The Women’s Philharmonic Reissue Well Timed

ALTO Distribution continues to do the Lord’s work (in my opinion). They are cannily re-releasing titles from the defunct Koch International and MusicMasters labels. 

I say cannily because some of these releases seemed timed to perfection. Take this  Women’s Philharmonic recording for example.  Koch released it back in 1992. 

At the time, it was something of a curiosity. An all-female orchestra, led by a female conductor was performing music by women. 

Today, it’s an album riding the crest of a wave. There’s a new-found interest in addressing the genre’s gender imbalance.  

In 1992, Clara Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor was a musical history footnote. Today it’s becoming a part of the standard repertoire.

Clara Schumann was an exceptional pianist, and a skilled composer — as many are now finding out. JoAnne Fallette leads the Philharmonic in a fiery performance. And pianist Angela Cheng delivers some dazzling solo work.

Germaine Tailleferre’s Concertino for Harp and Orchestra (1927) is another delight. She shows great imagination in her use of the harp. Forget billowy arpeggios. Tailleferre has the instrument playing precise and intricately-constructed melodies (and harmonies). 

Harpist Gillian Benet has the agility to carry it off. And her playing betrays a little bit of swagger, which adds to the fun. 

JoAnne Falletta prepared three works for this album. Fanny Mendelssohn’s Ouverture from 1830, and two works by Lili Boulanger.

Save for the piano concerto, these works are still seriously under-represented in recordings. So it’s good to have this one back in print. And despite its age, the album’s sound — and performances — hold up just fine.

The Women’s Philharmonic
JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Fanny Mendelssohn; Clara Schumann; Germaine Tailleferre; Lili Boulanger
Musical Concepts MC3111

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