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Classical music has been dominated by men for centuries, holding the most important composer and performer positions. However, the history of classical music is also rich in incredible female talents, who unfortunately often remain in the shadow of their male counterparts. These outstanding artists, known as forgotten geniuses, deserve greater recognition and appreciation for their contribution to the development of classical music.

One of the first, somewhat forgotten and in my opinion underrated women in the music world is Maria Anna Walburga Ignatia Mozart, better known as Nannerl Mozart.

Born on July 31, 1751 in Salzburg, she was the older sister of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, one of the greatest composers in the history of classical music. Nannerl was also a talented pianist and composer, but her talent was not appreciated to the same extent as her brother’s.

Nannerl began learning to play the piano at the age of 7 under the guidance of her father, Leopold Mozart. At a young age, she showed extraordinary musical abilities, which led to her performances at royal courts throughout Europe. However, unlike her brother, Nannerl did not have the opportunity to develop her career as a composer and pianist due to the limitations imposed by society at that time, which did not accept women as professional musicians.

Nevertheless, Nannerl left behind several compositions that are considered masterpieces of classical music. One of her most famous works is “Klavierstück in F” (Piano piece in F major), which delights with its delicacy and technical precision. Other significant compositions by Nannerl include “Sonata in C Major” and “Variations on a Theme by Mozart”.

Her work was also praised by other renowned composers and musicians. Johann Christian Bach, composer and son of Johann Sebastian Bach, described Nannerl as “an incredibly talented and sensitive artist whose music moves the hearts of listeners”.

Unfortunately, despite her talent and efforts, Nannerl did not achieve the same fame and recognition as her brother Wolfgang. Her music was often overlooked and forgotten for many years, but is now gaining increasing recognition and appreciation in the world of classical music.

One of the most well-known female composers in the history of classical music is Clara Schumann, a German pianist and composer – born as Clara Josephine Wieck in Leipzig in 1819. Mainly known for her virtuosic piano skills, Clara was also a talented composer, although her works are not as widely known as those of her husband, Robert Schumann.

Clara began learning to play the piano under the guidance of her father, Friedrich Wieck, who was a renowned music teacher. At the age of 11, she gave her first public concert, and at the age of 16, she gained recognition as one of the best pianists of her time. In 1830, she met Robert Schumann, who was then a student of her father. Their love blossomed, despite her father’s resistance to their marriage. The couple eventually married in 1840.

As a composer, Clara Schumann mainly created piano works, including etudes, preludes, and impromptus. Her musical style was strongly linked to Romanticism, and her music was characterized by emotionality and sensitivity. One of Clara’s most famous works is the Piano Concerto in A minor, composed in 1835 and considered one of the most important piano works of that period.

Many critics and musicologists praised Clara Schumann’s talent and her contribution to the development of piano music. Felix Mendelssohn called her “the most outstanding pianist of her time”, while Franz Liszt described her as “the greatest pianist of all time”. Clara Schumann was also acclaimed for her interpretations of classical masters such as Ludwig van Beethoven and Frederic Chopin.

Although Clara Schumann did not achieve the same fame as her husband, her contribution to the history of music is undeniable. Her music is still performed and appreciated by classical music lovers around the world. Clara passed away in 1896, leaving behind a rich musical legacy that has survived for centuries.

Another incredibly talented composer was Fanny Mendelssohn – a German pianist and composer, born on November 14, 1805 in Hamburg. She was the older sister of the famous composer Felix Mendelssohn, but her musical talent was not as appreciated as her brother’s due to the prevailing belief at the time that women should not engage in composing music.

Despite these difficulties, Fanny continued to pursue her passion for music and composing. She gained recognition in her time as an outstanding pianist and composer, although most of her works were published under her brother’s name. Her compositions are characterized by an elegant style, rich harmonies, and deep emotional expression.

Some of Fanny Mendelssohn’s most famous compositions include “Piano Trio in D minor,” “Das Jahr” (a cycle of twelve piano miniatures), “Songs Without Words,” and numerous vocal songs. Her music is often compared to her brother’s, but many critics believe that Fanny had her own unique compositional style.

Other renowned composers and musicians also spoke about her work. Clara Schumann, mentioned earlier, wrote about Fanny: “Her music is full of delicacy and deep feeling, exuding feminine sensitivity and strength.” Robert Schumann also expressed admiration for Fanny’s talent, calling her “the most outstanding composer of her time.”

Unfortunately, Fanny Mendelssohn passed away at the age of 41 in 1847, leaving behind a rich musical legacy. Her music is now gaining recognition and popularity, and her contribution to the history of music is increasingly appreciated. As one of the first female composers, Fanny Mendelssohn paved the way for future generations of female artists striving for equality in the world of music.

A contemporary composer who deserves attention is Jennifer Higdon – one of the most important and highly regarded contemporary composers whose music touches the hearts and minds of listeners worldwide. Her exceptional compositional talent, originality, and deep emotional content make her works appreciated by both critics and audiences. Her creativity is a significant contribution to the field of contemporary music and leaves a lasting mark on the history of music.

Born in 1962 in Atlanta, Georgia, Jennifer Higdon currently resides and creates in Philadelphia. Her music is known for its extraordinary expression, originality, and profound emotional impact on listeners.

Higdon has received numerous prestigious music awards, including the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 2010 for her Violin Concerto and String Orchestra. Her repertoire spans a wide range of musical genres, from chamber music to symphonic, as well as operas and solo concerts.

One of Jennifer Higdon’s most famous works is “Blue Cathedral,” written in 1999 for the Philadelphia Orchestra. This composition was very well received by critics and audiences, and Higdon herself described it as a tribute to her late brother. Other significant works by Higdon include “Concerto for Orchestra,” “Percussion Concerto,” and “Viola Concerto.”

Music critics praise Jennifer Higdon for her exceptional compositional talent, ability to create rich and complex musical structures, and her capacity to evoke emotions in listeners. A critic from The New York Times wrote: “Her music is full of energy, passion, and deep human emotion that moves the hearts and minds of listeners.”

Other composers also express admiration for Jennifer Higdon’s work. John Adams, a renowned American composer, called her “one of the most original voices in contemporary music.” Joan Tower, another esteemed composer, described her music as “full of life, energy, and sensitivity.”

Jennifer Higdon is not only a respected composer but also a valued educator and mentor for many young musicians. Her works are performed worldwide by renowned ensembles and soloists, demonstrating her international reputation and influence on the global music scene.

Despite their talent and exceptional artistic sensitivity, many female composers and performers still remain in the shadow of their male counterparts. Therefore, it is important to appreciate and promote the work of women in classical music so that their genius can be fully revealed and appreciated by a wider audience.

Women in classical music have much to offer, and their contribution to the development of this musical genre is invaluable. Forgotten geniuses such as Nannerl Mozart, Clara Schumann, Fanny Mendelssohn, and Jennifer Higdon deserve greater recognition and a place in the history of classical music. Therefore, it is worth exploring their works and discovering the extraordinary talents that have been overshadowed for many years.

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