Some of the unsung heroes of the history of classical music are the women who supported – financially and socially – the composers who needed a boost. And those ‘salonnières’ – with names largely unknown to most people today – are getting their due in programs at this season’s Valley of the Moon Music Festival. Co-director Tanya Tomkins says each program points to the woman who helped the music come into the world.
There’s more information and a full schedule at the Valley of the Moon Music Festival website.
Tomkins says they wanted to do a program focusing on women in this, their fifth season, so she began to look into the history of women being patrons of composers through the years. “There were these unbelievable women that had these salons, and they were also supporting these composers and performers. Not only with money, but also with emotional support and just incredible belief and just… identifying all these amazing genius people.” Among those are a countess, a pair of princesses, and the woman most responsible for the resurgence of interest in Johann Sebastian Bach after he had been largely forgotten. There are also two composers who are often crowded out of the limelight because they happen to be overshadowed: Fanny Mendelssohn, whose brother was Felix, and Clara Wieck Schumann, wife of Robert. The first concert, on the 14th, explores the world of Countess Maria von Thun. “She was a great keyboard player herself, and Mozart is said to have written in a letter that she was one of the most charming, wonderful, incredible people he’d ever met. She loved Mozart so much that after he died, she even paid for the education for two of his sons… She had many events in her home, she organized competitions of keyboard players. The Opus 11 Beethoven trio that we’ll be performing on July 14th is dedicated to her.” Princess Cristina Trivulzio di Belgiojoso, friend to Rossini, Bellini, and Liszt is the focus of the concert on Saturday the 20th. And Winnaretta Singer, heiress to the sewing machine fortune, is featured the next day. She moved to Paris after marrying the Prince de Polignac. “She became friends with everybody, and she was a real promoter of Faure. But also in her salon was Proust and Cole Porter, and all these incredible people all intermingling. There was Stravinsky, a huge friend. She built a music room so big in her house that they could do rehearsals of Stravinsky’s ballet. There were a lot of Stravinsky premieres in her home.”