ASO: Henrik Nanasi with David Coucheron

Thursday’s Atlanta Symphony Orchestra concert was preceded by a wonderful chamber concert programmed by principal harpist Elisabeth Remy Johnson. It featured five women composers in honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day. Sadly, aside from one piece a year by Jennifer Higdon, the ASO includes women composers on the obnoxiously long list of groups of composers that it rarely bothers to program for its Delta Classical Series. This concert represented a 500% increase in the number of women composers that series subscribers will hear in Symphony Hall this year. Kudos to Remy Johnson for pushing for this program and shame on the ASO for failing to deliver a meaningful variety of music to its audiences. I can’t think of a single reason that they couldn’t have put one small piece by a different women composer on each week’s program in March. Or, for that matter, one piece by a Black composer each week in February for Black History Month. It’s absurd that concert goers in the 19th century probably had as much or more exposure to women composers than we do now, with artists like Beach, Farrenc, or Smythe being regularly programmed. Aside from a significant number of contemporary composers, we have centuries of works to draw from so there are no shortages of pieces that will fit into any given program. It bugs the crap out of me that, as a regular concert-goer, I hear the same pieces over and over again from the same men from the Classical Music Pale of Settlement between the Rhine and the Volga when there are so many other amazing pieces of work that are ignored just because the (mostly) men who are in charge of programming were all brought up with the same tradition of music education that seems to have its roots in the toxic German nationalism of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
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