Ethel Smyth

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POSTED: December 13, 2020

Ethel Smyth composed music, and achieved great fame. Then, like many women composers, she got forgotten about. In 2006 Eugene Gates wrote that

Smyth’s music was seldom evaluated as simply the work of a composer among composers, but as that of a “woman composer.” This worked to keep her on the margins of the profession, and, coupled with the double standard of sexual aesthetics, also placed her in a double bind. On the one hand, when she composed powerful, rhythmically vital music, it was said that her work lacked feminine charm; on the other, when she produced delicate, melodious compositions, she was accused of not measuring up to the artistic standards of her male colleagues.

I found myself thinking about this after reading Without Ethel Smyth and classical music’s forgotten women, we only tell half the story by Leah Broad in The Guardian earlier this month.

Broad’s article also references other female composers that you should know about and listen to. I will confess that I have never knowingly head a piece by Ethel Smyth, but I intend to seek some out.


I have just now looked at my library app, found several interesting cds, and ordered a Naxos CD called British Women Composers from Helsinki Library for my preliminary Christmas listening.