2010 0-7734-1383-9 This study of the nineteenth-century British composer Alice Mary Smith’s life and music draws on newly discovered documents and manuscripts. The volume also includes information on five other women composers from this era.
At a time when women were thought to succeed only in composing drawing-room songs or light-weight piano pieces, Alice Mary Smith (1839-1884) wrote by far the greatest number of larger-scale art works of any British woman composer in the nineteenth century. She was most probably the first woman to have written – and had performed – a symphony, composed in 1863 at the age of twenty-four. Two of her six concert overtures were
regularly performed by distinguished conductors of the time, and her four cantatas for choir and
orchestra achieved some popularity in the last years of her short life.
This study also briefly outlines the work of five other women composers of her time who attempted the higher forms of the art, and examines, from
contemporary sources, the argument, current at the time, as to whether a woman could ever compose a ‘great’ work.