The Future is Female, Volume One: Sarah Cahill, piano

First Hand Records

Recorded at St. Stephen’s Church, Belvedere, California, August 2021

Produced and recorded by Matt Carr

In volume one of The Future is Female for First Hand Records the invaluable Sarah Cahill began her exploration as both peerless pianist and exhaustive researcher of music for the keyboard by women composers.

The unfamiliar name of the Italian 18th century Anna Bon, whose charming Keyboard Sonata in B minor reveals the work of an amateur musician with the developed talent of a professional. Among the succession of names largely unknown to most of us – with the familiar exception of the gifted Fanny Mendelssohn – the music of several Romantic composers featured in this album reminds us of how negligent and narrow-minded we have been in programming and recording works by the legendary Venezuelan virtuosa Teresa Carreño, to name but one female musical giant featured in The Future is Female.

Gifted and prolific, the American pianist, composer, and educator Fanny Dillon is remembered, if at all, by having had John Cage as one of her music students. Similarly fated is the talented Russian pianist and composer Leokadiya Kashperova, piano teacher of Igor Stravinsky.

Were it not for the fact that the Czech composer Vítězslava Kaprálová died at age 25, just as her musical career was starting to gain momentum, one can only imagine what she could have contributed to the repertoire for the piano.

After surviving exile from her native Hungary and escaping the Nazis, the immensely talented Agi Jambor finally achieved long-delayed recognition at the age of 48, finding a welcoming home in the United States, where she began anew the concert and recording career denied her in Europe because of her Jewishness. Her sonata To the Victims of Auschwitz reveals the intensely somber work of a serious-minded composer who, given the subject matter of her composition, mostly shuns melodic lyricism, mining instead for a dramatic, occasionally atonal sonic landscape.

Eve Beglarian’s name is associated as much for her work as a cutting-edge contemporary composer as it is for her activism on behalf of LGBTQ causes. The versatile Irish composer Deirdre Gribbin has composed extensively for the theatre and film as well as for the concert stage, while Mary D. Watkins is highly respected as a pioneering black female whose work straddles the jazz and classical arenas. By programming Beglarian’s Fireside, Gribbin’s Unseen, and Watkins Summer Days, Sarah Cahill demonstrates that important music by women composers is alive and well and being written today.

Throughout the dozen plus selections by ten female composers from the past three centuries, Sarah Cahill self-effacingly directs our focus away from her extraordinarily rich playing and on to the compositions of sister musical artists, but this listener continues to salute the protean talent of Sarah Cahill, pianist and researcher par excellence.

Rafael de Acha © 2022

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