Anna Rubinowski, Subject Librarian for Slavic Studies and Jackie Waylen, Subject Librarian for Music Theatre and Performance, report on a concert featuring rare music by Eastern European composers and sponsored by a little-known benefaction to the Library.

On 6-8 July 2018, the Gender Diversity in Music Making Conference at Monash focused on the music of composers and performers who identify as female or non-binary in gender.

As part of the conference, the Valencia String Quartet were generously sponsored by the Ada Booth Benefaction to perform two pieces of music written by women composers from Eastern Europe whose works are rarely performed in Australia, and are extremely difficult to perform, at a concert organised by Joel Crotty, Senior Lecturer in the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music.

Matheson Library is home to an extensive music and multimedia collection, and includes a rich and diverse collection of materials relating to Slavic, Eastern European and Eurasian music. Eastern European or Australian composers with a Slavic heritage or culture that the Library collects include Elena Kats-CherninAnna PimakhovaMelody Eötvös and Catherine Likhuta. This commitment to Eastern-European music has been made possible through the funding from the Ada Booth Benefaction which was gifted to the Monash University Library in 2011.

Music from the Library’s collection by the following Eastern European composers were performed to acclaim at the concert:

Grażyna BacewiczString Quartet No. 1 (1938)

The string quartet format was front and centre of her output and each of the seven quartets highlight a new musical exploration. String Quartet No. 1 had its premiere in Paris on 26 April 1939, played by the Figueroa Quartet. Sadly it was not played again until 30 years following her death. It is an early work where Bacewicz was still finding her voice. Nethertheless, this three-movement work (Moderato-Piu mosso; Theme and Variations and Vivo) demonstrates that she was a composer who would make her mark.

Livia Teodorescu-CiocăneaString Quartet No.2 ‘Infloribus’ (2017)

The work was written in 2017 for the Profile Quartet, which premiered it in September of the same year during the Enescu Festival in Bucharest. In her programme notes the composer says that the title suggests an imaginary timbral inflorescence, the four string instruments being perceived as a monolithic expanded timbre that parallels a trunk with several branches, or else a stem with several flowers. The vital force of the ‘flowering’ phenomenon is metaphorically pursued by means of a dramaturgy of timbral nuances, reliefs and tensions, non-traditional sound effects, densities and fabric. Heightened polyphonic moments alternate with heterophonic ethereal surfaces, hieratic melodies or granular elements. The performance was an Australian premiere.

A Library display in the foyer of the Performing Arts Building highlighted recent purchases of music including from Eastern Europe. Australian composers represented included Melody Eötvös , Anna Pimakhova, Elena Kats-Chernin and Catherine Likhuta (whose work Lesions was performed during the conference). The works of Eastern European composers includeLera AuerbachSofia Gubaidulina, Felicia Donceanu and Canadian, Larysa Kuzmenko, in addition to Grażyna Bacewicz and Livia Teodorescu-Ciocănea. We also included performers who were teachers, and who have had a great influence on their pupils: Rosina LhévinneElisabeth Gilels and Oksana Tarnavs’ka, who were all born in the Ukraine.

The Ada Booth Benefaction also assists the Library to catalogue donated music materials, such as the recent donation of Ukrainian folk song books, and also donations of Russian vinyl recordings (1955-1960s) that include performances (c1958) by Rosina Lhévinne’s pupils Van Cliburn and Daniel Pollack, along with Maria Kozulopova and Lydia Fichtenholz and a rare recording of a work by Galina Ustvolskaya, Children’s Suite.