The Donna Voce (Woman’s voice) documentary weaves live piano performances with historical commentary to immerse the audience into the shunned world of female composers of the last three centuries.
"She plays like a man." -praise by the composition teacher Carl Friedrich Zelter in a letter to Goethe
Fanny, the first child prodigy in the Mendelssohn clan, was overshadowed by her younger brother Felix, as directed by their father Abraham. “Music will perhaps become [Felix’s] profession, whilst for you it can and must only be an ornament, never the root of your being and doing.” Nonetheless, she went on to compose close to 500 works.
Europe’s “Queen of the Piano” Clara Schumann was a sensation, who dazzled Kings and Queens. But after the court battled marriage to Robert Schumann, her composing took a back seat to raising eight children and providing for the family. Hair-rising teaching and performance schedule left her with virtually no time to compose. She desperately proclaimed: “I once believed that I possessed creative talent, but I have given up this idea; a woman must not desire to compose—there has never yet been one able to do it. Should I expect to be the one?”
Amy Beach started writing music at as early as four years old and had a versatile career before she reached 18. At that age, she entered into the marriage with a Boston surgeon Dr. Henry Harris Aubrey Beach, which came with a set of rules. Her name would subsequently be listed on concert programs and published compositions as "Mrs. H. H. A. Beach." She agreed to "live according to his status, that is, function as a society matron and patron of the arts.” She further settled to never to teach piano, an activity widely associated with women and regarded as providing "pin money."
A favorite guest of Queen Victoria Cécile Chaminade made the audience fall in love with her charming and stylish persona and music. Her American tour in 1908 was a triumph and led to the formation of “Chaminade Clubs” throughout the country. The establishment, however, was not so kind. The New York Post summarized her Carnegie Hall recital with the following:
“on the whole this concert confirmed the conviction held by many that while women may some day vote, they will never learn to compose anything worthwhile. All of them seem superficial when they write music. . .”
Lili Boulanger became an overnight sensation in Paris at the age of 19 when she emerged as the first woman to win the Prix de Rome at the Conservatory. Her immense talent and amazingly promising career was cut short just five years later when she passed away at age 24 after the life long struggle with intestinal tuberculosis. Her sister Nadia would go on to become one of the most influential teachers of the 20th century.
Born in Banciao, Taiwan, Chiayu Hsu (1975) is an active composer of contemporary concert music. She started learning music at age five and began composing at fifteen. Chiayu has been interested in deriving inspirations from different materials, such as poems, myths, and images. On a technical level, many of the pieces she has composed have been constructed either through the manipulation of small groups of notes which act as building units, or through the use of the full chromatic tonal spectrum expressed as discreet harmonic regions to build new, unheard structures. Some compositions are purely abstract: she has even experimented with algorithms. Particularly, however, it is the combination of Chinese elements and western techniques that is a hallmark of her music.
listen to the complete Donna Voce album:
Hailed by The New York Times as a pianist of “a fiery sensibility and warm touch”, Anna Shelest is an international award-winning pianist who has thrilled the audiences throughout the world. Champion of esoteric repertoire, Anna is collaborating with the legendary conductor Neeme Järvi on a project of recording complete works for piano and orchestra by Anton Rubinstein. The first CD in the set featuring Rubinstein Concerto no. 4 and Caprice Russe recorded live at Lincoln Center's Rose Theater in New York City has been released in 2018 to great critical acclaim,
An “effective collaborator” (The New York Times), Anna made her orchestral debut at the age of twelve with the Kharkiv Symphony Orchestra, playing Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 1. Since then she has been a soloist with some of the world-class orchestras. She has appeared at Alice Tully Hall and Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall in New York City, The Kennedy Center in Washington DC, Wiener Konzerthaus in Vienna, and Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City.
Born in Ukraine, Anna received her early music education at Kharkiv Special Music School. Since graduating The Juilliard School with a Masters Degree in the class of Jerome Lowenthal, Anna makes her home in New York City with her husband and two sons.
David Dubal is internationally known as a pianist, teacher, writer, artist, and broadcaster. An acknowledged authority on the piano literature, Dubalʼs highly acclaimed books include The Art of the Piano, The Essential Canon of Classical Music, Evenings with Horowitz, Reflections from the Keyboard, and Conversations with Menuhin. Recipient of the First ASCAP/Deems Taylor Award for broadcast journalism, Dubal has won numerous other honors, including the coveted George Foster Peabody Award for innovative broadcasting. His 1993 film, "The Golden Age of the Piano", has been seen worldwide in four languages, and won him an Emmy award.
As music director of storied New York City classical music station WNCN in New York City from 1971 to 1994, Dubal served as a producer and commentator for innumerable programs and special broadcasts. His guest interviews include a veritable who's who of the luminary pianists and musicians of the 20th century, including Vladimir Horowitz, Claudio Arrau, Rosalyn Tureck, George Bolet, Yehudi Menuhin, Byron Janis, Charles Rosen, Alexis Weissenberg, Murray Perahia, Andras Schiff, Mitsuko Uchida, Alfred Brendel, and many more. Since 2000, his programs "Reflections from the Keyboard" (WQXR.org, 105.9 New York) and "The Piano Matters" (WWFM.org) have attracted online listeners worldwide.
David Dubal served on the faculties of both the Juilliard School and the Manhattan School of Music in New York City for several decades, reaching thousands of students of all ages. He has performed in recitals and lecture-recitals in forty states, conducted master classes and lectured across the globe, and served on the jury of dozens of international competitions. In 2006, Mr. Dubal received an honorary doctorate from the State University of New York (SUNY).
Award-winning filmmaker Jason Starr has produced and directed over one hundred films and television programs for broadcast on PBS, CBC, A&E, BRAVO, KULTURA, MEZZO, 3SAT and other networks throughout Europe. These productions range from classical music and modern dance performances to documentary profiles of artists and cultural issues.
Jason Starr recently directed films with guitarist Sharon Isbin and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s while completing two feature length documentaries, For the Love of Mahler: The Inspired Life of Henry-Louis de La Grange and Everywhere and Forever – Mahler’s Song of the Earth. The third in a series of documentaries about specific masterpieces by Gustav Mahler, Everywhere and Forever enjoyed a primetime Saturday night broadcast across Europe on 3sat and was an official selection at numerous film festivals across the globe. At the 2016 Whitehead International Film Festival in California it won the “Outstanding Achievement Award”. Both films are widely distributed for broadcast by C Major Entertainment, Berlin and for home video by Video Artists International, New York.