Having been born in early 19th century France, Louise Farrenc faced multiple roadblocks to a career in music. But her early talent, determination, confidence, encouragement from an artistic family and eventual renown enabled her to become a success on (mostly) her own terms. Born in 1804 and showing early musical talent, from age 15 she studied at the Paris Conservatory (where women could earn nothing higher than a teaching diploma), began to compose (mostly piano pieces at first) and embarked on a career as concert pianist and became one of Europe's most sought-after keyboard teachers. In 1842 she was appointed the first ever (and only, during the entire 19th century) female professor at the Paris Conservatory - Professor of Piano, as women were not allowed to teach composition. She earned only 55% of what her male counterparts at the Conservatory of equivalent experience earned - until 1849 when she demanded and won equal pay. She held that position at the Conservatory for 30 years. But besides 19th century gender inequalities against her as a composer, Louise Farrenc also faced public disinterest in purely orchestral music in France where opera ruled the box office. Nonetheless, she bucked that trend as well by composing three symphonies, her Third in 1847, and that is today's Midday Masterpiece at 2:00 pm.
November 9, 2021