Notes for Women

Notes for Women

2018 is the centenary of women being granted the vote in Britain. This significant anniversary will be marked by Notes for Women, a year-long celebration of music by women composers by the Bristol Ensemble, Bristol’s professional orchestra.

Although there have been plenty of women composers throughout history, they and their works are little known, despite often being at least as good as those of their more famous male counterparts.  One reason for this is related to the historical role and status of women, the same issue that deprived them of the right to vote.  Following the first World War, and the 1918 Representation of the People Act, there has been a slow shift in the direction of equality, although female composers are still in the minority today.

Throughout 2018 the Bristol Ensemble will celebrate the lives and works of women composers, with the aims of

  • presenting top quality musical works by women composers in order to excite and engage audiences unfamiliar with the quality and range of this repertoire;
  • educating: by telling these women’s stories, and drawing parallels with the wider movements for women’s suffrage;
  • encouraging and inspiring future musicians, by showcasing contemporary music by women composers, and giving them opportunities to compose for themselves; and
  • leaving a legacy of greater interest and awareness of music by women composers among local audiences and performers, plus some resources to facilitate the continued performance of this repertoire.

At the heart of the year’s celebration is a series of three concerts and a lecture at St George’s Bristol, beginning with music by Hildegard of Bingen and music by Baroque and Renaissance composers in April’s ‘Early Years’ concert, and ending with a new commission and film music by women composers in the final concert in November.

The Ensemble will also programme music by female composers in its other concerts in the Henleaze Concert Society series and its chamber series in Nailsworth throughout the year.


Composer profiles

Hildegard of Bingen

Fanny Mendelssohn

Maddalena Laura Sirmen


Notes for Women: The Early Years

Saturday 28 April 2018 at 7.30pm
St George’s Bristol

Hildegard von Bingen: O Vis Aeternitatis (Responsorium), Ave Maria, O Auctrix Vite (Responsorium)
Barbara Strozzi Che si puo fare; Sino alla morte; Bedli Occhi; Lagrime mie
Elisabeth Claude Jacquet De La Guerre Prelude from Cembalo Suite No. 1 in D Minor
Francesca Caccini Ciaconna
Isabella Leonarda Sonate duodecima
Maddalena Laura Sirmen Violin Concerto No.3 in A

Choir of Royal Holloway
Mariana Flores soprano
Natalia Lomeiko violin

Marking the centenary of women being granted the vote in Britain, the Bristol Ensemble is staging Notes For Women, a year-long celebration of music by women composers. This concert, the first of a series of three in collaboration with St George’s Bristol, illustrates the history of women composers before 1800 with a selection of works from the medieval to Baroque periods. The women of the Choir of Royal Holloway perform music by the medieval German Benedictine abbess, composer and mystic Hildegard von Bingen. The professional orchestra is joined by the soprano Mariana Flores to perform exquisite songs by Barbara Strozzi, the most prolific composer – man or woman – of printed secular vocal music in Venice in the middle of the 17th century. Natalia Lomeiko performs the Third Violin Concerto by the Venetian-born composer and violinist Maddalena Laura Sirmen, a pupil of Tartini who became a celebrity soloist of the day.

Tickets £20, £15, £12, available online from St George’s box office, by phone on 0845 40 24 001 and over the counter at St George’s


Festival of Ideas

Thursday 4 October 2018 at 7.30pm
St George’s Bristol

Dr Sophie Fuller, author of The Pandora Guide to Women Composers, will present a lecture on Ethel Smyth and some of her contemporaries, their role in the fight for women’s suffrage, and considering parallels between the role of women composers and the broader issue of women’s rights.

The lecture will include live musical examples played by members of the Bristol Ensemble.


Notes for Women: The Romantics

Friday 5 October 2018 at 7.30pm
St George’s Bristol

Ethel Smyth The Wreckers Overture (1906)
Amy Beach Piano Concerto in C#m Op.45 (1898)
Louise Farrenc Symphony No.1 (1842)

Holly Mathieson conductor
Veronika Shoot piano


Notes for Women: State of the Art

Friday 23 November 2018 at 7.30pm
St George’s Bristol

Liz Lane New Commission
Film music, including music from The Full Monty and Poldark (Anne Dudley), Eyes Wide Shut (Jocelyn Pook), Chocolat and Emma (Rachel Portman), Wilde (Debbie Wiseman), and Mabel’s Dramatic Career (Jean Hasse)

Holly Mathieson conductor


Henleaze Concert Society series

Saturday 20 January at 7.30pm

Maddalena Laura Sirmen String Quartet in B flat
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Clarinet Quintet
Franz Schubert Octet in F D803

More details

Saturday 10 March at 7.30pm

Grace Williams Sea Sketches
Copland Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra
Elgar Serenade for Strings Op.20
Vaughan Williams Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus
Grieg Holberg Suite Op.40

More details

Saturday 12 May at 7.30pm

Maddalena Laura Sirmen String Quartet No.6 in E
Mozart
Divertimento in F major, K.138
Mozart Piano Concerto No.12 in A major, K.414
Beethoven Piano Concerto No.2 Op.19 arr. Lachner

More details

Saturday 9 June at 7.30pm

With the Choir of Royal Holloway
Rupert Gough conductor

Cecilia McDowall Ave maris stella
Joanna Marsh New work
Tõnu Kõrvits
Kreek’s Notebook
Vivaldi Gloria


Nailsworth Chamber Music series

A series of Sunday afternoon concerts at Christ Church, Nailsworth. Tickets £10 on the door.

Sunday 21 January at 3pm
Maddalena Laura Sirmen String Quartet in B flat
Schubert Octet

Sunday 18 February at 3pm
Fanny Mendelssohn Piano Trio
Lili Boulanger D’un Matin de Printemps
Brahms Piano Trio No.3 in C minor

Sunday 11 March at 3pm
Marie Grandval Romance, Scherzo, Gavotte for Oboe and strings.
Vanhal Oboe Quartet

Sunday 22 April at 3pm
Clara Schumann Piano Trio
Felix Mendelssohn Piano Trio in D minor

Sunday 13 May at 3pm
Maddalena Laura Sirmen String Quartet No.6 in E
Mozart Piano Concerto No.12 in A major, K.414
Beethoven Piano Concerto No.2 Op.19 arr. Lachner