Agathe Backer Grondahl (1847-1907): "A Perfectly Plain Woman?"

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The article grew out of my interest in women in music history in general and my particular fascination with the intriguing Norwegian pianist, composer, and piano teacher Agathe Backer Grøndahl (1847-1907). As the composer and music critic Pauline Hall noted in 1947, Backer Grøndahl became a banner for women composers in Grieg's era, a stimulation for those that followed in her footsteps. with 150 works for piano, an Andante for piano and orchestra, Scherzo for orchestra, the suffrage cantata Nytaarsgry, arrangements of Norwegian folk tunes and over 250 romances, her output is a major contribution to 19th century music. Backer Grøndahl has always been a self evident figure in chapters of Norwegian music history books that cover music, musicians and composers in "Grieg's era". The chapter is named after an interview with George Bernard Shaw published July 1889 after having visited her in a flat she rented in London at Hanford Square. The chapter examines further reception materials in a historically informed way and finds reciprocically intertwined musical terms connected to her feminity. At this time most cirtics were men; thus, they had the opportunity to run propaganda based on their own standards. They formed the premises for what was true, valid and relevant, and they defined reality in public concerts. Agathe Backer Grøndahl has had a "self-evident" position in Norwegian music historiography as a slightly hidden, but not forgotten, figure. This is unforgiveably unbalanced, and a lot has yet to be investigated and reconsidered. Agathe Backer Grøndahl is not dead, though, as formulated by the Norwegian feminist Gina Krog, she is just a sleeping beauty.
Translated title of the contributionAgathe Backer Göndahl (1847-1907): "En helt vanlig kvinna"
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Women in Music Anthology
EditorsEugene Gates, Karla Hartl
Place of PublicationToronto
PublisherThe Kapralova Society
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-7777795-0-4
ISBN (Print)978-0-9940425-9-0
Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2021
MoE publication typeA3 Part of a book or another research book

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