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Samantha Ege | Four Women: Music for Solo Piano by Price, Kaprálová, Bilsland and Bonds

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Four Women: Music for Solo Piano by Price, Kaprálová, Bilsland and Bonds

by Samantha Ege

Samantha Ege brings you the rediscovered piano music of four 20th Century women composers neglected by history. Featuring the world première recording of Bilsland's "Birthday Party" alongside diverse pieces influenced by jazz, Modernism and slave songs.
Genre: Classical: Piano solo
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Sonata in E Minor: I. Andante - Allegro
12:25 $1.49
2. Sonata in E Minor: II. Andante
5:42 $1.49
3. Sonata in E Minor: III. Scherzo
8:57 $1.49
4. The Birthday Party: I. Friends to Tea
0:51 $0.99
5. The Birthday Party: II. Peep-Bo
1:00 $0.99
6. The Birthday Party: III. Tin Soldiers
0:54 $0.99
7. The Birthday Party: IV. Battledore and Shuttlecock
0:39 $0.99
8. The Birthday Party: V. Ring O' Roses
0:37 $0.99
9. The Birthday Party: VI. Sleepy Song
1:35 $0.99
10. Dubnová Preludia (April Preludes), Op. 13: I. Allegro ma non troppo
2:12 $1.49
11. Dubnová Preludia (April Preludes), Op. 13: II. Andante
3:15 $1.49
12. Dubnová Preludia (April Preludes), Op. 13: III. Andante semplice
2:06 $1.49
13. Dubnová Preludia (April Preludes), Op. 13: IV. Vivo
2:00 $1.49
14. Sonata Appassionata, Op. 6: I. Maestoso
8:40 $1.99
15. Sonata Appassionata, Op. 6: II. Theme and Variations
11:38 $1.99
16. Troubled Water
5:40 $1.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Four Women brings together five twentieth-century piano works by four significant female composers.

Pianist Samantha Ege journeys through a diverse range of styles and influences—from African American folk songs and classical forms in Florence Price’s Sonata in E Minor to modernist explorations of Czech musical identity in the compositions of Vítězslava Kaprálová; from evocations of Edwardian English childhood in the miniatures of Ethel Bilsland (world première recording), to Romantic expressions of spiritual melodies inflected with jazz and blues in the music of Margaret Bonds.

Four Women showcases the most remarkable programme of solo piano music you’ve never heard.

An Introduction to the Four Women — by Samantha Ege

Florence Beatrice Price (1887-1953)

Florence Price was born in Little Rock Arkansas in 1887. Her musical education began at the age of three with piano lessons from her mother. At the age of 19, she graduated with the highest honours earning a double major in piano teaching and organ performance from the New England Conservatory of Music. Five years after moving to Chicago, Price entered the 1932 Rodman Wanamaker Music Contest, which was a national competition for African American composers. The competition offered a total of $1000 in cash prizes. Price came first in the piano composition category with her Sonata in E Minor and was awarded $250. She also won the symphonic category and received $500 for her Symphony in E Minor. Price is recognised as the first African American woman composer to achieve national and international success.

The Sonata in E minor (1932) is Price’s most substantial work for solo piano. The sonata consists of three movements: the first is called “Andante - Allegro”, the second movement is labelled “Andante” and the third is a “Scherzo.” The movements are strongly connected and each one reflects an array of influences from classical forms and German Romanticism, to spiritual melodies and plantation dances. The first movement explores two plantation themes that resurface in various guises as the sonata progresses. The second movement takes the second plantation theme of the first movement, and delves deep into the soundworld of the spiritual. The third movement takes us on a virtuosic whirl around African American folk music and classical conventions.

Ethel Edith Bilsland (1892-1982)

Ethel Bilsland, affectionately known as “Billie” to everyone who knew her, was an English composer, soprano and pianist. She was a Professor of Voice at the Royal Academy of Music in London where the Ethel Bilsland Award for Singing was established in her honour. Bilsland sang at the 1923 Proms in Queen’s Hall alongside other giants of English classical music, such as the conductor Sir Henry Wood and the pianist York Bowen. Bilsland lived most of her adult life in Eltham, South London. She was widowed at an early age, and with the onset of the Second World War, recognised a need to turn to a more stable career—it was as if composition was a luxury that she could not afford in a time like this. Vocal instruction was her way of ensuring security in her career, and in the upbringing of her two children.

