A record label emerges from the obscurity of forgotten female composers

Women’s contribution to classical music has been almost entirely ignored. A French record label is changing that

Unsung heroines of classical music are resurrected from obscurity thanks to a new label dedicated to female composers.

The Nugget Box (The Jewel Box) was founded by French cellist Héloïse Luzzati. It is based on the festival “Elles – Femmes compositrices” and Youtube channel she began to promote forgotten creators.

Many of the label’s composers have never been recorded, and Luzzati has spent hours poring over original manuscripts and first editions to rescue their work from obscurity.

Luzzati was inspired to act upon realizing that she had spent the better part of three decades studying and performing works created entirely by men.

“How could I have gone so many years without ever having played a piece composed by a woman? she says. “Too few women’s works are published and therefore even fewer recorded.”

Search by charity Donne, women in music found that only 5% of the 15,000 works performed by orchestras during the 2020-2021 season were composed by women. Luzzati believes this gender inequality is rooted in the classroom.

Luzzati started the label after realizing she had spent her career playing men’s music. Image: Nasturtium of Choqueuse

“This problem is present from the time we learn music as children,” she said. “We do not work on any, or almost, pieces by female composers throughout our studies. They are absent from music theory lessons, music history lessons.

The first UK release of La Boîte à Pépites – which debuted in September – is a three-CD set of the work of the late French composer Charlotte Sohy, who died in 1955.

Sohy, a mother of seven who survived two world wars, often composed under the name of her grandfather Charles, in an effort to escape prejudice.

Luzzati describes Sohy’s work, which includes 35 different compositions, as “sometimes impressionistic, sometimes figurative, in the colors of Ravel, Chausson or Debussy”.

Works by little-known British composers such as Liza Lehmann, Alice Mary Smith and Adela Maddison are in the works.

“I hope that by rehabilitating these female composers of the past, we will provide access to a fairer version of music history for younger generations,” Luzzati said.

Main image: Hakase/iStock

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