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The Proms 2005 - women composers thin on the ground again
by Jenny Fowler
For several years I have been doing a survey
of the numbers of women represented in the BBC PROMS season.
The Proms is the largest music festival in the world, with 74
evening concerts, nearly all for full orchestra, as well as lunchtime
chamber music concerts and other related events. Audiences in
the Royal Albert Hall are of many thousands, and all the concerts
are broadcast, many on television.
The BBC has generally a good record with regard to women - for
instance in their orchestras - so if the inclusion of women in
the Proms seems low, one can take it that the story is probably
worse in other festivals and concert seasons (with a few honourable
Here are the figures for the 2005 PROMS:
Number of composers: 112
Women composers: 4 (3.6%)
These were: Unsuk Chin, Sofia Gubaidulina,
Tatjana Komarova, Thea Musgrave.
Three pieces by the women composers are
performed in the main evening concerts; one piece in a lunchtime
concert; and there is an early evening "proms portrait"
of Thea Musgrave.
Women conductors: 2 (3.2%)
These were Marin Alsop and Clio Gould.
Instrumental soloists: 10 women out of
These figures are very similar to the count
that I have been making since 1989. There have been better years
and there have been worse. It is particularly dispiriting to
note this year's figures regarding living composers. Among historical
composers one might expect the record to be lacking in women,
but among living British composers being played at the Proms
this year?? There are 17 of them, 16 of them are men. There
are 9 BBC commissions or co-commissions. All men.
I decided to look at a couple of other
British festivals whose programs have been announced. The City
of London Festival (June/July), has 44 listed composers, all
The Aldeburgh Festival (June) has 64 composers including one
woman (Tansy Davies - this was an Aldeburgh Festival commission).
Much better for women is the St Magnus Festival in the Orkneys
(July). There are 4 "featured composers" and 2 of
them are women (Sofia Gubaidulina and Sally Beamish). There
is also a new music theatre production from a local composer:
So if little St Magnus can do it, why
not the others??