Before I sat down to listen to and review Sarah Cahill’s The Future is Female Vol. 2 The Dance, I decided to have a look at the 2023-2024 season of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Cincinnati Pops. In a lineup of three-dozen programs, each usually featured in a pair of concerts, I spotted two names of female composers: Grazyna Bacewicz and Kaija Saariaho, which represented roughly 5% of the featured mostly white composers in the 8-months long season of both ensembles.

That appalling aspect of the myopic programming of the 138-year-old orchestra of the city I call home helped remind me of the importance of the work that the enterprising Sarah Hill has been doing via her live performances and her invaluable series of recordings The Future is Female, of which volumes one and three I have enthusiastically reviewed on this blog.

Scholarly curator and protean pianist, Sarah Cahill writes how she has been working with contemporary American composers Pauline Oliveros, Tania León, and Meredith Monk, as well as researching dozens of female composers from past centuries and from around the world.


Volume two of The Future is Female has led me to discover the name and the music of the 17th century French composer Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre. Only the names of Clara Schumann, Meredith Monk, and Germaine Tailleferre were recognizable in a list of intriguing works by a group of much-neglected female composers.

All nineteen tracks on the First Hand Records CD are worthy of attention: Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre’s 1687 Les Pièces de Clavecin, with its handful of Early Baroque gems is pure delight. Clara Schumann’s 1853 Variations on a Theme of Robert Schumann, written three years before the death of her husband, evidences the composer’s heartfelt musical homage to him. Germaine Tailleferre inspired Partita singles her out as not merely the token female member of Les Six, but the outstanding member of that almost all-male group: shunned by her father, embraced by Eric Satie.


The Avant Garde icon Meredith Monk makes her presence felt with the iconoclastic St. Petersburg Waltz, and Zenobia Powell Perry, Madeleine Dring, Betsy Jolas, Elena Kats-Chernin, Gabriela Ortiz, and Theresa Wong – each singularly different from the rest, each highly original, each largely ignored by the mostly male musical establishment – have their various musical miniatures given inspired readings by the indispensable Sarah Cahill.

The nicely engineered recording comes with insightful notes by the pianist herself, which highlight the mission and vision of this gifted artist.

Rafael de Acha © 2023

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