A favorite technique of these sorts of haranguing articles is the Unsupported Assertion:
The institutions of classical music tend to be heavily invested in a carefully protected performance tradition that hands on the precious flame of white, male genius from generation to generation and has little interest, for all kinds of reasons, in disrupting the canon.The one collective group that not only can be, but must be, assaulted constantly is that of white males. One literary critic as I recall, recently suggested that publishers publish only women writers for a year. Why don't we do the same in music? For one year, all performances worldwide must be only of music by women composers. That would be interesting. No Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Verdi, Puccini, Wagner, well, you get the idea. Actually, the process of updating, disrupting, adding to, blurring the lines of, etc, the "canon" is going on constantly.
We are informed that women composers:
...encountered obstacles, on the other hand, that their male composers didn’t, whether the vagaries of childbearing (Clara Schumann ploughed on as a composer, and especially a performer, through eight pregnancies) or straightforward full-on sexism (Maconchy was told in the 1930s by publisher Leonard Boosey that “he couldn’t take anything except little songs from a woman”).Oh yes, no male composer ever encountered obstacles like women composers did. Not child-bearing obstacles, of course, but every biography I have ever read has detailed the enormous obstacles that most composers encounter. Name one composer who didn't encounter disinterested publishers!
Regarding Fanny Mendelssohn, the reviewer writes:
After her death her work was subject to insidiously gendered critiques: it was said to lack “a commanding individual idea” and the “feeling which originates in the depth of the soul”.One simply has to ask, would any critique in any terms of any woman composer NOT be regarded as "insidiously gendered"?
My favorite section is the ending which, after noting the very successful career of Elizabeth Maconchy (who, by the way, was honored by being appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire) goes on as follows:
Sound and Music, which supports composers in Britain, has a strong commitment to gender equality. It is also keen to increase opportunities for black and minority ethnic composers, who are woefully invisible in the UK’s classical musical culture. Some balk at the notion that such “extra-musical” factors might be invoked when programming a concert – as if commercial concerns, personal relationships and a host of unremarked prejudices did not come into play in any act of curatorship. This book helps show why a narrative that insists that the good stuff will naturally and always rise to the surface is simplistic. It is important for us all, composers, musicians, audiences, men, women, society at large, that we seek out the best and most exciting creative voices, from wherever they may come.The idea that gender equality must be assured by putting a bureaucratic thumb on the scale is no better than putting a thumb on the scale for commercial concerns, personal relationships or other unremarked prejudices. Two or three or several wrongs do not make a right. The characterizing of the idea that good stuff will out as a simplistic narrative is just another, and particularly stupid, unsupported assumption. All those people listed, composers, musicians, audiences, men and women, are people with aesthetic judgment. And their considered judgment as to what is worth composing, performing and listening to IS in fact the "canon". And it was never anything else. If a large number of people grow more and more interested in enjoying the music of Elizabeth Maconchy (and I certainly think they should), then she will enter more thoroughly into the canon. That's how it works. All this stuff about gender equality is just so much special pleading. I take particular delight in the last sentence as the writer seems to have not noticed how the statement of this worthy principle completely negates everything she has previously said! Yes, we should seek out the best and most exciting creative voices from wherever they may come--even if from white males!
Our envoi, obviously, should be something by Elizabeth Maconchy. This is her Nocturne for orchestra, composed in 1950/51: