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They are not women who compose, but rather composers who happen to be women, and at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, three of them will be celebrated in a performance by the trio Trillium at the Clayton Center for the Arts on the Maryville College campus.
Now in its eighth year, Trillium — composed of violinist Sara Lee-Cho, cellist Alicia Randisi-Hooker and MC Professor Emeritus Robert Bonham on piano — has performed across the country, including regularly at Maryville College, where Bonham received the Outstanding Teacher Award and whose name graces the Robert Bonham Music Faculty Award for Superior Performance, awarded annually to a student in the MC Division of Fine Arts.
“This program features composers who happened to be women,” Bonham said. “This is powerful music that deserves to be heard. Jennifer Higdon graduated from Heritage High School (located only a few miles from the Maryville College campus) and went on to receive a Pulitzer and three Grammy awards, and her composing schedule is filled with important commissions.
“Rebecca Clarke was a citizen of both Great Britain and America. A noted violinist, she performed with many famous musicians during the decades between the two world wars. Cecile Chaminade, from France, had a busy life as a composer and concert pianist with performances throughout Europe and America.”
Trillium, he added, will open the program with Higdon’s “Piano Trio: Pale Yellow,” a 2003 composition described by the New York Sun as a “thing of rare beauty” and by Musical America as “beautiful music in the traditional sense, likable on first hearing, yet with a decidedly modern bent.” The scope of her work, Bonham added, is made evident by the fact that on the same night that Trillium performs, seven major orchestras across the country will also be performing selections by Higdon.
The selection by Clarke, “Piano Trio,” was written in 1921 and “reflects the struggle of the First World War and is evocative as an elegy for the fallen,” Bonham noted. Although she performed with numerous male peers during her heyday, he pointed out, her recognition as a renowned composer often went unrecognized: In tying for first place at the 1919 Berkshire Festival of Chamber Music for her “Viola Sonata,” she did so by submitting it under a male pseudonym.
The final work on the Sept. 24 program, “Second Piano Trio, Opus 34,” was composed by Chaminade in 1886, one of more than 350 pieces written by Chaminade in her lifetime. The work, Bonham said, “is alternatively muscular and tender, exploiting the full range of the instruments.” Chaminade was only 18, he added, when French opera composer and teacher Ambroise Thomas, so impressed by one of her orchestra pieces, declared that she “is not a woman who composes, but a composer who is a woman.”
That Bonham will perform these works alongside two talented and respected female colleagues makes the program even more special, he said. Lee-Cho has performed professionally with chamber and symphony orchestras in three countries and as a soloist at Carnegie Hall. Randisi-Hooker has performed extensively as an orchestral and chamber musician in both the United States and Europe, and as a teacher, her students have received numerous prizes, scholarships and competition awards.