International Women's Day 2021

International Women's Day 2021
© Brian Sheffield: Thea Musgrave

In celebration of International Women’s Day on Monday 8 and Women’s History Month all this March we are highlighting some of our composers recent and up-coming concerts and latest released recordings. We invite you to discover some of these bold and ground-breaking pieces within the Wise Music catalogues from some of the most sort after composers today.

Read our Celebrating Women Composers: A Timeline interactive brochure laid out by composer in chronological order and emphasises the rich history and output of their orchestral music in particular. We have included brief introductions to each composer, repertoire listings and links to explore the music further online.


The Orchestra of Gothenburg Opera have programmed a celebratory International Women’s Day concert on March 6 that includes the concerto for oboe and orchestra by Thea Musgrave inspired by the ancient Greek myth Helios and the anthem of the women’s suffrage movement The March of the Women by Ethel Smyth from 1911.

To mark International Women's Day on March 8, violinist Madeleine Mitchell and the London Chamber Ensemble perform an online International Women's Day recital from St John's Smith Square, London. Pieces from Helen Grime, Judith Weir, Thea Musgrave and Cheryl Frances-Hoad form a programme that celebrates music by British women spanning a century (1921-2021).


Kaija Saariaho
For decades, Kaija Saariaho has been one of the greats of her craft, and since the turn of the millennium, her work has found resonance worldwide. In 2022 she turns 70. View our new celebratory guide to her key works.

On March 31, the Finnish premiere of Notes on Light (chamber version) will be performed by Lapland Chamber Orchestra, cellist Anssi Karttunen and John Storgårds conducting.

A newly directed version of opera Only The Sound Remains makes its Japanese premiere on June 6 with Tokyo Bunka Kaikan Chamber Orchestra and Clément Mao-Takacs at Tokyo’s Bunka Kaikan.

Looking ahead to July 3, the long-awaited world premiere of five act opera Innocence with music by Saariaho will headline Festival International d'Art Lyrique d'Aix-en-Provence in France.

Anna Thorvaldsdottir
It is a busy start to 2021 for Anna Thorvaldsdottir, whose sound has made her “one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary music” (NPR) and the latest orchestral composition CATAMORPHOSIS by Icelandic composer premiered by the Berliner Philharmoniker on January 29 is no exception. The Iceland premiere by Iceland Symphony Orchestra and Bjarni Frímann Bjarnason follows on April 15.

Two prominent performances of METACOSMOS by Thorvaldsdottir will take place on March 18 with Iceland Symphony Orchestra and Daníel Bjarnason at Harpa Concert Hall, Reykjavik and then on April 15 with Oslo Philharmonic and Klaus Mäkelä in Oslo.

Then on May 14, WDR Symphony Orchestra and Cristian Măcelaru perform Dreaming by Thorvaldsdottir in Cologne’s Funkhaus. A piece described as ‘an imposing monolith that emerges from silence and recedes back into it, speaking of natural desolation, severe beauty and precarious tectonics in between’ (Gramophone).

Britta Byström
On March 12, the world premiere of Im Freien by Swedish composer Britta Byström will be streamed online from Karledy, Finland by Österbottens Kammarorkester and violinist Malin Broman.

Then on March 20 Avsked från vildgässen, version 3 will receive it’s world premiere at Stockholm’s Svensk Musikvår 2021 with Stockholms Blåsarsymfoniker and conductor Cathrine Winnes.

Byström’s North American premiere of A Walk to Tchaikovsky will take place on April 14 in Montréal, performed by I Musici de Montréal and Jean-Marie Zeitouni.

Sarah Kirkland Snider
On March 14, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra celebrates International Women’s Day with a concert that includes Daughter of the Waves, a chamber octet by Sarah Kirkland SniderIn 2017, Sarah Kirkland Snider was included in The Washington Post's list of the 35 most significant women composers in history. 

Helen Grime
On March 14, 2021 the German Premiere of Helen Grime’s Piano Concerto will be performed by Ensemble Modern and Jonathan Stockhammer in Frankfurt. The Times’s Rebecca Franks remarked after the World Premiere ‘Grime has an ear for colour, a knack for telling contrasts. Harp and vibraphone darted around the piano, phosphorescent and otherworldly, while flute and clarinet, just visible through the stage door, called from afar....’

