ETHEL SMYTH (1858 - 1944)
The English composer Ethel Smyth at first studied privately under a governess before moving to the Leipzig Conservatory and then to more helpful private lessons with Heinrich von Herzogenberg; she became involved in musical circles that included Brahms, Clara Schumann and Grieg, among others. From 1915 to 1918 she worked in a French military hospital in Vichy, and in England, after the war, she was an enthusiastic suffragette, her active participation in the movement bringing her two months’ imprisonment and inspiring her March of the Women.
Ethel Smyth’s operas initially had their first performances in Germany. Fantasio, based on Alfred de Musset, was followed by the German Der Wald (‘The Forest’), for which she provided her own libretto – as she did, in French, for The Wreckers, her principal operatic achievement. Later operas were The Boatswain’s Mate, Fête galante, and the post-war comedy Entente cordiale.
Orchestral and Chamber Music
Ethel Smyth’s orchestral compositions include a Serenade (a work reflecting the influence of her teacher) and a Concerto for violin and horn. Her chamber music includes string quartets, duo sonatas, and a 1930 jeu d’esprit: a brass fanfare under the title Hot Potatoes.