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Menachem Pressler, Emerson String Quartet - Emerson and Pressler: Dvorak: Piano Quintet Op. 81, Op. 87

Dvorak: Piano Quartet In E Flat, Op. 87 - 2. Lento

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Friday March 8th, is International Women's Day and Classic 107 is celebrating with a whole day of women composers and performers from 6 AM right through to midnight. Tune in!


Every year the United Nations sets a theme for International Women's Day (IWD) and 2019's campaign theme is "#BalanceforBetter". The initiative is aimed at gender equality, raising a greater awareness of discrimination while celebrating women's achievements.

Well, over the history of classical music, the balance between women and men has been non-existent. Women have have treated as second class citizens. Yet from Hildegard von Bingen in the 12th century through to the present day, women have made a significant contribution which has often been overlooked. One need only look at the life long struggles faced by composers like Fanny Mendelssohn (Felix Mendelssohn's sister), Clara Schumann (Robert Schumann's wife) and Mozart's sister Maria Anna 'Nannerl' Mozart. Five years older than Wolfgang, she was a musical prodigy in her own right.

Janet Robbins and Maureen Blementhal of write:

"For many centuries, women composers and performers were kept from public view. Tradition deemed it only proper that females confine themselves to the domestic arts and leave the concert hall to the men. Considered a novelty, women’s music might be heard at best in drawing rooms and recital parlors.

During this time, only a few works by women ever found their way into the standard repertoire; most compositions never received significant recognition. Recent interest in Clara Wieck Schumann has revealed that although she performed to great acclaim in public, her concerts usually presented works by her husband Robert Schumann or her friend, Johannes Brahms. Her own compositions remained largely unknown to the general public. Other women composers, who received acclaim during their lifetime, have similarly fallen into obscurity, along with their musical works."

In our modern world, the battle still rages. It's a problem that was highlighted in the summerof 2013 when Marin Alsop became the first woman to conduct the last night of the Proms in its nearly-120-year history, prompting headlines and less than flattering comments both in public and in private. James Rhodes from The Guardian wrote how Vasily Petrenko, an award-winning, aggressively talented young conductor, talked on record about how women conductors are a "sexual distraction" for the orchestra. Or there was one of Russia's most eminent conductor, Yuri Temirkanov, who said "The essence of a conductor's profession is strength. The essence of a woman is weakness."

Mr. Rhodes goes on to write, "Many orchestras, especially in the US, are now auditioning blind, with participants playing behind screens, and there has been an exponential increase in women being hired as a result – one study shows the likelihood of progressing beyond the preliminary round increases by 50% for women in these kinds of auditions.

Good looks have long helped to compensate for a lack of talent across the entire music industry. But the sexualised marketing of young women, particularly, in classical music has also now become normalised. Witness (the undoubtedly hugely talented) Yuja Wang's barefoot performances complete with interval dress changes, see the hundreds of PR shots of the kind that keep teenage boys locked in their bedrooms for everyone from Hélène Grimaud to Alison Balsom. Some album cover portraits for female artists could double as escort agency profile pics. Publicity for young male artists is increasingly sexualised too, but not to anything like the same degree."

Mr. Rhodes ends his article by asking us too look at some contemporary women performers and dares us to justify the poor treatment.

"Listen to Argerich nailing Rachmaninov's third concerto or Marin Alsop flinging Brahms' second symphony out to a shell-shocked audience and I dare you even to attempt to justify the shabby, second-class treatment to which female musicians are exposed."

We agree!

Here in Winnipeg, we need only look in our backyard at the women bringing classical music to the forefrunt and succeeding. Women like executive director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra Trudy Schroeder; WSO concert master Gwen Hoebig and Manitoba Chamber Orchestra Music Director Anne Manson. 


Annemanson imageGwen Hoebig thumb

Along with Gwen Hoebig, there are other Winnipeg artists that have helped put our city on the classical music map. Women like pianist Irmgard Baerg, sopranos Andriana Chuchman (pictured below in a recent University of Manitoba Trailblazers campaign) and, leading the path for her, Tracy Dahl.

Andriana Chuchman featured in the University of Manitoba Trailblazers campaign

Composer Jocelyn Morlock has been making waves in the new music world for a long time now and conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson takes a piece of Winnipeg with her wherever she goes across the globe.


We celebrate them all!

So tune in all day Friday March 8th as we bring you the music and performances of some of the most talented women in Classical Music!