Bilsland wrote for voice, piano, chamber ensembles and orchestra. However, much of her output remains in manuscript. One of the few collections available to the public is the endearing Birthday Party (1918), a suite in which she dedicates the six piano miniatures to each of her young nephews. The Birthday Party was originally published as learning material for younger pianists. Yet, there is a highly personal character to each piece. Each miniature takes the listener through evocations of Edwardian English childhood; one cannot help but imagine the scenes of play with titles such as “Friends to Tea”, “Peep-bo”, “Tin Soldiers”, “Battledore and Shuttlecock”, “Ring o’ Roses” and “Sleepy Song.” This is a world première recording.

Vítězslava Kaprálová (1915-1940)

It would be easy to define the young Czech composer Vítězslava Kaprálová by the men in her life. After all, her father, composer Václav Kaprál, was a student of Leoš Janáček; one her professors, Vítězslav Novák, was a student of Dvořák; and her mentor and lover, Bohuslav Martinů, paved the way for Czech modernism. Yet Kaprálová forged her own identity, earning accolades on a par with her male counterparts. Kaprálová excelled in composition and conducting and became the first woman to graduate from the Brno Conservatory. Her works were premiered by renowned musical institutions such as the Czech Philharmonic and the BBC Orchestra, with Kaprálová at the helm as their conductor. These performances garnered worldwide attention. However, her life was cut short by illness. She died at the age of 25.

Kaprálová composed Sonata Appassionata, Op. 6 (1933) during her time at the Brno Conservatory. The work is in two movements: the first is a harmonically rich movement that undulates beneath an ever-searching melody and is framed either side by a majestic and densely-textured theme. The second movement opens with a simple folk-like theme that evolves over the course of six variations, climaxing with a devilish fugue and a return to the majestic chords that open the sonata.

Dubnová Preludia (April Preludes), Op. 13 (1937) comprises four pieces: the first immediately stirs up striking dissonances and then escapes into a short-lived moment of playfulness. The second prelude is awash with impressionistic colours, while the third prelude presents a simple melody with sparse accompaniment. The final prelude is lively in character. It combines all the characteristics of the preceding preludes and brings the suite to a triumphant close.

Margaret Allison Bonds (1913-1972)

Margaret Bonds was born in Chicago and grew up during a cultural renaissance led by African American visionaries and thinkers in all spheres. The home that Margaret lived in with her mother, Estella C. Bonds, was a cultural hub for artists and intellectuals alike. Her circles included composers such as Will Marion Cook, performers such as the soprano Abbie Mitchell and poets such as Langston Hughes. Her mother, Estelle, was a gifted musician and Margaret was instilled with the same passion. The younger Bonds later rose to prominence with her own works and performances, and came to represent the next wave of African-American composers in Chicago. When Florence Price moved to Chicago in 1927, she was welcomed into the Bonds family. Both mother and daughter became cherished friends of Price.

Margaret Bonds’ compositional output consists of solo piano pieces, ensemble works and art songs. As a composer, she fills European forms with spiritual melodies, blues harmonies and jazz rhythms. Troubled Water for solo piano was composed in 1967 and is often performed as a stand-alone work, though it belongs to a set called the Spiritual Suite. This set draws influence from specific spirituals, and in the case of Troubled Water, Bonds constructs this work around “Wade in the Water.” Bonds encases the melody of this spiritual in jazzy chords and builds up to moments of gushing Romanticism. Yet, the distinctive “Wade in the Water” melody grounds Troubled Water in the unromantic reality of African American history.


Piano by Samantha Ege

Album produced by Dan Jones and Simon Birch

Recorded at Real World Studios

Recording Engineer — Patrick Phillips

Recording Editor and Mastering — Simon Birch

Mixed by Dan Jones

Album cover painting by Jennifer Binnie

Album cover graphic design by Wave Theory Records



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