It will be spring soon by Helen Grime will be given its world premiere on June 18 from Växjö Concert Hall, Sweden. Commissioned and performed by Musica Vitae with soloists Ruby Hughes, soprano and Malin Broman, violin; the piece heralds the welcome Spring after Winter.

Florence Price (1887-1953)
Pianist and rising star Michelle Cann performed alongside the Philadelphia Orchestra and conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin in a digital concert of Price’s piece Piano Concerto in One Movement, available February 18-25.

The following day, February 26, String Quartet No. 2, mvts II and III by Price was given a digital performance by Cleveland Orchestra which is available to watch now on YouTube.

Thea Musgrave
On March 21 the German Premiere of Night Windows for Oboe & Strings by Thea Musgrave is performed by Ivan Podyomov on oboe and Kammerakademie Potsdam with Trevor Pinnock directing from Friedenskirche, Potsdam. Night Windows takes its inspiration from a painting by Edward Hopper with the same title – of walking down a darkened street looking in through lighted windows and catching a glimpse of other people’s lives.

Missy Mazzoli
Grammy-nominated composer Missy Mazzoli had a concert of Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres) presented by Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Nathalie Stutzmann on February 18 in Atlanta, GA.

Gabriela Lena Frank
In 2017, Gabriela Lena Frank was included in the Washington Post's list of the 35 most significant women composers in history and on March 6, Louisville Orchestra and Teddy Abrams perform a live, online concert that includes her Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout (string orchestra).

Joan Tower
Also on March 6, Sixth Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman (for orchestra) by Joan Tower is presented virtually by National Symphony Orchestra and Akiko Fujimoto from the Kennedy Center, Washington as part of their declassified festival series.

Outi Tarkiainen
An online streamed Tarkiainen world premiere of her solo piano work Without a Trace by Paavali Jumppanen will be available to watch on April 11.

Lil Lacy
A March 26 online world premiere of Aliento del Mar composed by Lil Lacy will have a debut performance by Gävle Symfoniorkester, Bjarke Mogensen on accordion and conductor Ryan Bancroft from Gävle, Sweden.


Joan Tower
Composed in 1981, Sequoia has been recorded by David Alan Miller and National Orchestral Institute Philharmonic on Naxos.

Outi Tarkiainen

The premiere recording of The Earth, Spring’s Daughter by John Storgårds and Lapland Chamber Orchestra is the world’s first notated song-cycle setting the Sámi language, using assorted poets chosen by the composer and has been described as Tarkiainen’s magnum opus to date. Read our interview with Outi Tarkiainen as she discusses her music inspirations and composing.

Sarah Kirkland Snider
Mass for the Endangered by Sarah Kirkland Snider is a hymn for the voiceless and the discounted, a requiem for the not-yet-gone. Released on Nonesuch Recordings in 2020 to critical acclaim, the world premiere recording of Mass is performed by Gallicantus under the direction of Gabriel Crouch. "Snider must be recognized as one of today's most compelling composers for the human voice," writes NPR, recognizing this album in their Classical Top Ten Albums of 2020. Read more about the album.

Florence Price
An album of solo piano worksFantasie Nègre: The Music of Florence Price – released in 2021 by pianist Samantha Ege on Lontano Records includes the extraordinary Fantasie nègre No. 2 in G Minor.

Missy Mazzoli
Richard Tognetti and his Australian Chamber Orchestra along with contrabass Maxime Bibeau have released the disc Dark with Excessive Bright, that was composed for them in 2018 by Missy Mazzoli.

Rachel Portman
Single a gift from Rachel Portman’s album ask the river was relased in 2020 and is Portman’s first album release as composer and performer. The 13 tracks relate to her inspirations and thoughts about the natural world and the environment, saying 'These pieces are a personal reflection on the beauty of the earth around us — the trees, flora, rivers, birds, animals and all her gifts to us'.


Betsy Jolas
Congratulations to Betsy Jolas who has been awarded Composer of the Year at Victoires2021 for her 8th string quartet Topeng, commissioned by Philharmonie de Paris, ProQuartet, Southbank Centre and Berliner Philharmoniker.

Listen to our playlist Celebrating Women Composers

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