon ami ?

Je m'assieds pour filer ma laine,

Le fil se casse dans ma main :

Allons ! je filerai demain,

Aujourd'hui je suis trop en peine.

Hai luli, hai luli,

Qu'il fait donc triste san son ami !

Si jamais il devient volage,

S'il doit un jour m'abandonner,

Le village n'a qu'à brûler

Et moi-même avec le village !

Hai luli, hai luli,

À quoi bon vivre sans ami ?

- Xavier de Maistre

Song of the Infanta

The queen was talking 

in her palace royal

with the princess of Castille.

Princess of Portugal.

Ah! what bad pain!

Ah! what strong evil!

There came a horseman

with great sobs to weep:

"News to you I bring , lady,

of great sadness,

Alas, not from a foreign kingdom,

from here, from Portugal.

Your prince, lady,

your prince royal

has fallen from a horse,

His soul is going to God.

If you want to see him alive,

Do not delay.

The King his father,

he is about to despair.

Weep all the women

married and unmarried.

Come, little one, with me to the sea,

That on the beach I have a boat.

We shall sail as two in it,

That there you only know how to love.

Oh, blonde, if you only knew!

Give me, give me your love.

I am sad, I worry,

I not know more what will come.

My friend ought to come

and I wait for him alone

Ah, Alas,

Where can my friend be.

I sit down to spin my wool

the thread breaks in my hand

Lets go, I will spin tomorrow,

Today I am too much in pain

Ah, Alas,

How sad it is without my friend.

If ever he becomes fickle,

if he were one day to abandon me,

the village will burn

and I along with the village !

Ah, Alas,

For what good is it to live without my friend?

Thank you for joining us on this musical journey.

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Bristol, UK

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