Concert Celebrates American Female Composers

By Paige Baxter | January 27th, 2017

Richmond Philharmonic’s ‘American Women in Music’ winter show

Composer Elena Ruehr

Last year, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton became the first female to snag a major party nomination for President of the United States. This significant achievement for women presented an appropriate opportunity to celebrate females through music this year, said Peter Wilson, who selected the program and theme for the Richmond Philharmonic’s upcoming “American Women in Music” Concert. As one might expect, the March 19 concert will feature music composed solely by female composers.

A highlight of the evening’s lineup is the world premiere of a violin concerto, performed by violinist Irina Muresanu and written by Boston-based composer Elena Ruehr. A full-female lineup is more common these days. Several female-focused concerts, featuring Ruehr’s compositions, have already been planned for this year.

When Ruehr was a girl, she didn’t know of any other female composers. She said that while earning her undergraduate degree, the syllabi for her music history classes never included female composers and none of her teachers were women.

Within the past two or three decades, there’s been more of a push to recognize prominent female composers from the past and to help launch the careers of young female composers, said Ruehr, who has been writing music for 50 years.

Ruehr wrote her new concert specifically for Muresanu, who also hails from Boston. Knowing the violinist fairly well, Ruehr said she wanted the music to reflect her stage presence.

When crafting the piece, Ruehr said she kept in mind Muresanu’s animated performance style and made sure the piece included a lot of “flash and flair and fun and energy” to reflect the violinist’s showmanship.

“… [Muresanu] really knows how to create a story not just because she’s a great violinist but also because she knows how to stand on a stage and do a beautiful job and make a performance,” Ruehr said.

Ruehr has cultivated an impressive resume during her 50-year-long career as a composer. She has written compositions for numerous types of musicians, groups and art forms including orchestra, wind ensemble, dance, opera and silent film. And in the early 2000s, she served as the first composer-in-residence with the Boston Modern Orchestra project, where the orchestra premiered several of her pieces and released a record in 2014 of her complete orchestral works.

The Richmond Philharmonic’s winter concert will open with “Made in America” by Grammy award-winning composer Joan Tower. Closing out the show will be a performance of Amy Beach’s Symphony No. 2 “Gaelic,” which Wilson said helped spark the idea for the concert’s American-women–in-music theme. Initially, Wilson knew he wanted to create a program that would include Beach’s symphony to honor her sesquicentennial this year. So it all came together around that desire.

Before the performance, guests can hear Ruehr talk on her new violin concerto and partake in a Q-and-A session.

Catch the concert March 19 at 4 p.m. at Paul R. Cramer Center for the Arts at The Steward School.

For more info, call 804 673-7400 or visit

More from Boomer